The life of Joseph, son of Jacob, is another picture of the gospel in the Old Testament. Over the course of his life, recorded in Genesis 37 and following, the parallels between Joseph and Jesus Christ are unmistakable. But first, a quick summary of the facts of Joseph’s life.
Joseph was one of Jacob’s twelve sons. His brothers hated him. They sold him into slavery to travelers on their way to Egypt. There Joseph endured adversity, false claims against him, and prison. But God exalted Joseph in the end, and he rose to second-in-power over all of Egypt. Joseph’s high position allowed him to be a “savior” to his brothers and all of Egypt during a time of great famine.
Now the lessons. Let’s compare the lives and ministries of Joseph and Jesus. First, they were both deeply loved by their fathers. Remember the coat of many colors? An expression of Jacob’s love for Joseph. In comparison, the gospels are replete with references to Jesus as “God’s beloved Son” (i.e. at Jesus baptism, Colossians 1:11).
In contrast to their fathers’ love, they were both hated by their “brothers”. In Joseph’s case, it was his literal brothers. They hated him enough to consider killing him before they sold him into slavery. This hate was accompanied by rejection. His brothers rejected Joseph’s dreams. They grew weary of him mentioning them.
Jesus was also rejected and hated by his “brothers”. In this case, his “brothers” were the Jewish nation. “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (Jn 1:11). Not only was Christ rejected, but He was hated as well. “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have guilt; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this in order that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’ ” (Jn 15:24-25).
Both Joseph and Jesus were falsely accused and punished. Joseph, in the episode of Potiphar’s wife and being sent to prison. Jesus, at His various trials, beatings, and ultimately His crucifixion during the passion week.
But with both figures, God was about to turn all this hate, rejection, false accusations, and evil into good for the nations. As Joseph said to his brothers near the end of the story when all was revealed, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Gen 50:20).
Let’s look at the good that resulted in both Joseph and Christ. Joseph literally saved his brothers. Because Joseph rose to a position of power in Egypt, he was able to bring his whole family to Egypt for protection from the serious and spreading famine.
Likewise, Jesus saved His “brothers” as well. The early church was almost entirely Jewish. To the Jewish multitude gathered on the day of Pentecost, Peter said, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself” (Acts 2:38-39).
But Joseph and Jesus did not just save their brothers. Their salvation extended to all people. Joseph’s wisdom and planning prompted Egypt to store up their crops during the seven good years in preparation for the upcoming famine. Joseph saved the Egyptians (could be thought of as the Gentile world) as well as his brothers.
Likewise, Jesus’ salvation extends far beyond His Jewish brothers. Those of us “who are far off” (referring to the Gentiles) are also saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection. The blessing of Joseph’s salvation reached all of Egypt. The blessing of Jesus’ salvation reaches all over the world.
This “all over the world” is so beautifully pictured in John’s vision of heaven. “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’ ” (Rev 7:9-10).