Psalm 22:10–22; Genesis 39; Matthew 13:47–58

Originally posted 2/10/2016—revised and updated 2/9/2018

Psalm 22:10–22: The psalmist recalls how God was with him when he was born:
For You drew me out from the womb,
made me safe at my mother’s breasts.
Upon You I was cast form birth,
from my mother’s belly You were my God.” (10)

And now in his time of trouble, he asks God to remember that and pleads,
Do not be far from me,
for distress in near,
for there is none to help.” (11)

For now, far from the safety of his mother’s womb, he finds himself in mortal danger as
Brawny bulls surrounded me,
…They gaped with their mouths against against me—
a ravening roaring lion.”  (13, 14)

One of the most brilliantly dramatic and evocative descriptions ever written about the physical and psychological effects of terror follows:
Like water I spilled out,
all my limbs fell apart.
My heart was like wax,
melting within my chest.
My palate turned dry as a shard
and my tongue was annealed to my jaw. (15, 16)

These verses clearly describe the agonies of Jesus’ crucifixion, including the water that spills out of his body when the soldier pierced his side with a sword.  We can feel Jesus’ heart skipping beats and the dry mouth that leaves him speechless as he nears death; his thirst slaked only by a sponge of vinegar. Our poet continues to describe in detail the hopelessness and agony of his predicament on the cross:
For the came all around me,
a pack of the evil encircled me,
they bound my hands and feet.” (17)

They strip him naked and then in a remarkable parallel to what happened to Jesus’ robe at the foot of the cross:
They shared out my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothes.” (19)

In deepest agony, the poet pleads,
But You, O Lord,be not far. My strength, to my aid O hasten!
Save from the sword my life.” (20, 21a).

Which of course is exactly what happens to Jesus three days later–and the course of history is changed forever.

Genesis 39: Joseph is sold as a slave into Potiphar’s house and “the Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man” (2) and due to his competence he ascends quickly to the position of overseer of Potiphar’s house. The author’s make it quite clear that “the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field.” (5). A takeaway for us here is that God can bless people who are surrounded by a person who trusts deeply in God.

Joseph is “handsome and good-looking” (6) and Potiphar’s wife famously tries to seduce him. Joseph resists. FInally, she physically tackles him, and grabs his outer garment as Joseph flees outside.  She uses this as evidence for her fabricated story of Joseph’s attempted rape. The outraged husband tosses Joseph in jail.

But no matter where Joseph is, God’s love envelopes him and this love enables Joseph to once again rise to the top of the heap: “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.” (21) The jailer places Joseph in charge of everything in the jail, freeing the jailer for a life of leisure: “The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.” (23)

So, what is the point of this story other than to highlight Joseph as being a supremely competent and handsome manager? Again and again, the authors make the point that Joseph enjoys success because it is God who “shows him steadfast love.” Just as God loves each of us. Obviously, we cannot all be Joseph, but we do know that whatever our circumstances, even as a slave or as a prisoner, we can do everything to God’s glory because God first loved us. Will we prosper like Joseph did in every aspect? Probably not, (and one suspects a bit of editorial license here on the part of the authors). But we can never forget that we are loved by God regardless of who we are and where we are. But we must also be like Joseph and not forget God. Nor did Joseph complain about what happened to him, no matter how dire the circumstances. He simply remained steadfastly God’s person. Just as we should.

Matthew 13:47–58: More parables that make it crystal clear that the world contains good and bad people. As far as Jesus is concerned, there is no ambiguity or gray area. Only that there will be a culling ay the end of history when “The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (49b, 50)

Jesus returns from his peregrinations around Galilee back to his hometown, Nazareth. Unlike Luke, who tells the story of Jesus’ sermon at the synagogue, Matthew observes that Jesus is rejected because he was the carpenter’s son: too well known in a family that was regarded by its neighbors as having zero status; a family without distinction, power, wealth, high office, or anything else to suggest a source of Jesus’ power. We are exactly the same as the neighbors of Nazareth. We make exactly the same judgements about others based on our faulty perception of where power should come from—family, wealth, title— forgetting that the power Jesus displayed comes from one place only: the Holy Spirit.

And in our cynicism and disbelief, it becomes impossible to participate in or derive benefits from the power of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this is the unforgivable sin that Matthew described earlier. If we reject the Holy Spirit, we will certainly be cast into the outer darkness at the end of history. Nor in the meantime will we ever enjoy the benefits of Jesus’ healing power. That certainly seems to be the choice made by the people of Nazareth—and Nazareth fades from further mention in the Gospels.

 

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