There is a beautiful connection between a promise made at the beginning of Genesis and the fulfillment of that promise at the end of Genesis. God promised Abram in Genesis 12:1-3:
“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
This blessing to Abram would be a promise that would be passed down through each of his descendants until it could be fulfilled one day, by one man. It was a word of hope and each generation desired to see it fulfilled. At the end of Genesis, we find Joseph is a logical conclusion to the entire book because Joseph is a fulfillment of the blessing to Abraham. Do you not believe me? He left his country and his father’s house. God made his house and his name great in Egypt. Joseph was, indeed, a blessing, especially to all who blessed him. Those who dishonored him felt cursed. All the families of the earth were blessed by him during the famine (41:56-57).
The only problem is Jospeh only partially fulfilled the blessing to Abram. He was a savior but not THE Savior. Joseph was only a partial redeemer to a portion of people at only one point in time. Furthermore, he died and stayed dead and needed to be carried back into the promised land, not the Savior they were exactly hoping for. Cleary, in our text for this Sunday, Joseph also did not really give assurance of the forgiveness of sins to his already forgiven brothers. Joseph was a man who fit the mold of the blessing to Abram, but he was just a man. Only God can give full assurance for the forgiveness of sins and salvation to all the peoples of earth.
It is clear in our text we need someone greater than Joseph. We need someone who will not stay dead but bring us eternal salvation and bring all of humanity into the Promised Land of Paradise restored. We need someone who is not only in the place of God (verse 19) but is in fact God with us (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). We need the kind of Savior who can give us full assurance for the forgiveness of our sins because He is fully God and fully man. We need a Savior who is the full and complete fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise. We need the One who is the seed (not seeds) of Abraham (Galatians 3:16). The promise to Abram was always about the Messiah. It was always a fulfillment of that original gospel promise at the beginning of Genesis (3:15). We need the One whose name is not only great but the name that is above all names (Philippians 2:5-11). We need Jesus who is greater than Joseph.
It is clear in our text we need someone greater than Joseph. We need someone who will not stay dead but bring us eternal salvation and bring all of humanity into the Promised Land of Paradise restored.
This sermon would be great for a “Compare and Contrast” type structure, but not for the sake of an informational coincidence. The purpose for the sermon could be to delve deeper into the theological confession of the doctrine of absolution. This is important because Joseph’s brothers, who are already welcomed back into the family by grace and forgiveness, are struggling with their sin and the need for reassurance. Steven Mueller puts it this way:
“In the sanctified life, Christians will find that they experience a continuing struggle with sin. The struggle with (or better, against) sin will continue throughout the life of Christians because Satan is always on the prowl seeking to get us back into his territory and possession (1 Peter 5:8). That is why God provides concrete sources for strengthening the Christian. The Christian finds strength for daily living through Absolution. The words of Absolution bring us back to our baptism and recall the fact that we live in baptismal grace. In Absolution we hear the words of God Himself, through the voice of the pastor, speaking His forgiveness. With Jesus comes all the assurance and power for living our Christian lives. As Paul reminds us, it is “Christ... in me” (Galatians 2:20) that is really living the sanctified life.”
For this Sunday, let us try the Compare and Contrast Structure:
“This structure systematically explores relevant similarities and/or differences between two topics in order to accomplish a purpose for the hearer. In this sermon, the purpose of comparing/contrasting is crucial. The sermon, thus, does more than simply inform hearers of similarities and/or differences. It uses that information for a purpose (absolution), and that purpose often makes a difference in their lives.
In presenting this information to the hearers, the preacher has a choice of two approaches. He can work whole-to-whole (in other words, offering all of the individual items of one topic before proceeding to a listing of the individual items of another topic: A1, A2, A3, and B1, B2). Or the preacher can work part-to-part (in other words, offering one item from each topic and then proceeding to the next item: A1/B1, A2/B2, A3/B3). In part to part, a larger theme will be present for the hearers that slowly unfolds through the comparison.”
Here is a possible list comparing/contrasting the similarities between the narratives of Jospeh and Jesus.
