Laying down his life for his friends

By 11/10/2020From Nigel

They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. Then he turned away from them and wept. And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes. Genesis 42:23-24

Joseph was hurt and saddened by what had previously passed and what was happening now between himself and his brothers and as a result the depth of emotion surfaced. Reconciliation is never a cold practical solution. The brothers were sent away with food, the money was unwittingly returned to them (vs 25) and so they left (vs 26). On their way home one of the brothers opened his sack and discovered the returned money that had been placed there (vs 27). They were utterly dismayed, their lives depended upon the food that they hoped to get from Joseph and they questioned what it was that God might be doing to them (vs 28).

On their return home, the brothers recount the whole story to Jacob (vs 29-34). What will he do? Will he continue to show favouritism towards Benjamin as he had towards Joseph? As they unpack their sacks they discover that all their money has been returned. (vs 35). They have the grain without paying for it! They now could be considered as nothing less than thieves without a defence. This leads to accusations and blame shifting.

And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.” Genesis 42:36

A break though! Reuben made an offer to make a sacrifice for the sake of someone else (vs 37).

Genesis 43 begins by telling us of the famine’s severity and Judah’s selfless pledge prevented him from holding Benjamin back.

Judah steps forward as the leader of the brothers and refuses to go back to Egypt without his youngest brother. Twice he tells his father that they have been “warned” not to return without Benjamin, and so if all of the brothers do not go back into the land of the Nile, none of them can go (vs 4–5).

Judah is not the oldest son and yet he still holds some favour with Jacob and so becomes the logical choice to head up the expedition. The question of Judah’s age is not what qualifies him to lead the others but rather seeing that his father’s concern to preserve Benjamin alive must be satisfied, he steps forward and makes himself the guarantor of his brother’s safety (43:8–10).

This is a risky and brave move for Judah to make because he is putting his life on the line for his brother. It is model behaviour and a wonderful example. This features all the more prominently in the life of Jesus, (Judah’s greatest son through King David, Matthew 1) who laid down His life for His brothers (John 15:13). Judah’s actions show him to be a far different man from the one who rejected Tamar and sold Joseph into slavery. He now becomes a picture of Christ.

Our friendship with Jesus is only possible because of the sacrifice he made for us on the cross. Friendship is the fruit of atonement, and atonement is the expression of love (John 15:12-13).

This is what Jesus is saying in verses 12-13 but his statement provokes a question. What was it, about Jesus dying for his friends, that made it an expression of the greatest love imaginable? How can we know today that when Jesus died for us it was the highest expression of love?

The answer, obviously, depends on what he accomplished in dying for us. There are many today who have rejected the doctrine of the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ for sinners. The doctrine simply means that when he died on the cross he suffered the penalty of God’s judgment that we deserved and by doing so he satisfied the wrath of God against us. Now I think that is love!

I know many who argue against this, stating that he died for us primarily to set an example of what self-sacrifice for others really is. Yes, he did that, but what would that “sacrifice” be if not dying in our place, dying the death we deserved, dying as our substitute? Come on! Also we do not want to lower sacrifice (else it becomes trivial like “they didn’t give me the book back I leant them)

Some say, he died for us in the sense that he gave us an example of how we should love others and serve others, or that he died to motivate us to live godly lives, or that he died to defeat Satan and deliver us from the grip of our enemy, or that he died to restore us to the image of God that was defaced by Adam’s fall. But how would such a death be the “greatest love” imaginable?

What makes Christ’s death for us, the expression of a love beyond anything anyone could imagine is that in dying in your place he delivered you from eternal damnation. In dying in your place, as your substitute, he exhausted in himself the wrath of a holy God and secured your eternal forgiveness of sins.

Hallelujah.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Mobayode+Akinsolu says:

    I love the Christology exposited here!

    In my spare time, I mostly watch and listen to comedy skits. I recently saw one made in a bid to shed light on whatever pressure Jesus’ brothers must have felt being the siblings of the Messiah. In one of the comments, someone quoted the comedian and made a witty addition. I’d paraphrase, “when Jesus wasn’t around everyone looked at James (his brother) for an answer. James would be you and me, today”. We are to occupy till He comes after all.

    Thanks a lot for sharing.

    God bless.

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