SERMON TITLE: Finding Jesus
TEXT: Genesis 50:15-21 (ESV)”
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
TURN MIC ON / WELCOME
It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.
About a year ago, we did a series where we looked at the Old Testament major prophets. And in that series, I preached one sermon on each book — one sermon for an entire book of the Bible.
And the goal of the series — and the reason why we’re returning to the idea — is that I want you to be familiar with all of the Bible.
I want you to be able to see how the whole Bible is telling one story.
I want you to know how to find Jesus no matter where you are in the Bible.
So last year, we looked at the Major Prophets and this year we’re going to look at the first five books of the Bible — which are also called the Pentateuch — the books written by Moses.
Now why do I think it’s even possible to find Jesus in all of the Bible? Well in the end of the gospel of Luke, there’s an interesting story — the kids looked at this story during VBS — where after Jesus was killed on the cross, he appears to two men who thought he was still dead. Somehow — Jesus hid who he was from them — so they have no idea who they’re talking to. And when he shows up on the road, Jesus gives them — and us — a hint as to how we’re to read and understand the whole Bible.
“And he (that’s Jesus) said to them, "What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?" 19 And he said to them, "What things?" And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see." 25 And he (Jesus) said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" 27 And (verse 27 is key because this is why we’re doing this series — this is how we know that the whole Bible tells one story — watch what Jesus does...and...) beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:17-27 ESV)
You should circle the phrase “all the Scriptures” in verse 27. That’s why we’re doing this series — where I help you find Jesus in all of the Bible — including the Old Testament — because Jesus tells us the whole Bible is about him — he even began with the writings of Moses — the books we’re looking at for the next few weeks.
And here’s what the sermons will be like in this series. I’ll introduce you to a book of the Bible that may or may not be familiar to you. I’ll give you an overview of the book — the highlight reel. And then we’ll focus in on one section of the book where I’ll show you how to find Jesus in that book.
So let’s turn to our passage for today.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
If you have your Bible please turn with me to Genesis chapter 50. We’ll be looking at verses 15-21 together today.
And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions that we answer on our podcast. So if you have a question, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
OVERVIEW OF GENESIS
While you’re finding Genesis chapter 50, here’s an overview of the book of Genesis — this will help you know your way around the book when you read it. But I bet there’s a lot in Genesis that you’re already familiar with.
IN THE BEGINNING
For starters, Genesis tells us how things began. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis begins with a declaration that all things — things seen and things unseen — were created by God. And in the first two chapters of Genesis we get a 50,000 foot view of creation — chapter 1 — and then in chapter 2 — we’re seeing creation from the ground level — we’re in a garden — witnessing the creation of Adam and Eve — the pinnacle of God’s creation. Now why are they the pinnacle of creation? Because God made them his image bearers. And this means that they — and us — their offspring — have been commissioned as representatives of God’s reign over all of creation.
But our first parents fell to the deception of our Enemy. Though they lived in a place of perfection — without want — without need — without disease or death — they believed a lie — a lie all of us have fallen for and — if we’re honest — a lie we struggle with on a daily basis. What’s the lie? That God isn’t as good and faithful and loving and kind as he says he is. And in eating from a tree — in breaking the one commandment God had given them — Adam and Eve brought sin, destruction, and death on themselves — and on all of their descendants — including you and I.
And for the first 11 chapters of Genesis we see how sin leads to a breaking of the relationship between God and humanity. We also see how sin ruins the relationships we humans have with each other.
Brothers murder brothers.
Humanity thinks it’s coequal to God.
The destruction of sin runs rampant.
And throughout these chapters we see God respond to sin in two ways: He brings justice and he offers grace.
GOD’S FAITHFULNESS TO ABRAHAM AND HIS FAMILY
And chapter 12 is sort of a pivot point in the book. It’s here that we find God choosing to bless one man — Abraham — and his family. Abraham receives grace — though he deserves justice like everyone else. And for the remainder of Genesis, we see the beginning of God’s gracious plan to rescue humanity through his covenant — his promise — to Abraham. And this promise — made by God to Abraham — becomes the storyline for the rest of the Bible. How so?
Well as we've just seen — in the beginning God blessed humanity — that’s Genesis chapters 1 and 2.
Yet we forfeited that blessing through our rebellion and sin — Genesis chapter 3.
Nevertheless, God remains faithful to a faithless people as we see in the stories of Noah, and Abraham, and Abraham’s son Isaac, and Isaac’s son Jacob.
