CDPCKL · The Faith of Judah (Genesis 43:1-34)

The Faith of Judah (Genesis 43:1-34)

Many years before this, the sons of Jacob took their little brother Joseph, stripped him of his robes of honour, and dropped him into a hole in the ground. Then they sat down to lunch, ignoring his cries for mercy.

But while they were eating, a caravan of camels passed by on the highway. This caravan was carrying luxury goods from the north to the south: spices, balm, and myrrh. Seeing this opportunity, Judah — son #4 — took charge of the situation and suggested that they sell their little brother to these merchants.

Which they did. And so the caravan continued on to Egypt with one more luxury item in stock: a handsome 17-year old Hebrew boy. Jacob’s sons returned home, claiming they had lost their brother to a wild animal attack, and their father believed the lie.

They had committed the perfect crime, and got away clean. They even turned a profit!

What they had not counted on was how much guilt costs.

And that is what the sons of Jacob discovered shortly after they arrived home: because their father refused to stop mourning for his lost son. They felt nothing when it was their little brother crying out from a hole in the ground — that’s how much they hated him! — but they could not stand hearing their father’s cries. The brothers discovered that they could suppress their sense of shame, but they cannot reverse the reality of their guilt.

So they ran away from it instead: every brother found a wife and started a family of his own. Some brothers left the area completely, like Judah, who — as the next son in line to take over the family when the father dies — really has the most to lose if the truth ever comes out.

And so, just like what happened to Isaac’s family, Jacob’s family was destroyed by favouritism and deception.

But here is the Good News: Jacob’s family belongs to God. And God is not going to stop until he has restored all that has been ruined.

And we saw God begin this great work last week, when he loosed a famine upon the earth. National economies began crashing all over the world of that time. And then the good news went out that there was food available in Egypt.

And this combination of famine and good news forced Jacob’s family to act like a family again. The famine drove Jacob’s sons back to live together, and the good news drove them back to work together when their father sent them off to Egypt to purchase salvation for everyone in the family.

But many weeks later Jacob’s sons returned home, claiming they had lost yet another brother! — to Egyptian prison, this time. This time, however, their father did not believe them, even though they were actually telling the truth! They came back with bags full of grain that — apparently — they did not pay for, and some crazy story that the Prime Minister of Egypt would only release their brother from prison if they brought their youngest brother Benjamin back with them…!

And in the end Jacob said: no way. There is no way I am trusting you all with Benjamin at this point!

So last week’s episode ended on a dark note — but even that dark note is evidence that God has not given up on this family. For 20+ years these brothers ran away from the reality of their guilt, they murdered the truth and buried it under the foundation-stones of their own households — but last week we saw God begin to bring their guilt back to life. They began to hear the voice of God whispering again from the dark corners of their lives, reminding them that they still owe a debt they can never hope to repay.

God is at work grinding these men down to despair under the weight of their guilt. God knows that when dealing with people this stubbornly committed to deception, despair is the only thing that will wake them up to the reality that mercy alone can save them.

Today, God continues that work…

So: some months later, probably a year or longer, they finish the grain they had brought from Egypt. But the famine is still going. So their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little more food.”

And this time Reuben, the oldest, remains silent. Last week we witnessed his last, desperate attempt to win back his father’s trust. But he tried to do so without actually telling the truth about his previous failures. He was passionate! but insincere, and as a result his father refused.

And so here, once again — just as on that terrible day 20+ years ago — it is Judah who takes control and speaks up on behalf of his brothers: “Ummmm, sorry, but…remember: we dare not go back without Benjamin!”

And their father again accuses them: “Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?”

So they say, “Dad! Come on! We simply answered his questions. How were we to know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here‘?”

[8] Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. [9] I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.”

And this speech marks an important turning point in the story:

See, 20+ years ago, Judah got rid of Joseph and secured his position as the next in line to inherit the Head of Household position when Jacob dies. And we saw how he passed that ambitious poison on to his own sons, and how that lust for power and position caused his own family to self-destruct. And we saw how, when his daughter-in-law Tamar confronted him with his guilt, Judah woke up suddenly and realized just how far into the darkness he had fallen.

