In the Face of Betrayal

Scripture Focus: Mark 14.18-19
18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”

Genesis 44.33
33 “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.

From John: In 2019, when I first wrote this post, I missed that it also applied so well to what is happening in the Old Testament passage. After Judah’s impassioned plea, Joseph meets his betrayers with a preview of the forgiveness offered to the repentant by Jesus. We all need a reminder from time to time that when we inevitably betray Christ, he will receive us back.

Reflection: In the Face of Betrayal
By John Tillman

Jesus was familiar with the entire spectrum of betrayal. 

He was betrayed on a national level.

Jesus was the rightful king. The Messiah. But he was never accepted by those in power. He was the rejected king, the rejected cornerstone. In some ways, he was never truly allowed to return from exile in Egypt, being forced to live his entire life in obscurity. Even at the height of his popularity he stayed in out of the way places to avoid those who wanted to kill him. He only returned to Jerusalem at the end of his ministry for the purpose of being rejected and killed.

He was betrayed on a broad, societal level.

Jesus experienced Twitter-storm levels of betrayal. The religious leaders, just a few days prior, wanted to arrest and kill Jesus but refrained for fear of the great crowd that supported him. In a matter of hours, the crowd that was his protection, became the engine that drove the wheels of government to crush him.

He was betrayed on an intimate and personal level.

Even though Jesus knew betrayal by Judas was coming, the intimacy of it—the sign of the kiss—still shocked him. And Peter’s betrayal, cursing and denying Christ after so boldly claiming that all could fall away and he would still not, is one of the most heart-wrenching moments of the New Testament. The account in Luke contains the cinematic detail of Christ, in the midst of being beaten and accused, hearing the cock crow and turning to catch Peter’s eye just after what Peter had done.

Pause right now and film this scene in your own mind. Imagine Christ’s face looking at Peter in that moment.

Imagine his face looking at Judas.
Imagine his face looking at Jerusalem.
Imagine his face looking at the crowds berating him and calling for his death.

The look you imagine on Christ’s face in these moments says a lot about what you believe about who Jesus is and what his character is like.

Imagine his face looking at you.

Our sins are an intimate betrayal. Yet still Jesus looks at us with longing. He weeps for our mistakes and sins, but longs for our repentance and return.

Look full in his wonderful face this week. Do not despair over your betrayal as Judas did. Weep over it as Peter did. And wait. Jesus will lovingly come to you.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy Name and glory in your praise. — Psalm 106.47

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Genesis 44 (Listen – 4:38) 
Mark 14 (Listen – 8:37)

Read more about Praising Christ’s Righteousness
Praise God we are free from the delusion that humans and human institutions are infallible.

Read more about The Naked Emotion of God
Hosea…shows us a God unashamed of shame, nakedly confessing his love for the unlovable.

Treasure in Our Sacks

Scripture Focus: Genesis 43.11-14; 19-23
11 Then their father Israel said to them, “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 p 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.”

19 So they went up to Joseph’s steward and spoke to him at the entrance to the house. 20 “We beg your pardon, our lord,” they said, “we came down here the first time to buy food. 21 But at the place where we stopped for the night we opened our sacks and each of us found his silver—the exact weight—in the mouth of his sack. So we have brought it back with us. 22 We have also brought additional silver with us to buy food. We don’t know who put our silver in our sacks.”

23 “It’s all right,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.” Then he brought Simeon out to them

Reflection: Treasure in Our Sacks
By John Tillman

The brothers tried to pay for the grain from Egypt. Their silver ended up back in their sacks. When headed back to Egypt for more, they feared a misunderstanding.

Before they left, Jacob helped prepare a special offering of local products and things not commonly available in Egypt. Ever the schemer and diplomat, Jacob hoped these offerings would smooth things over with the harsh-tongued man his sons feared. Little did Jacob know that he had made a gift basket for his own lost son. It is hard to imagine that Joseph did not feel pangs of homesickness when he saw these familiar gifts.