And then — in the New Testament — Paul describes the church — including those who come from a non-Jewish background — as those who have received the blessing of Abraham — so to be a Christian is to be part of Abraham’s family — this is what Romans chapter 4 is all about. Here’s what Paul said.
“For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father — that’s reading the story backward. He is our faith father. We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!””
Now that’s a remarkable statement. Why do I say that? Well the whole Bible is telling one story of God’s faithfulness to a rebellious — folly-filled — faithless people. We see this over and over again in the book of Genesis — including Abraham’s story.
Twice — not once but twice — Abraham gives his wife away to another man in an effort to save his own neck — talk about having some faith.
Another time Sarah — his wife — wasn’t sure that God was going to fulfill his promise of giving her and her husband a child so she had her husband sleep with another woman to try and get God’s promise rolling — talk about having faith.
And then Isaac — their son — get this — he gives his wife away — just like his dad did — and for the same reason — to save his own neck — and to the same man his dad gave his mom to!
Yet — as I’ve said — God remains faithful to these people that you and I would avoid at the annual family picnic — “hey there’s uncle Abraham and aunt Sarah and they’re coming our way — quick kids — someone say they’ve got a belly ache so we can ditch them.”
Twice God rescues Sarah from the men Abraham hands her over to.
God also rescues Rebecca — Isaac’s wife — from the same foolishness.
God causes Sarah to become pregnant even though she’s old and had doubted that she’d have a child.
Genesis — the entire Bible really — is the story of God’s faithfulness to an unfaithful people.
So with that as our overview, we come to our text.
RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT
Here are the words found in Genesis chapter 50. Beginning in verse 15.
“When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him." 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, "Your father gave this command before he died: 17 'Say to Joseph, "Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you."' And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father." Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, "Behold, we are your servants." 19 But Joseph said to them, "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 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. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones." Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:15-21 ESV)
Have you ever heard someone say something like: “It’s clear that God doesn’t exist because there’s so much evil and suffering in the world. I mean — if he does exist — he must not be that powerful — I mean — look at all of the evil going on. Or worse — maybe he is powerful — but not good.”
When someone says something like this what they’re questioning is God’s sovereignty and goodness. Is God really reigning over all things and is he really good?
Often this kind of question is asked when something’s happened to us that causes us to doubt God’s reign and goodness — maybe the death of someone you love dearly, maybe the loss of a job or a close friendship. And even for the seasoned Christian it’s easy to respond to the heartbreaking moments of life — it’s tempting — in these moments — to question God’s power. Or his goodness. Or if he’s even aware of what’s going on in our life. We struggle because we’re not able to reconcile — in our minds — that God reigns and is good — and — evil exists.
Yet something we see in the whole Bible — is that there is a God who is completely sovereign and good — and — there is evil and destruction in our world. And though ultimately we’re responsible for the evil and suffering — due to our sin and rebellion against God — God doesn’t just sit back and say “Well if that’s the way they want to treat my love for them — then I’m out of this relationship” — no — God responded to our rebellion and sin — and the evil we’ve brought into his creation — by willingly experiencing the worst form of suffering the world could throw at him — Jesus Christ murdered on a cross — the Son of God executed — evil we did to God — evil we delighted in.
So God — though reigning and good — experienced evil and suffering — and he used what we meant for evil — the murder of his Son — to be the means by which evil and suffering would be forever defeated.
So the Christian faith proclaims to a suffering world — God reigns and is using all things — even the evil things we plot and scheme and cause — for his purposes.
This is what we find in our passage in Genesis — this is one way to find Jesus in the Bible.
So back to our passage. I know I gave you an overview of Genesis — but I need you to understand what’s going on in Joseph’s story so our passage makes some sense.
Joseph’s story begins in Genesis chapter 37 where he has two dreams. Now he’s one of 12 brothers — he’s 17 years old at the time — and he’s his daddy’s favorite. And his dreams only make a difficult relationship worse with his siblings because everyone understands his dreams to mean that some day — somehow — some way — Joseph’s going to reign over his brothers. And this makes his brothers mad. How mad? Well his brothers plot to kill him — and you thought your family had drama.
Now his brothers eventually come around and think that killing Joseph may be taking things a bit too far — so instead of killing him — they sell him into slavery to some travelers who are heading to the distant land of Egypt. Then they go back home and tell their dad that Joseph was killed by some wild animals — and go on living with this lie — thinking they’ll never see their brother again.