And when we match up the timeline of Judah’s life with these events here, we realize that the mess Judah got into with Tamar has to have just happened a little over a year ago, perhaps just before the famine started. So the shock of that moment — the shock of the realization that he is not righteous enough to take leadership over Abraham’s household — is still very fresh in Judah’s mind.

And so here, in this speech, for the first time, we see Judah begin to loosen his hold on the ambition that has dominated him for so long, and cost him so much. He says, “Dad, trust me with Benjamin’s life. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.”

Basically, Judah is volunteering to give up his position in the family if he fails to bring Benjamin back.

And so here, again, Judah has surpassed Reuben, just as he did 20+ years ago. Last week Reuben offered to sacrifice his sons if he failed. Here, at least, Judah has offered to sacrifice himself.

And then Judah finishes with verse 10, “As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.”

And Moses is giving us a literary wink here:

We have all noticed by this point that almost everything in Book 12 comes in twos: two dreams, two sons gone missing, two repetitions of every episode — one where it happens, then another where someone retells the story of what happened.

And two episodes ago, he gave us the key to interpret all these “twos” when Joseph explained that Pharaoh’s two dreams meant that God — The God — is in charge of everything that is happening.

Judah’s frustrated comment about how they “could have gone and returned twice” by now is meant to be a reminder to us that — as messy as this whole thing is — God knows what he is doing. This is the process, this is the plan! This really is how God works to rescue his people!

So Jacob gives in, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. [12] Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. [13] Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. [14] And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.”

And this just shows us that God is still at work on Jacob’s character also. Jacob has a problem with favouritism, just like his father Isaac did, just like his grandfather Abraham did. God tested Abraham to see if he would trust God with his sons’ lives; God tested Isaac in the same way; and now God is testing Jacob.

And Jacob is beginning to pass this test: he has decided to trust God with Benjamin’s life.

[15] So the men took the gifts and double the amount of silver, and Benjamin also.

And this is yet another very deliberate repetition of something that has already happened:

20+ years earlier, a caravan travelled south loaded with spices, balm, and myrrh, carrying Jacob’s favourite son away to an uncertain future.

Now, here, again, a caravan is travelling south loaded with spices, balm, and myrrh, carrying Jacob’s favourite son away to an uncertain future.

So they hurried down to Egypt and presented themselves to Joseph. [16] When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my house, slaughter an animal and prepare a meal; they are to eat with me at noon.”

[17] The man did as Joseph told him and took the men to Joseph’s house.

But the men freak out, just like they did last week. They are thinking that, for sure, they are about to be arrested for the missing silver!

See, by this point, the voice of God reminding them of their guilt has become so constant that now they interpret everything that happens as some kind of judgement on their sins!

So they try to explain everything to Joseph’s steward, about how this is all just some horrible mistake. But the steward waves them off: “Relax la bro!” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.”

And from the steward’s comment here we find that Joseph has been leading his whole household toward the true worship of the true God.

Then he brought Simeon out to them.

So: okay! So far so good. So the brothers settle in, get themselves ready. And [26] when Joseph came home, they present to him the gifts they had brought, and they bow down before him to the ground. Joseph asks about their father’s health, they say he’s doing fine. Then [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 without waiting for an answer he says, “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.

[31] After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself, said, “Serve the food.” [32] They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians.

But when the brothers look at the seating arrangement, they get another shock: because they have been arranged in order from oldest to youngest.

And this freaks them out yet again. Because how could anyone know by looking what order they were born in?

And then, [34] when portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s.

We remember from last week that Joseph is working on a plan to bring the whole family down to Egypt so he can save them from the famine. And to accomplish this plan he needs to persuade his brothers to give up their commitment to secrecy and deception and selfish ambition. But the only way for Joseph to know where they are in that process is for him to test them.

Specifically, he has been testing their love for one another. Last week he took Simeon away, and sent them back home with a fortune in food and money: he wanted to see if they would come back!

Now he has deliberately favoured Benjamin over all the rest: blessing him in God’s name, and feeding him five times more. Joseph is watching to see if his brothers are still consumed with jealousy and hatred.

And to help them be themselves, Joseph gives them plenty of wine: Moses tells us that they feasted and drank freely with him.

The Hebrew literally says “they drank and got drunk with him.” They had a very good time.

So: that seems like a good ending. A better ending than last week’s, anyway!