We, at times, come to God as if he is a harsh-tonged bureaucrat with whom we must curry favor. We pack up our purest silver. We throw in our unique, most personal niceties. We put our best foot forward. We come to God with the false belief that we must buy blessings from him and the false pride that we have the means with which to do it. 

When we do this we are making several key miscalculations.

We underestimate our need. Our spiritual famine is as destructive as the one that struck Egypt. Like the cows and the corn, our good deeds are eaten up by the horrors of our sins.

We overestimate our offerings. All the resources of Egypt could not outlast the famine. All the resources we can muster will never finish the job of covering our sins.

We underestimate God’s love. Just as Jacob had no idea of the deep love that Joseph bore toward him and his family, we do not fully comprehend God’s love for us. We have misidentified him as a harsh and vengeful ruler.

We underestimate God’s generosity. Like Joseph, Jesus doesn’t accept our payments, he suffered and made our payment in full. Not only that, he will give us more than we asked for. Rather than just a few bites to survive on, he will see us planted and flourishing in the best part of the land.

Focusing on the cross and seeing what Christ gave up for us is the best way to keep the depths of God’s love in mind. May we remember that we have no righteousness to bring, but in mercy, God will give us righteousness, like treasure in our sacks.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves. — Psalm 126.6-7

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Genesis 43 (Listen – 5:02) 
Mark 13 (Listen – 4:32)

Read more about The Undeserved Banquet of the Gospel
We, the undeserving, motley, scandalous louts that we are, find ourselves with our feet under Christ’s table. Christ invites all to the banquet.

Read more about The Ram and the Cornerstone
May we not reject the stone of suffering, of sacrifice, of self-control, or of truth.

Marks of Leadership — Selflessness

Scripture Focus: Genesis 42.1-2; 18-24
1 When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” 2 He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.” 

18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. 20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do. 

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. 

Reflection: Marks of Leadership — Selflessness
By John Tillman

For a bunch of grown men who felt threatened by their 17-year-old brother’s visions of leadership, Joseph’s older brothers don’t seem to exhibit much. 

Jacob chides them for “standing around looking at one another” instead of doing something about the crisis of the famine. The brothers seem to be paralyzed by crisis and selfishness. No one wants to be the one to take responsibility. Everyone is “looking at one another” seeking to shift blame.

The brothers don’t exactly have a history of great decisions or good leadership. They bicker, blame one another, and claim, “I told you so,” when things go badly in Egypt. 

Joseph tells the brothers directly that he is testing them but we don’t know the intended extent of that test or what was in Joseph’s mind at that time. Perhaps Joseph only intended to manipulate them to see his full brother, Benjamin. Perhaps he intended to keep Benjamin to save him from the brothers who he remembered as abusive and sinful traitors. Perhaps he only wanted to see their reactions to his threat, similarly to Solomon’s test in which he threatened a baby’s life to discover who truly loved the child. (1 Kings 3.25-27)

These failed leaders grow over the next few chapters. They grow in compassion. They grow in unity. They grow in the capacity for self-sacrifice. But the most symbolic moment which shows growth in selfless sacrifice came when Judah offered himself to Joseph as a slave in Benjamin’s place.

Judah was the one who proposed selling Joseph into slavery in the first place. He selfishly and vengefully sold Joseph into slavery because Jacob loved Joseph more than him. But in a dramatic and emotional speech, the slave-seller offered himself in slavery to save Benjamin and spare his father further pain. This action may be why Joseph made his decision to trust the brothers with his identity. 

Jacob’s sons all grow in leadership through suffering and emotional trials. Tests of leadership are almost always connected to selflessness. Humility, compassion, empathy, and service should flow from selflessness. Pride, stubbornness, greed, and lust stop up the stream.

Trials, famines, pandemics, insurrections, and conflicts have come and will continue to come. In this world, we will have trouble.