Now — and I know this will be hard to believe — but in Genesis 39 — things spiral downward for Joseph which — again I know can be hard to imagine given that he’s just been sold into slavery. Here’s what happens. He gets sold to a man named Potiphar. And things go well for Joseph because — something we’re reminded of again and again — is that God is with him. Potiphar notices that Joseph has some sort of favor — some sort of “If this guy’s in charge — things go well for me” — so Potiphar puts Joseph in charge. But Joseph’s got a problem — Potiphar’s wife thinks Joseph is a hottie and makes advances at him. And on one occasion — even though Joseph does the right thing and runs from the situation — Potiphar’s wife makes some false accusations against Joseph — and he’s thrown into prison. But even in prison, God is with Joseph.
Some time passes, and one day Pharaoh throws two of his workers — a baker and cupbearer — into prison. And they both have a dream that they tell to Joseph. And — because God is with him — he’s able to interpret their dreams — and things turn out exactly as he said they would. The baker is killed and the cupbearer is restored to his position. And — oh by the way — he promises Joseph that he’ll put in a good word for him with Pharaoh — but — he forgets all about it once he’s free.
Two more years go by — thirteen years have passed since his brothers sold him into slavery — and now Pharaoh — the king of Egypt — starts having some disturbing dreams. No one can figure out what they mean. And that’s when the cupbearer remembers Joseph and how he can interpret dreams. So Pharaoh sends for Joseph. And Joseph interprets the dreams — there will be prosperity for 7 years and then famine for the next 7. Pharaoh is amazed by Joseph’s wisdom and insight. And he promotes Joseph from prisoner to second in command of all of Egypt.
And there are 7 years of prosperity — just like Joseph said — and then famine comes. But through Joseph’s leadership, Egypt had stored up plenty of grain to survive the famine — but people from other lands aren’t faring so well — including Joseph’s family.
So after some time, Joseph’s dad — Jacob — also known as Israel — sends some of his sons to Egypt because he’s heard that there’s food there. And who do they find themselves in the presence of? Joseph — their brother. Now they don’t recognize him — it’s been over 20 years since they last saw him — he’s dressed like an Egyptian — they’re afraid for their lives because if this meeting doesn’t go well they won’t have any food to take back home — so they don’t recognize him.
And eventually — after some back and forth tension filled drama — Joseph reveals that it’s him. The whole family moves to Egypt. The son who was thought to be dead is alive. Reconciliation takes place. Then dear old dad dies. And that’s the background for our text back in Genesis chapter 50.
“When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him."
So the brothers fear the consequences for the evil they did to Joseph. A few chapters earlier — in chapter 45 — Joseph clearly shows them that he’d forgiven them — but they’re uncertain if he’ll still feel that way now that dad’s gone. They’re projecting on Joseph something that’s terrifying to them. As someone has observed, “their hatred for Joseph was real, but Joseph’s hatred of them is only imaginary.” And though imaginary — it terrifies them.
16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, "Your father gave this command before he died: 17 'Say to Joseph, "Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you."' And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father." Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, "Behold, we are your servants."
They fall down before him — remember the dreams he had as a teenager? They were so adamant about his dreams not coming true — and now they unknowingly fulfill his dreams. But if we were to draw a line from point A of Joseph’s story — a young man with some dreams from God — to this point in his story — what an up and down — more down than up — zig zaggy line — through slavery and false accusations and imprisonment — what a journey from the dreams he received from God to their fulfillment. And with all of the misfortune and despair — with all of the evil and treachery — there’s only one reason the dreams were ever fulfilled — God was reigning the entire time. You see the dreams were fulfilled — not in spite of all of the bad things that happened to Joseph — no — all of the events were part of the path that led to the fulfillment of the dreams he’d been given. We know this because of Joseph’s response.
19 But Joseph said to them, "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 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. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones." Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:15-21 ESV)
Another Bible translation says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20 NLT)
Joseph is aware of the limits of his authority. Yes he has a powerful position. Yes he has authority in Egypt. But he knows the one position he doesn’t have — is the position of God. The brothers don’t understood this yet. They’ve been giving Joseph an authority — a power — that didn’t belong to him.
And here — it’s as if Joseph is saying, “Guys have assurance. I know my role — and I’m not God. But if I could give you some advice — you should make things right with him. But what happens between you and God is his business — not mine. And God’s business for me was to use everything that’s happened in my life — the good and the evil — to bring me to this moment — where I would be used by him to save many people.”
FINDING JESUS IN GENESIS
And I know this can be hard to hear — especially if you’re in a season of suffering.
I know this can be hard to believe if you’ve experienced a time when you feel that God didn’t come through for you.