But how are we supposed to interpret this, and apply it to our lives?

Well, for a while now we have been aware that Joseph’s life is foreshadowing the life of the Messiah to come: a man who will be sold by his brothers, betrayed and put to death, only to be raised back up to life, crowned king over all creation, and given the task of offering life to people from every nation on earth.

And last week we discovered that the story of Jacob’s sons is foreshadowing how the nations will respond to God’s Messiah: we hear the Good News that there is life and salvation available in the midst of the famine, we go to try and purchase some of that salvation for ourselves — only to discover that meeting the Messiah is a very uncomfortable experience! We discover that salvation is actually free to everyone who is willing to come and live in the ark with Noah, in the family with Abraham, in the garden with God…but we also discover that lies cannot continue to live in the presence of the One who knows everything. We discover that the only way for us to really live in the Messiah’s presence is if we leave our commitment to deception at the door.

And our problem is that we are really really committed to the deception of others and ourselves.

This is how that happens:

It does not take us long, as children, to learn that sins are costly, because they bring shame on us: scolding, discipline, consequences. So early on we all learn that if we want to avoid shame really we should avoid sin.

But it does not take us long to learn that it is much easier to avoid shame by simply hiding our sin. We learn that sins do not have to be costly. And from that point on we begin to invest a lot of energy into making sure our sins will cost us as little as possible: we do our best to make sure we will not get caught and experience public shame.

But soon after that we learn that there is also a private experience of shame. Even if no one else knows what we have done, we know. And we are almost always surprised by how loud the voice of our own condemnation can be!

And in our natural state we find it very hard to listen to that voice and admit the truth of what it is saying. We find it very difficult to admit to ourselves that we have done something wrong! — and we find it about a thousand times more difficult to admit it to someone else, especially to those we have wronged, especially those in authority.

Once, when I was four years old, I was playing in a sandbox with several other children, and another little boy had a chupa-chup which he put down — half-finished — on the edge of the sandbox. And, like Eve, I saw that the chupa-chup was good for food and pleasing to the eye, so I took it. But then my eyes were opened, and I realized that if I put it in my mouth I would be caught. So I put it in my pocket. But then, when I got home, I realized that if I put it in my mouth there my mom would want to know where it came from, so I hid my guilt under my pillow. And then I began to wrestle within myself: I could not throw it away because I wanted to have it. But having it was dangerous, because it was the evidence that could convict me, so really I needed to eat it. But eating it was also dangerous, because my mom was all-seeing and all-knowing. I could not eat it, nor could I throw it away. And so over the next few days it lay there gathering lint and general fuzziness while I did my best to forget that it existed.

So it does not take us long to learn that is much easier to just drown out the voice of our shame. As children we do this childishly. As adults, we do this in a thousand very sophisticated ways: through the seeking out of pleasure, or success, money, security, control — even religion! — and most of us get very very good at it. Some people, some cultures, have gotten so good at this that they no longer feel private shame at all: the only thing that matters to them is whether they are caught and publically shamed.

In summary: fairly early in life we commit ourselves to the deception of others, because we don’t want to experience public shame. But then we start believing in our own lies; we end up committing ourselves to the deception of ourselves, because we don’t want to experience private shame.

But here’s the thing about all that: while we do have the ability to hide from public shame and even turn off our sense of private shame, we cannot turn off the reality of guilt. We may never be caught, and we may no longer feel the shame of what we have done, but the consequences of what we have done are real, and someone, somewhere, is paying for those consequences, even if they do not know that it is our sin that caused those consequences.

This is the truth Jacob’s sons discovered when their father refused to stop mourning over Joseph’s disappearance. This is the truth they rediscovered when they met their Messiah, the Prime Minister of Egypt. And this is the truth we all rediscover when we meet our Messiah: that our guilt is real whether we feel shame over it or not.

In other words: meeting the Messiah gives us a glimpse of the life that could be ours! — but it also reminds us of the reality of our guilt. Just like Jacob’s sons, we begin to hear the voice of God whispering to us from the dark corners of our lives, reminding us of things that we have been running away from for years, things that we thought we had buried long ago.

