Judah went up to [his brother Joseph] and said, "O my lord, let your servant please speak a word in my lord's ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, saying, 'Have you a father or a brother?' And we said to my lord, 'We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead; he alone is left of his mother's children, and his father loves him.' Then you said to your servants, 'Bring him down to me, so that I may set my eyes on him.'
Then you said to your servants, 'Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.' When we went back to your servant my father we told him the words of my lord. And when our father said, 'Go again, buy us a little food,' we said, 'We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother goes with us, will we go down; for we cannot see the man's face unless our youngest brother is with us.' Then your servant my father said to us, 'You know that my wife bore me two sons; one left me, and I said, Surely he has been torn to pieces; and I have never seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm comes to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in sorrow to Sheol.'
Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, "Send everyone away from me." So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 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.
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. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve your lives."
The Lord called down a famine on the land;
he broke the staff that supported them.
He had sent a man before them,
Joseph, sold as a slave. (R./)
His feet were put in chains,
his neck was bound with iron,
until what he said came to pass
and the Lord's word proved him true. (R./)
Then the king sent and released him;
the ruler of the peoples set him free,
making him master of his house
and ruler of all he possessed. (R./)
Jesus said to the Twelve, "As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town."
The ministry of the Twelve is not confined to preaching, for the good news was also spread by curing the sick and other signs of God working in our world. What they have freely received, they must freely share with others. The true meaning of "the reign of God" emerges in the generous relationships we practice with the rest of the human family.
Further illustration of this sharing is seen in Genesis, which shows God's providence over every event of life, whether welcome or unwelcome. The key to the long Joseph narrative (Gen 37-50) is the simple statement, "God sent me here ahead of you." The full implications of his past life are recognized by Joseph when his brothers come to Egypt after their father's death. Fearfully they imagine him nursing a grudge and that he will now take revenge on them for the wrong they did him. But Joseph looked kindly on them. They need not fear him; God meant it all for the good of their whole family. In a magnificent act of faith, Joseph recognised the absolute providence of God over human life. It is striking how all the twists and turns of his saga are harmoniously concluded by two simple statements, "God sent me ahead of you" and "God meant it for a good purpose."
I once read about a tiny group of Jews who survived in hiding in Nazi Germany during World War II. In their hiding-place, one of them said, "We must pray to God." Another answered, "If we pray, God will find out that there are still a few Jews left in Germany." A third added, "It is absurd to pray, for how can God be present in this kind of world?" This was less a question to be answered than a cry of desperation, but the rabbi answered, "It may be foolish to pray, but it is still more foolish not to pray."
At the root of the Joseph narrative is a profound human compassion that reflects God's compassion and loving-kindness. It calls on us to be similarly forgiving and to entrust past wrongs into the hands of God.
Jesus is the fullest revelation of God's unfailing love for mankind. He had experienced the refusal of many people to hear his message. When He sends out his disciples he warns them to expect the same. They are to proclaim the good news, the message of God's life-giving love, but many will not welcome them or listen to what they have to say.
Negative responses must not deter us from mission either. Certainly they did not deter Jesus. When he suffered the ultimate rejection of execution on cross, he still proclaimed the same good news when he said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." We are to reveal the loving presence of God, regardless of how we are received by others.