I know if you’re in the middle of the kind of devastating affliction that many have experienced and the pain and grief it produces — I know it’s hard to imagine and believe that God is able to use all of it for his purposes and for your good.
But we Christians must remember that we’re in the midst of a world that’s suffering. People are starving — there’s a famine all around us. People are hopeless because they’ve been beat down by broken marriages and abusive predators, they’ve been crushed by cancer and drug addictions, they medicate themselves on alcohol and entertainment because life can be painful. We’re in a spiritual famine today — just like the people in Joseph’s day were in the midst of a physical famine.
But we have food — spiritual nourishment to offer them — it’s called the gospel. That God is working out all things for his purposes and his people’s good. That he is sovereign — that he reigns over all things — over all circumstances — even over the evil in our world because he used the greatest act of evil in history for his glorious purpose — God used the murder of Jesus Christ to be the means by which many will be saved.
As the apostle Peter said, “"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know — 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it....32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses...36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" 38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."” (Acts 2:22-24, 32, 36-39 ESV)
Through an evil act — through the murder of Jesus — the horrific killing of the Son of God — through what we meant to cause great harm — what we meant to kill — God used it all for good. Jesus went to the cross so that through his death — through our evil act — many people would be saved.
And this gives us assurance. For no matter our circumstances — no matter how hard — or how difficult — or how depressing — or how draining our circumstances may be — if God has used the evil that is the murder of Jesus for his purposes and our good — surely he is reigning right now — and has a plan — that’s more glorious than we can dare to imagine — surely he has a plan that will use your circumstances for his purposes and your good.
This doesn’t make 13 years in slavery and imprisonment any easier. This truth doesn’t make your situation any lighter or more enjoyable. But this truth does give hope. Because in a world of famine — in a world that’s starving for hope — you have — and are feasting on — the faithfulness of God in your life. And you’re able to feast — not because of something good that was done — you feast because God reigns over all things — including evil — you feast because God used the death of his Son for your eternal good.
Know that God is faithful. Know that he is good. Know that our God reigns. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, thank you for reigning over all things. Thank you for being good. Thank you for being faithful to us — even when we are faithless to you. Father — for those who are in a difficult circumstance right now — I ask you to reassure them of your goodness and power. Reassure them — right now — that you love them and care for them — that you’re aware of their situation — that you are working this situation out for their good.
We ask you to forgive us for the evil acts we do. So often we blame you for the evil in our world all while we fail see our contribution to the evil. This is a wicked thing we do — forgive us of this sin.
Finally, help us to be an encouragement to those in our midst who are struggling — who need assurance of your goodness — who need a friend. Use us to demonstrate your goodness to those who are in this land of famine. Help us to do good to those around us. It’s in Jesus’ name that we pray. Amen.
As we turn to the Lord’s Table, we’re reminded — once again — that our God reigns. We’re reminded of the hope we have because God used the murder of his Son for our salvation. This meal is a time where we feast — in this famined land — feasting on God’s love for us as displayed in the sacrifice of his Son.
On the night he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:24b-26 ESV)
And with these words our Lord commands all believers to eat this bread and to drink this cup in true faith and in the confident hope of his return in glory.
At this time, ushers will be passing trays with the bread and the cup down your rows. You may take the bread immediately, but hold on to the cup, which we will all drink together.
Let’s pray. Father, we give you thanks for your Son, Jesus. For his obedience and suffering during his life on earth, and for his giving up of his body and blood on the cross. Give us assurance that our sins are pardoned through his blood and may your perfect love drive out all fear. Fill our minds with your peace and turn our eyes to Heaven, where Christ is at your right hand interceding for us. Unite us with each other through your Spirit so we continue in the living hope of our Savior's coming in glory. Amen.
Let’s feast on God’s grace together.
Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, in your wisdom, you have made all things and you sustain them by your power. You formed us in your image, setting us in this world to love and serve you, and to live in peace with one another. When we rebelled against you — refusing to trust and obey you — you did not reject us, but still claimed us as your own. Then in the fullness of time, out of your great love for us, you sent your only Son to be one of us, to redeem us, to heal our brokenness, to cleanse us from our sins, and to defeat our greatest enemies of Satan, sin, death, and Hell. And now, you call us your sons and daughters — your children of hope. In response to these great truths, we now praise you in song together. Amen.
BENEDICTION (PRAY FOR: Need assurance of God’s goodness and faithfulness as you go through a difficult circumstance)
May you go knowing that God reigns. That he is faithful. That he is good.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.