And so, as we discussed last week, our most common response to meeting the Messiah and discovering this uncomfortable truth is this: we run away again. We fill our bags with all the food we think will fit in there, we say, “Thanks much!” and we go back out into the wilderness, back out into the famine. We go back to drowning out the voice of truth because that is all we know how to do!

We basically respond like Reuben did last week. When Reuben was confronted with the reminders of his guilt, he doubled-down on his deception. Instead of admitting to himself and to his father that he could not be trusted with Benjamin’s life, he tried to use passion and bold vows of sacrifice to cover up his re-awakened sense of shame.

And many of us live like that for many years. We use our activities to hide our unworthiness — especially our religious activities. We treat religious experience like an opiate, like a drug. We go to church on Sunday, we sing the songs, we do the prayers, we give the money, we go away feeling good, feeling “saved”, full of new resolution to “live right” — but then we discover that the feeling does not last, we discover that we are still the same old person we have always been. The shadows come creeping back, the voice of guilt begins to whisper again…so we go back to church, we sing louder, we pray longer, we give more. If you are Hindu you go to the festivals and experience the trance, if you are Buddhist you light the incense and burn the money and pay the monks to pray for you, if you are Muslim you fast for 28 days a year and go on pilgrimage, if you are an activist you post your virtue signals online and keep careful track of your “likes” — but it just does not work, the food just does not last, we have to go back again and again, and each time it costs just a little bit more to achieve that high we are looking for, to attain that sense of assurance —

If that is the experience you are having in life right now — especially if that is the experience you are having with Christianity! — then I want to pause here and give you this encouragement: that cycle of striving and despair is the Spirit of God at work trying to convince you of the futility of what you are doing. That cycle of guilt is actually a gift from God to you! It is the low battery notification on the phone of your life, warning you that you are going to die if you do not plug yourself into the source of life.

I also want to add this encouragement: this cycle is a process, and it is God’s process. Some of us are really stubborn! We have to run that cycle of self-deception a million times before we even begin to wonder if something might be wrong! And so God, in his patience and gentleness, allows us to run that cycle a million times — he allows us to grind ourselves down to despair! — until we are finally ready to recognize our guilt and our need for mercy.

As Moses keeps trying to remind us by writing everything down in sets of two: this really is God’s plan. This really is how God works to redeem his people. This cycle of guilt really is the cycle of redemption. Yes, it is messy! — but God really does know what he is doing.

And to help us sort through the messiness of the redemption cycle, Moses has given us a clear picture here of what it looks like when a person is beginning to make progress.

That picture is Judah: unlike Reuben, when Judah was confronted again with the reminders of his guilt, he did not try to preserve himself or prove his worthiness, he admitted that failure was a very real possibility, and that — if that happened — he would give up his place in the family, the position that he sold his soul to win.

And the question we have to ask is: why? What has changed in Judah’s heart that he is willing now to give up everything he has been working toward for the last 20+ years?

Well, we noticed that Reuben’s focus was on preserving himself, his honour, his reputation. When confronted — again — with his father’s grief over losing two sons, he tried to pay for it by offering to lose his two sons! Reuben was not yet ready to give up and admit that there is nothing he can do to “fix” his father’s grief. He certainly should have known that offering to kill two of his father’s grandsons would not help!

Judah, by contrast, has experienced a father’s grief. Judah has lost two sons himself. So he knows at a very visceral level that there is nothing anyone can do to ”fix“ that! Reuben is still living under the illusion that if he works hard enough he will be able to undo the grief he caused. Judah has learned that this is just not possible. Joseph is gone, and there is nothing Judah can do to change that outcome. There is nothing Judah can do to atone for his guilt. The best he can do is offer to give up his ill-gotten gains: the birthright he stole by selling Joseph into slavery.

What has changed in Judah’s heart is that his focus is no longer on preserving himself, his honour, his reputation. His focus is now on his father, the unavoidable reality of his father’s grief, the unavoidable reality that his own father has been paying for the consequences of Judah’s sins without even knowing that he is paying.

Now, clearly Judah is not yet ready to confess the whole truth to his father. But he is beginning to confess the truth to himself: the truth that he is not worthy to receive his father’s blessing, he is not worthy to become the next leader of his father’s household.

He is almost ready to face the reality of his guilt without running away from it.

Judah is our picture this week of what it looks like for God to gradually break us of our commitment to deception.

