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The Bible In A Year: Day 18

Holy Bible

The Bible In A Year: Day 18

Readings:
Genesis 40-42
Psalm 16
Mathew 16

We start off today with Joseph in prison in Egypt. He was put here after false accusations by his master’s wife, but he was put in charge of the prisoners because God was with him and had a plan for him. While in this prison he sees two of pharaoh’s court officials that have been thrown in the same prison, and they’re both troubled by dreams they had. So Joseph asks them to tell him the dreams and he interprets them.

The butler is told that in three days he’ll be restored to his position, but the baker is informed that in three days he’d be executed. Both come to pass and the butler promises Joseph that he’ll remember him to pharaoh and petition for his release.

In the next chapter we jump ahead two years, and guess who forgot his promise. After the pharaoh has two disturbing dreams and all his wise men can’t interpret them for him, the butler all of a sudden is reminded of a time when he had a dream interpretation that was spot on. He then tells pharaoh about Joseph and he is summoned from the prison.

Joseph interprets the dreams to mean there will be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. He also notes that the doubling of the dream means it’s a sure thing, and soon to pass, as opposed to a prophecy that may be contingent on repentance like when God told Nineveh it would be destroyed. This also points to Joseph’s own double dreams about his family bowing to him being a sure thing.

Pharaoh obviously believes Joseph and because of God’s favor on his life, he is put into a position over everyone in the kingdom except for the pharaoh himself. Joseph is made the vizier of Egypt, a kind of prime minister in the ancient near East. Israel would also have a similar position, and in Isaiah 22 we read about Shebna being deposed by God and replaced by Eliakim as the steward of the kingdom. (This office of authority under the direction of the king of Israel will play an important role in the Gospel reading from Mathew today)

So after Joseph is installed as vizier of Egypt we transition back to Jacob and his sons. The seven years of plenty are over and we are now in the famine. Just like Abraham had to travel to Egypt during a famine, Jacob tells his sons to go to Egypt and buy some grain. When they arrive in Egypt Joseph knows who they are and sets up a plan, unbeknownst to them, that would see his entire family reunited in safety under his protection in Egypt. He couldn’t come right out to them because they may not believe him about being Joseph in the first place, or they may think it was a trap to seek revenge on them all.

But while he’s doing all this I wonder if he is thankful for all the suffering he has been through has not been for nothing. He spent 13 years as a slave in Egypt but now was in a position to rescue his family from starvation. Saint Augustine said that the goodness of God is such that He only allows evil to exist in His creation that He might bring a greater good out of it, and that’s what’s happening here with Joseph. He could’ve been bitter, and resentful, and he could’ve immediately sought revenge against his brothers, but like Venerable Pierre Toussaint and Saint Josephine Bakhita, both former slaves, he forgave those who wronged him.

When he accuses them of being spies and throws them into jail he pretends to need a translator to speak with them, so that he can overhear their conversation without them knowing. When they all show remorse for how they treated him, not having a clue that Joseph was right there listening to the, he wept. Maybe he was indecisive about how much help he should offer them until he found out if they had any remorse for his enslavement, and only then decided to help them.

He sends them home with a demand that they return with their youngest brother, Joseph’s full-blooded brother Benjamin, and holds Simeon as a hostage until they return. When Jacob finds out all that is going on he is greatly disturbed because he already lost the love of his life, her oldest son and his favorite, and now the posts of losing the only child of Rachel still alive (as far as he knows).

Mathew

Now we flip over to the 16th chapter of Mathew and see what’s happening with Jesus and the apostles. A couple things take place here before we get to the main event of this chapter.

Jesus is again questioned by the Pharisees when they ask Him for a sign. This is after they’ve been present for healings of many people and the casting out of demons. They still ask for a sign. He tells them that they’re great at reading clues in the sky for the weather but can see what’s plain in front of them, and so He refuses to play their game.

Then in the boat with the apostles, Jesus says to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” and for some reason the apostles think He is saying they should’ve brought along some bread. I don’t even know how they arrived at that conclusion, and Jesus also sounds perplexed by them when he essentially says ‘didn’t you just see me feed tens of thousands of people and you think I’m mad because you didn’t pack any boat snacks?’. What Jesus is actually telling them is to beware that the unfaithfulness and skepticism of the Pharisees doesn’t infect them because a little leaven lifts a lot of flour, as told in one of His earlier parables.

The group then arrives and Jesus asks them two questions, the first one is somewhat important, in as much as it helps to inform our evangelistic and catechetical endeavors, but the second question is the most important question ever asked. Jesus first asked “who do men say that the Son of Man is?” The disciples throw out a few answers that mostly show people think Jesus is some kind of prophet, but they maybe haven’t figured it all out.

Jesus then asks the big one, “but who do you say that I am?” And Peter steps right up to the plate and knocks it out of the park with his answer. He confesses that Jesus is not only the messiah, but also nails it with His divine sonship too. Many of the Jews were waiting for the messiah, but that didn’t necessarily mean they were waiting for the Son of God. This was an entirely new concept and Peter nailed it, because God had revealed it to him.

I often think about this exact exchange because it’s one of the major moments in my conversion journey, Jesus is asking all of us through this scripture passage “who do you say that I am?” Take a moment to consider that question in pray. Ask yourself who Jesus is to you, and how does that effect your relationship with Him.

Back in Caesaria Philippi, Jesus changes Peter’s name, just like God did with Abraham and Jacob before him. Just like those two patriarchs, who’s names were changed and on whom the people of the old covenant were built, Jesus tells Peter that His church, the new assembly of the people, will be built upon Peter. We take for granted the name of Peter, but before Simon son of Jonah was called the rock, there is no evidence of anyone using Cephas as a personal name. It’s a totally new concept at this point in history.

Jesus also gives Peter the “keys to the kingdom of heaven” which as we seen earlier is a reference to the prime minister role under the Davidic King, to act as the kings right hand and representative. Jesus also invests in Peter the power to ‘bind and loose’ these are both rabbinic terms that Jews of that day would’ve been very familiar with. These are the abilities to hold someone to certain practices or teachings and also to excommunicate those who flagrantly disregard the authority of the one invested with these powers. Peter is here given the authority to authoritatively teach faith and morals.

Jesus had no problem with hierarchical structures of power, because heaven itself has a hierarchy, and God established one here on earth in the Mosaic law and the kingdom of Israel. The problem Jesus has with those in positions of authority in this time period, is their hypocrisy.

We finish out this chapter with Jesus telling them that the road ahead will not be an easy one, and that not only is He going to suffer, but that they too must take up their crosses and follow after his example.

For more on the authority of Peter, and how it factored into my own conversion see this link here A Matter of Authority

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