Friday 10 March 2023 2nd week of Lent
Israel loved Joseph more than all his other sons, for he was the son of his old age, and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. But his brothers, seeing how his father loved him more than all his other sons, came to hate him so much that they could not say a civil word to him.
His brothers went to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem. Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers with the flock at Shechem? Come, I am going to send you to them.’ So, Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.
They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they made a plot among themselves to put him to death. ‘Here comes the man of dreams’ they said to one another. ‘Come on, let us kill him and throw him into some well; we can say that a wild beast devoured him. Then we shall see what becomes of his dreams.’
But Reuben heard, and he saved him from their violence. ‘We must not take his life’ he said. ‘Shed no blood,’ said Reuben to them ‘throw him into this well in the wilderness, but do not lay violent hands on him’ – intending to save him from them and to restore him to his father. So, when Joseph reached his brothers, they pulled off his coat, the coat with long sleeves that he was wearing, and catching hold of him they threw him into the well, an empty well with no water in it. They then sat down to eat.
Looking up they saw a group of Ishmaelites who were coming from Gilead, their camels laden with gum, tragacanth, balsam and resin, which they were taking down into Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What do we gain by killing our brother and covering up his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let us not do any harm to him. After all, he is our brother, and our own flesh.’ His brothers agreed.
Now some Midianite merchants were passing, and they drew Joseph up out of the well. They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty silver pieces, and these men took Joseph to Egypt.
Psalm 104 Remember the wonders the Lord has done.
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next, he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So, they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
It was the stone rejected by the builders that became the keystone. This was the Lord’s doing and it is wonderful to see.
‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’
When they heard his parables, the chief priests and the scribes realised he was speaking about them, but though they would have liked to arrest him they were afraid of the crowds, who looked on him as a prophet.
There are clear parallels between the stories we have heard of Joseph the Dreamer and his brothers, and the parable of the landowner’s son and his tenants.
We also hear a third story. The story of Jesus. He is telling us that the son is himself, and that he is the beloved one of his Father. He is also telling us about those who would be challenged by him, in this case the chief priests and the scribes.
The parallels include,
- all three sons represent the love of the father. When the brothers, tenants, and chief priests see the son, in their minds, they see the father.
- The father is unaware of how deeply his love is despised. For the father loves all his children and all his workers. Perhaps the father’s hope is that all these others are also good people and that they will do what is right and be the best that they can be.
- The brothers, the tenants, and the chief priests and scribes are convinced that the son has more than what they have, and they feel themselves deprived of the benefits given to the son.
- They all believe that killing the son will give them what they want and make things right.
- The brothers, the tenants, and the chief priests and scribes embody a kind of revenge mentality which makes being the son, risky business. A kind of attitude very prevalent in societies today.
For the audience of Mathew’s Gospel, a Jewish Christian community, the parable challenges them to remember the historical pattern of persecution against the messengers of God – the prophets and others. This is part of the sacred narrative of the Jewish people who witness the unique love of their God. Yet time after time this love is met with betrayal, resulting in the exile or downfall of the people of the promise, and God’s repeated attempts to bring them back to his love with every increasing promises of Divine self-giving. “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Jesus comes as son of the Father, sent as the supreme Divine self-giving. Perhaps the words of Dives in yesterday’s Gospel are prophetic, “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”’ (Luke 16:19-31).
It is sometimes said that a father’s dreams are lived out by the son. Perhaps also by his daughter.
I think God has this wonderful dream that we, human beings, will eventually awaken to recognise that we are all daughters and sons. And that the Father loves each and every one of us as fully as is possible – without condition. But each of us is loved differently. Not because God’s love varies but because we are all different. What poisons our perception of this economy of love, is our own distorted thinking about ourselves and our own worth. We entertain unhealthy comparisons, false judgments, and convincing but incorrect understandings.
We pray that we can share God’s dream.
As Joseph the dreamer must have dreamt the dreams of his Father.
Seeking deeply authentic and trusting images of God, may we find freedom from the jealousies, vengeances, and distortions that lead us away from seeing who we truly are as images of Divine love. It may be risky, being a daughter, who dreams the dreams of the Divine Father. Is it worth the risk?
May we be like the olive tree that thrusts its roots trustingly into the waters of life, drinking deeply of right judgment and wholesome self-esteem, bringing forth an abundance of fruit for all.