What we are seeing here is that, when God wants to redeem a person, first he makes sure they hear about the benefits that come from his Messiah. Then, as they draw near and begin to experience some of those benefits, God makes sure they are also confronted with the reality of their guilt, which — 99% of the time — they are not ready to accept. So the life of the Messiah draws them in, but the reality of their guilt drives them back out.

And, friends, that is what we call conviction of sin. It is actually a good thing when someone cannot stand being in the Messiah’s presence with guilt and shame on their conscience, because that means they are actually seeing the Messiah, and actually seeing their guilt for what it is. That means there is still hope that the Spirit of God is still at work in them. That is the cycle we have been talking about.

And what we are seeing here is that this cycle only comes to an end when the sweetness of the gospel finally grows greater than the bitterness of guilt. Judah does not want to go back down to Egypt and risk losing everything,! But as he said to his father, “You had better give me Benjamin and let us go, so that we and you and our children may live and not die.” With each cycle of blessing and conviction, the stakes get higher and higher until finally it is a matter of life and death. Some people give in more quickly, because they are closer to the bottom; some believe they have more to lose, and so they fight to hold on to their false self-identity for as long as possible.

But one thing is for sure: if God wants you, he is going to get you.

So, how do we apply this our lives now?

Because, if what Moses is showing us is true, this grinding cycle is not one that we can really speed up. We have been deeply programmed — from within and without — to conceal the truth from ourselves, and clearly it just takes time to undo that programming and break us free from the patterns of deception that have dominated our lives. So there is a sense in which we cannot make ourselves admit the truth, any more than a blind man can make himself see.

But, like a blind man, we can become aware of our blindness and then cry out to our Messiah for healing.

So that is our first application:

If you are here today and all this is new to you, but you are already beginning to wonder if you might be guilty in ways you were never aware of before, then allow me to explain what is happening to you: the Spirit of God is beginning to whisper light into your darkness. And, as often happens, that feeble flicker of light only serves to emphasize how deep is the darkness that surrounds you. And that is uncomfortable! In some ways, having just enough sight to see how blind you are is worse than being blind without knowing it.

If that is you, then I want to tell you that there is a Messiah available to you: his name is Jesus Christ. And he gives sight to all who ask. So ask!

Now, I realize that, if you are new here, that may sound a bit weird. You don’t really know Jesus very well yet — you are only catching a glimpse of him here through the story of Joseph’s life — and so perhaps you are wondering what kind of nonsense this is, perhaps you are wondering why Jesus would answer you even if he was real and even if you called. Those doubts, those questions are okay! Because, beginning with the story of Joseph here, the bible shows us again and again that our Saviour knows us before we know him, he sees our need for life long before we do, he hears our cries for redemption sometimes even before we know we are crying out for redemption.

So if you are wrestling with doubts over whether this half-seen light is real or not, let me encourage you to speak to it. Just say, “Jesus, I don’t know if you are real or not, please show me who you are and save me from my self-deception.” And he will.

Our second application is intended for those among us who have been learning about who Jesus is for a while…but have never really been confronted with the reality of their guilt.

And this is a weird category, really it should not exist — but it does. And the reason it exists is because there is a type of church in our world today that talks a lot about the blessings that come from Jesus, but they hardly ever talk about the reality of sin. These churches are often very focused on the power of positive speech, the power that positive thinking has to turn off our sense of private shame so that we can live happier lives — they teach that any talk about guilt, any sense of guilt, is nothing but destructive. Basically these churches want people to experience the sweetness of Jesus without the bitterness of their sins.

And these churches are very very popular, they are growing very very fast all over the world. In fact: the largest churches in the world today, the fastest growing churches in the world today, are all this kind of church.

And the reason they are so popular is because — to be very honest — their philosophy works! It really is possible to turn off our personal sense of shame through the power of positive thinking. And, very obviously, those who no longer feel shame for their actions will live happier and more empowered lives!

And who does not want that?

But what Moses is showing us here, in these episodes, is that a sense of guilt, a sense of shame, is actually essential for our redemption. A church that teaches people how to turn off their sense of shame without teaching them what to do about the reality of their guilt is actually teaching people a shortcut that does not work! They are teaching people to avoid the cycle of guilt that is actually the cycle of redemption. They are actually slowing down the healing cycle of conviction.

