As a child like so many who went to parochial school, we regularly heard the stories of the Hebrew Scriptures such as the one we hear today. Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers, has risen to great power in Egypt. Pharoah has placed him in charge of all the food in Egypt. When the brothers who sold him into slavery come to Egypt looking for food, they do not recognize their brother at first. When he reveals himself to them, they realize that they are at his mercy.
Joseph, like so many of the characters of the Hebrew Scriptures, is a “type.” In other words, his story is told in order to help us understand the person of Jesus.
Joseph is forced to leave his home and to live among a people who are not his own. Jesus is asked to leave his home in heaven to come and live with humankind. Joseph is sold into slavery for twenty pieces of silver. Jesus is betrayed by Judas for thirty pieces of silver. Joseph rises to power and is given authority over the people of Egypt and all who come to buy food. Jesus rises from the dead and becomes living bread for all who believe.
Joseph is just one of the many characters of the Hebrew Scriptures whose life illuminates our understanding of the life of Jesus. For instance, Moses comes down from the heights of Sinai and gives the Law to the Israelites. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus reinterprets the Law in the Sermon on the Mount. Isaac willingly allows his father, Abraham, to bind him and to place him on an altar with a view to offering him as a sacrifice. God binds Jesus by his will and asks him to sacrifice himself for the sake of our sins. The examples go on and on.
My point is that as we read the Hebrew Scriptures, it is important that we not get so bound up in the drama of the stories that we fail to see that they are pointing us toward Jesus. The Old Testament with its Sinai Covenant is simply a prelude to the New Covenant confirmed by the sacrifice on Calvary.
God’s plan of salvation is constantly pointing us to its culmination in the person of Jesus. We are asked to form a personal relationship with Jesus as Lord and Savior. While the sacred writers may not have realized that their stories were a precursor to someone else, they all participate in God’s plan to save us. God’s plan reveals the depths of God’s love for us.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator