Joseph Sold Into Slavery

Bible Text: Genesis 37:12-36

It’s a well-rehearsed proverb that “history repeats itself.”

To which one might ask the good Lutheran question: “What does this mean?”

Is it encouragement? Or is it a warning?

History repeating itself could be a good, or even great thing.

After all, we have put men on the moon, and built giant hospitals!

By giant leaps in transportation and communications technology we have seen the Gospel flow to every corner of the globe.

And if, over the course of the next ten years, history repeated itself that way,

I dare say we’d be quite alright with it.


But history repeating itself can be bad news.

If you’re talking about a world war or a stock market crash,

Or the creation of laws that put the littlest and most defenseless among (the unborn) in harm’s way,

Or the election of leaders who will legislate wickedness…

I’m sorry. I think they prefer to call it “progress.”

That is not such good news.


But it does draw attention to the misnomer.

History doesn’t repeat itself.

People repeat history.


Cain was jealous of his brother Abel, and so he killed him.

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him,

And so they killed him. Or, they would have, except that it would be ever so much more convenient for them to sell him as a slave.

After all, they knew how it went for Cain, and they wouldn’t want to see history repeated.


It makes me wonder what was going through the minds of folks like Peter as he betrayed His Friend.

Perhaps he thought back to Sunday school and remembered how Joseph desperately sought out his brothers in the wilderness,

Brothers who, as he drew near, plotted to kill him.

And if, in that moment, it caused him to pause as he remembered the first time he heard the Master’s voice calling to him, this Jesus, who came so far to seek him out, and invite him into His fellowship.


I wonder if Judas calculated the rate of inflation in the betrayal market

20 shekels of silver at a low, with stable growth over 1700 years makes

30 pieces of silver for Judas.

There’s a math lesson for you.

It seems so obvious to you and me, but maybe in the heat of the moment,

it really didn’t occur to either of them.


That’s how it is for us.

When we repeat and renew those sins which have been confessed, forgiven,

and done away with.

When we take it upon ourselves to roll away the stone,

And break into Jesus’ empty tomb,

Where your sins lays defeated,

and decide that they deserve a resurrection, too.


The same old lies and excuses,

The same old grudges,

The same old betrayals.

Maybe you were clever enough to find new names for them,

But there really is nothing new under the Sun.


But then, when the dust settles, when passion subsides,

and the wounds have been dealt…then you see:

A beautiful robe, stripped off and torn, now stained with blood.

And a lie to go with it.

“He was devoured by a fierce animal.”

Or “I had a good reason.”


You might try to excuse it by attributing it to fate.

This was just history repeating itself.

But you know by now that history doesn’t repeat itself.

People do.

And that sad, repeated history brings us here again tonight.


Here to a place where history is not repeated, but recalled, and proclaimed.

Here the sins of your history come to be remembered, confessed,

Even forgotten, by the only One whose memory finally matters,


And then replaced – with a future that goes on forever and ever, amen.


Because here, in this place, Jesus brings past and future to the present.

As the gifts of His cross, the forgiveness of your sins,

Won for you so long ago are delivered to you personally, now.


In the forgiveness of sins, in the preaching of the Gospel, when Christ returns you to your baptism, where He Himself rewrote your past and your future.


A future where you will find yourself before the Father’s throne, and He will not see you, but Jesus. For then, clothed in Christ, He will hold you in His hand as Israel held Joseph’s bloody garments and say “This is my Son’s robe.” Or even better: “This is my Son.”


You don’t have to wait till then.

Here is the now and the not yet.

Here the future of God’s people, your future, is placed on your tongue in His Supper. Here, now, in the proclamation of His Kingdom, is the end of all things.


History and future, past and present, now and later:

All of this belongs to Jesus.

For the blood and water that flow from His side cover all of time and space.

His are time and eternity.


And all He has is yours. He has said so.

So blessings on your Lent.

Enjoy it.

It won’t go on forever.

But you will.

In the holy Name of Jesus. Amen.

About Pastor Hopkins