Text: Genesis 37:1-11, 23-28, 42:1-11, 45:1-5, 50:15-21, Matthew 26:47-50, Romans 5:10
I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of my life afraid of nutcrackers. No, I’ve never been personally attacked by one, nor can I explain exactly why these life-size chestnut-chomping soldiers are terrifying, but I can tell you that I’d much rather chestnuts stay roasting on an open fire.
Nutcrackers are about halfway down on my list of fears, accompanied by wild turkeys, elevators, prepackaged deli meat, team-building activities, ostriches, people who think it’s okay to ride ostriches, and Kermit the frog (especially when he plays Tiny Tim in “A Muppets’ Christmas Carol.”)
I am painfully aware that most of these things are benign and will never hurt me, but I still bubble wrap my days in fear, naming my enemies one by one; some silly, some serious. At the core of each is something that resembles rejection, death, loss, failure, abandonment and hopelessness. My fear doesn’t just vanish at will, especially because I know, at some point or another, I will experience pain (John 16:33).
Remember how, in Genesis 2, God gives Adam the assignment of naming the animals? What a task! I don’t know what Adam’s process was like, but if he was anything like me, he must have been a little overwhelmed to name the vast variety of animals, many of which he had never even encountered. He probably had to do the best he could with what little information he had, naming one based on its high jump, another on its orange color. We can surmise that regardless of the names Adam chose, God already had one for them: good.
Although I wasn’t in the garden that day, I still inherently name things based on the little information I’m given. When tragedy roars or grief screeches, I heap hopeless names onto myself, my circumstances, and God.
But maybe God doesn’t have a name for each individual event that happens to us. He just calls it all good (Romans 8:28). Nothing in God’s will is isolated from the abundance He intends for us.
As noted by the gift of his technicolor dreamcoat, Joseph was a beloved son with a strange prophetic dream his family didn’t believe. His brothers probably named the dream as bad, confusing, and potentially threatening, so they sold their brother to avoid the consequences. Little did they know that even after their betrayal, he was sent “ahead of them to preserve life” and would inevitably save their family lineage (Genesis 45:7). What his brothers intended for evil, God, in His infinite mercy and power, willed for good (Genesis 50:20).
This brings us to the story of another beloved Son: Jesus. Like Joseph, no one believed Jesus was a King, and they resisted His rule through intense disbelief and ultimate betrayal on the Cross.
What names do you think Jesus’ crucifiers called the events that unfolded? They probably had several words for it, but because God’s intention for the gospel is to turn everything right side up, the best place to see its full effect is in the people who hated Jesus the most.
When we overrule God’s given good with our own seemingly better ways, our lack of trust is no different than that of Jesus’ enemies. Ouch. Our eyes become so preoccupied with the how’s, why’s and what-if’s that we miss seeing the One who has gone before us to preserve life (Genesis 45:7). Jesus’ crucifiers missed out on this, too, clutching their fears with doubtful hands.
But when we embrace this truth, we also get to receive this good news: Jesus is the true and better Joseph because He came to reverse the stories of ALL the brothers and sisters who rejected Him, including you and me.
In the ultimate reversal of death to life on the cross, Christ wills even our filthy hearts for good.
Because He walked through our greatest fear for us, all others are joyfully overturned into His perfect will.
“For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!”
He calls us by name (Isaiah 43:1), and only because of Jesus—the only One whose birth name was “Good”—we, too, find ourselves, our fears and our days with brand new name tags.
Praise be to God!