Lesson: Genesis 45:3-11, 15
3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. 10 You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 I will provide for you there–since there are five more years of famine to come–so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.'”
15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.
Today’s reading is near the conclusion of the story of Joseph, the longest continuous story about a single person in the Bible (Chapters 37 to 50 in the Book of Genesis).
Joseph was the 11th son of Jacob. He and Benjamin (the 12th son) were the sons of Rachel and were Jacob’s favorites. His 10 older brothers were jealous of him and threw him in a pit to die. At the suggestion of Judah (the fourth son), Joseph’s life was spared and he was sold into slavery to Ishmaelites (descendants of Abraham’s son by Hagar) and taken to Egypt by Midianites. There, he was sold to Potiphar, an officer of the Pharaoh, who put him in charge of his house.
Joseph was very handsome, and Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him. When Joseph refused her, she falsely accused him of rape and Joseph was imprisoned. When in prison, Joseph interpreted dreams for the Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker. Later, Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and Pharaoh placed Joseph in charge of the affairs of the nation. Joseph’s interpretation of the Pharaoh’s dreams was accurate and Egypt prepared for (and survived) a famine.
The famine also hit Israel, and Jacob sent his 10 oldest sons to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph did not identify himself to them. Later, when grain ran out again for Jacob and his sons, they went back to Egypt a second time to buy grain. As demanded by Joseph in the first visit, they brought Jacob’s youngest son, Benjamin, with them.
Joseph directed that his silver cup be hidden in Benjamin’s sack of grain, and then accused the brothers of stealing his silver cup. He demanded that Benjamin remain in Egypt as his slave.
Judah knew this would break Jacob’s heart and he agreed to be Joseph’s slave if Joseph would spare Benjamin. Judah’s selflessness showed Joseph that he (Judah) was a true brother to Benjamin and his other brothers.
Hearing this affirmation of brotherhood, Joseph identified himself to his brothers in today’s emotional reading. In the reading, he attributed all of the events of his life (including his being sold into slavery) as actions directed by God. Joseph expresses the theology that for God, the last word is a word of life (vv. 5, 7).
The Joseph Story came from two different sources. This is shown by the references in Chapter 37 to both Ishmaelites and Midianites, and the references to God both as YHWH (translated as LORD in all capital letters) in Chapter 39 and in 49:18, and as “Elohim” (translated as “God”) in the remaining chapters. In the final chapters of Genesis, Jacob is sometimes called “Israel” the name given to him by the man/angel/God with whom he wrestled in Chapter 32 of Genesis.
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50
35 Someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.
42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. 43 It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.
50 What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic, and Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. In addition to Paul, other Jesus Followers also taught in Corinth, sometimes in ways inconsistent with Paul’s understandings of what it meant to be a Jesus Follower. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the 50’s (CE) (likely while Paul was in Ephesus) and presented his views on several issues.
It is one of Paul’s most important letters because it is one of the earliest proclamations of Jesus’ death on behalf of sinners and his resurrection and it contains the basic formula for celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
Today’s reading continues Paul’s extended discussion of “resurrection of the dead.” The Corinthians were Hellenists who generally accepted the Platonic division between the body and the “immortal soul.” Paul emphasized that not only the body is resurrected, but the entire person, and Paul used the words “resurrection of the dead” to encompass the entirety of resurrection.
Paul asserted that there is both a “physical body” that will perish when it is “sown” like a grain of wheat (v.37), and a “spiritual body” when it is raised (v.44). To make this clear, Paul stated that Adam was a “man of dust” and that when persons are resurrected, they bear “the image of the man of heaven” (v.49). It is noteworthy that in verse 47 Paul reverses the two Creation Myths. In the first, humans were in the “image of God” and in the second, the human (adam) was made from adamah, fertile earth.
27 Jesus said, “I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
The Gospel According to Luke is generally regarded as having been written around 85 CE. Its author also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Both books were written in elegant and deliberatively crafted Greek and presented Jesus of Nazareth as the universal savior of humanity. Both emphasized the Holy Spirit as the “driving force” for events.
The Gospel followed the same general chronology of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the Gospel of Mark, and more than 40% of Luke’s Gospel was based on Mark. The other portions of Luke include (a) sayings shared with the Gospel According to Matthew but not found in Mark and (b) stories that are unique to Luke such as the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Presentation in the Temple, the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan.
Today’s reading has comparable sayings as found in Matt. 5:38-48, a portion of the Sermon on the Mount. Because they are in both Matthew and Luke but are not in Mark, the source of these sayings is “Q” (the “Sayings Source”).
The moral imperative is high. Not only must one follow the “Golden Rule” of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (v.31), but we are told to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (v.27). Retaliation is forbidden (v.29a) and the standard for generosity is very high (vv. 29b and 30). We are told not to judge others (v.37a) and that our being forgiven requires us to be forgiving to others (v.37b).
These values continue to be presented in Luke in stories such as the Good Samaritan. They are exhibited by the healing of the ear of the high priest’s servant in Gethsemane, in the forgiveness of one’s enemies by Jesus on the Cross (Luke 23:34) and by Stephen, the first martyr (Acts 7:60).