The story of the sons of Jacob appears in the first book of the Bible called the book of Genesis.
Jacob was the grandson of Abraham and he had 12 sons who would be the progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel. The 12 tribes would eventually be united by David into a Kingdom called the “Kingdom of David”.
The story of the 12 sons of Jacob is a story about parental favoritism and sibling rivalry. Jacob does not conceal that his love for Joseph exceeds that of his other children and Joseph foolishly seeks to capitalize on his relationship with his father. The heat of resentment builds and finally boils over- Joseph’s brothers turn on him and sell him into slavery, delivering him into the hands of the enemies of Israel. Joseph’s brothers than tell Jacob that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.
Joseph then languishes as a slave in Egypt, until through the mysterious workings of God’s Providence he is appointed to the highest office in Egypt after that of the Egypt’s great king called the pharoh. Years later, in a time of great desperation, Joseph will act to save the lives of the very brothers who had treated him with such great cruelty.
It is the great story and the Church provides this small excerpt today and beckons us to see in it a kind of foreshadowing or anticipation of Christ. Christ is like Joseph, rejected by his people, delivered by his own people into the hands of Israel’s enemies, he suffers terribly, even seeming to be dead to those who loved him and yet he is exulted in a most extraordinary and unexpected way, becoming the means by which the very people who rejected him are redeemed and saved.
The Church is helping us to think about Christ’s identity and mission by presenting to us the story of Joseph and inviting us to see similarities.
In this way the Church is saying to us that the means to fully appreciate and understand the Old Testament is by referencing the revelation of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ who reveals the meaning of the stories of the Old Testament and explains what God is up to in the history of the Israelites. This is the meaning of the words we profess in faith in our great Creed at Mass when we say that we believe in Christ, who is the fulfillment of the scriptures.
Today’s Gospel is itself a foreshadowing or anticipation. Christ utilizes a parable, a story, to indicate that he will suffer and die and because of his suffering and death, God will transform Israel into something new.
This new Israel will be the Church and through the Church, Christ will extend membership in his chosen people beyond those who are the physical descendents of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his twelve sons.
For some, the story of the Lord Jesus is reduced to being about an innocent man who is unjustly put to death, whose teachings endure to help us to be nice to one another. This is A story about the Lord Jesus, but it is not HIS story, and it is not the story of the Gospels.
The Gospels are about how God, in Christ, makes Israel into something new, and how God does this in a surprising way. In Christ, God initiates a new way of being in communion, in relationship with him and this communion, this relationship happens in the Church.
This is the real story about Christ the Lord, but is it the story we know? Is it the story in which we believe?