When Joseph interrogated his brothers, they were terrified and Joseph was overcome with love and forgiveness, especially for Benjamin. He longed to reveal himself to his family, because he could see how God had provided for them all and used their story for good…
21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”
22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.
24 He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.
26 When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground. 27 He asked them how they were, and then he said, “How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?”
28 They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed down, prostrating themselves before him.
29 As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” 30 Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.
1 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.
Genesis 42:21-24, 43:26-30, 45:1-2
I’m not sure why Joseph played it out as long as he did. And I’m not sure he knew how emotional he would become each time he saw his family and discussed his father with them. Joseph is on the verge of tears every time he meets his brothers, and Benjamin especially. What accounts for his feelings? These are the people who sold him and abandoned him.
The answer is two-fold. A part of the answer is that Joseph now sees God’s plan, and we will examine that next time. The other part of the story is that Joseph clearly had forgiven them. In advance. When he first encountered his brothers, he didn’t have them killed or conspire to punish them. On the contrary, he provided for them and blessed them.
His willingness to forgive his brothers set the stage for him to become a blessing in their lives. He had every right to mete out justice for their sin, yet his love and forgiveness toward them changed everything.
Which takes me to the cross.
God has every right to issue justice and deal with our sin against him, and God’s love and forgiveness for us changes everything. He sent his only son, Jesus, to die for us so that we would not have to stand under judgment ourselves. Because he loves us. Because he has forgiven us in Jesus.
God stands looking at the horizon like the father of the prodigal son longing for his child to return. Like Joseph longed for his brothers and father to return to him. And so we are welcomed to the feast God has prepared for us – he blesses us when we deserve to be cursed. All because of his love for us. Praise and thanks be to God.