- Joseph was the beloved of his father (37:3).
- Joseph was hated by his brothers (37:4, 5, 8).
- Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill Joseph (37:18-20).
- Joseph was stripped of his coat (37:23).
- His brothers, while eating, intended to murder him (37:25–27).
- Joseph was sold into Egypt by Judah (37:26–27).
- Joseph was taken out of a death sentence in prison alive (37:28).
- Joseph was sold for the price of redemption (37:28).
- Joseph’s blood sprinkled coat (goat’s blood) was presented to his father (37:31).
- Joseph became a servant (39:1).
- Joseph was numbered with the transgressors (cupbearer and the baker) (40:1-3).
- Joseph was delivered from prison by the hand of God (41:14; 45:7-9).
- Joseph was exalted and set over all Egypt (41:39-40).
- Joseph was thirty years old when he began his work (41:46).
- Joseph’s resurrection was followed by many blessings (41:47-49).
- Joseph gave bread to a dying world (41:55-56).
- Joseph became a Savior to all people (41:54, 57).
- Joseph was unrecognizable to his brothers (42:6, 8).
- Joseph was revealed to his brothers at their second coming (45:1-5).
- Joseph forgave and became a savior to his brothers (45:4-5).
- The first report of Joseph being alive was not believed (45:26).
- Joseph comforted those who sinned against him (50:21).
The similarity to Jesus’ story:
- Jesus is the beloved of the Father (Matthew 3:17).
- Jesus was hated by His brothers (John 15:25; Luke 19:14).
- His own people plotted to kill Him (Matthew 12:14; 26:4).
- Jesus was stripped of His coat and covered with a scarlet robe (Matthew 27: 28).
- His own people, while eating at Passover, desired to kill Him (Matthew 26:2-4).
- Jesus was betrayed and handed over to the Sanhedrin by Judas (Matthew 27:3).
- Jesus was resurrected from His death sentence in the tomb (1 Corinthians 15:4b).
- Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver (the price of a slave) (Matthew 26:15).
- Jesus is our scapegoat, and His blood was presented to the Father as a sin offering (Hebrews 13:12; Leviticus 16:8-10).
- Jesus became a servant (Philippians 2:6, 7; Luke 22:27; John 13:1-17).
- Jesus was numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12) as He was crucified with two thieves (Mark 15:28).
- God raised Jesus from the tomb (Acts 2:32; 10:40).
- Jesus is highly exalted by God, and all will bow before Him (1 Peter 3:22; Philippians 2:9-11).
- Jesus was thirty years old when He began His public ministry (Luke 3:23).
- Everyone in the world is blessed on account of Jesus (Romans 11:25; John 12:24).
- Jesus gives the true bread of life to all (Acts 4:12; John 6:48–57).
- Jesus is the Savior of all (John 3:16; Revelation 5:9).
- Jesus’ is not recognized by His own (John 1:10-11; 14:9; Luke 24:16).
- Jesus will be revealed to everyone at His second coming (Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 24:30-31; Revelation 1:7).
- Jesus forgave and saved all sinners (Luke 23:34; Matthew 1:21; Acts 5:31).
- His own did not believe Mary when she reported Jesus alive (Luke 24:10–11).
- Jesus comforted the disciples and all who abandoned Him at the cross (John 20:19).
Conclusion: Do not be afraid. Yes, your sins put Jesus on the cross, but look at His empty tomb. Jesus is alive with full assurance and forgiveness of sins for all who believe in Him. Hear these words from Genesis 50:20: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Alive on account of Jesus’ death for our sins and resurrection for our restored relationship with God.
Craft of Preaching-Check out our previous articles on Genesis 50:15-21.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Genesis 50:15-21.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Genesis 50:15-21.
Lectionary Kick-Start-Check out this fantastic podcast from Craft of Preaching authors Peter Nafzger and David Schmitt as they dig into the texts for this Sunday!
 Steven P. Mueller, ed. Called to Believe, Teach, and Confess: An Introduction to Doctrinal Theology, volume 3, Called by the Gospel. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2005. 306–307.