Now, it is not my place to tell you, from this pulpit, that those churches are not real Christian churches. They do talk about Jesus, and they do say that they are Christian, so I am going to allow God to judge those who claim to be his servants.

However, I can tell you this, for certain: if you have been learning about who Jesus is for a while, but have not yet been troubled by your continued sin and guilt, then you have not actually met Jesus. You may know a lot of details about his life, but you have not yet actually come face to face with the Messiah. Because everyone who actually meets the Messiah experiences discomfort as well as blessing.

So, if you are here today and that is you, here is your application: do not suppress that sense of guilt that comes upon you sometimes. And do not listen to those who teach you how to suppress that sense of guilt.

Because, friends, our guilt is real. There are consequences to our actions, and if we continue to bury that truth, then what we are doing is forcing someone else to absorb the damage. And I can assure you that on Judgement Day there will be a reckoning. The cost of every secret sin that we have forced someone else to pay for will be totaled up and the bill will be presented to us.

So, instead of suppressing that sense of guilt, do this instead: give that guilt to Jesus. And this is how: confess your sins and take responsibility for them. Acknowledge that there is no way you can pay the world back for the damage you have done. Ask Jesus to pay your debt for you.

And he will! — that is a promise. We do not completely understand how Jesus is going to put everything back the way it should be, but the bible tells us that he is going to do so: he is going to make all things new. He is doing it even now!

And those of us who have lived with Jesus for a long time, we know, don’t we! We have experienced the beginnings of restoration, we have begun to experience what it feels like for Jesus to lift the burden of guilt from our backs. So believe us when we tell you that true happiness in Christ is real! And believe us when we tell you that it comes to us not by suppressing our guilt but by facing it, accepting it, and then giving it into the hands of the only One who can actually do something about it.

And now our third application is really for all of us, but especially for those among us who have come face to face with our living Messiah and the reality of our guilt.

We have experienced the cycle of guilt, the cycle of redemption. We have accepted that this is the way our Father works on us, to shape us, to knock off all the rough edges, to make us more like Jesus. And because we have accepted it, we know that to call it a ”grinding process” seems like too soft a description. We know that true happiness in Christ is real, we know that true change is possible — we can feel it happening to us! — but the more we change, the more we see of our Saviour’s beauty and grace, the more we realize just how far we still have to go.

And sometimes that can be discouraging. Sometimes, even though we know that we are the children of God, and that he never gives up on his children — sometimes our sense of unworthiness grows suddenly heavy, and we find ourselves cast into doubt.

So if you are here today and that sometimes happens to you — as it does for me — our application is to look back at the end of this episode and see, really see, what is going on there: a feast among brothers.

Jacob’s sons arrived there fully aware of their unworthiness. They expected judgement, they deserved judgement, and they knew it. Instead, they received hospitality, blessing, food, and a lot to drink. Not only that: they were seated in order! which terrified them, because it revealed that their Messiah knew things about them that they would rather not be known!

— and still he sat down and feasted with them.

That is what life with Jesus is for us. He knows us, and sometimes when he gives us a glimpse of how deep his knowledge goes it frightens us! But despite our unworthiness, despite our moments of terror, he brings us into his home and blesses us in ways we are only beginning to grasp. And he does all this only because he is our brother, the best of all brothers: the kind of brother who does not lose his younger brothers and sisters.

So in those moments when the terror of the truth about our own guilt falls upon us, let’s do this: let’s remember that we are already there, being served from our Saviour’s table, feasting and drinking freely with him — without shame and without guilt.

Let me close with this: one day I came in from playing outside, and my sheets had been changed. The chupa-chup was gone. The evidence of my guilt was gone! — but the guilt remained. So I lived the rest of that day in mortal terror, and at dinner time the moment of truth arrived: my mom asked me what was that fuzzy, sticky, thing under my pillow?

I broke down, and I confessed all. And my dad said, okay, don’t do that again.

And just like that, I was free. My parents were still my parents. My brother and sister were still my brother and sister. It is true that I never got to pay that boy back for the candy I stole from him — but the bible tells me that one day, Jesus is going to on my behalf.

That is the Gospel.

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