May we, no matter the trouble we face, allow the Holy Spirit to remove things that block the flow of selflessness. Especially in crises, we need selfless leadership.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
For the Lord God is both sun and shield; he will give grace and glory;
No good thing will the Lord withhold from thse who walk with integrity.
O Lord of hosts, happy are they who put their trust in your! — Psalm 84.10-12

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Genesis 42 (Listen – 5:08) 
Mark 12 (Listen – 6:10)

Read more about Abimelek, Caesar, and Jesus
It is in serving that we will lead.
It is in suffering that we will conquer.
It is in dying that we will live.

Read more about Seeking God’s Servant
God’s servant is different than expected of a king or worldly leader. This servant will not shout…will not use violence…will be led by God in seeking out righteous justice.

Fruitful in Suffering

Scripture Focus: Genesis 41.38, 51-52
38 So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”

51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 The second son he named Ephraim a and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

Reflection: Fruitful in Suffering
By John Tillman

Manasseh’s name looked back to Joseph’s family troubles. Joseph thanked God for relief from the memory of his trouble. This implies the easing of emotional trauma by his current circumstances. With Ephraim’s name, however, Joseph testified that all was not well even in new circumstances—Egypt was still his land of suffering.

As “fruitful” as he was, as much power as Joseph accumulated, he was still a slave. “I am Pharaoh,” the king reminded Joseph as he raised him to power. “You aren’t,” he implied. Joseph was only elevated to serve a king, not be one. 

Even as his privileges grew, Joseph recognized that he lived, as we do, in exile. Later, when dying, Joseph commanded that his bones not be left in Egypt but be carried out when God “came to their aid.” (Genesis 50.24-25) No matter how pretty the cage, a bird’s true home is the sky. 

Joseph lived out what Jeremiah would tell Joseph’s descendants entering Babylonian exile—he sought peace and prosperity for the place he had been sent. (Jeremiah 29.7

In the pivotal moment in which the decision is made to elevate Joseph, the key factor is that Pharaoh sees “the spirit of God” in Joseph. As we seek the peace and prosperity of the governments and cultures of our exile, God’s Spirit will be the key to any success we achieve. 

Joseph’s life in exile is marked by submission to God’s Spirit. He submitted to a sexual ethic his culture didn’t understand. He submitted to authority. He sought the betterment of every situation and every person. He gave comfort, aid, and, most importantly, the truth to others. 

Joseph didn’t try to cut a deal or ask for a price before Pharaoh. He just kept giving away what the Spirit gave him. He just kept telling people the truth.

Joseph shows us a preview of Jesus, the suffering servant, upon whom the Holy Spirit would rest and be given without limit. Jesus has given this Spirit to us and he intends us, through its power, to change our world.

In exile, we must seek submission to the Spirit rather than power for ourselves. We are the messengers of the Spirit in our age, in our cities, to our culture, and to government. We can be fruitful in the land of our suffering, not by our own cleverness, craft, or scheming, but by the Holy Spirit.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
One day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked. — Psalm 84.9

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Genesis 41 (Listen – 7:30) 
Mark 11 (Listen – 3:59)

Read more about Setting a New Standard
Jesus reset the standard from “Moses allowed” to “God made.”

Read more about Captivity, Exile, and Exodus
Jeremiah describes a different kind of enslavement. While living in political freedom, the people of Israel and Judah became spiritually enslaved.

For Those Yet Unseeing — Worldwide Prayer

Scripture Focus: Mark 8.17-18
Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? 

From John: It is important for us to intervene when we see injustice, or become blind to it. It is important for us to respond when God prompts our hearts, or become immune to his influence. It is important for us to obey when he speaks to us, or become deaf to his still, small voice. May this repost from 2019 help keep open our eyes and ears and soften our hearts. 

Reflection: For Those Yet Unseeing — Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

Often people of faith express the wish to be able to stand among the disciples, seeing and touching, and experiencing Jesus first hand. There’s nothing wrong with such a fanciful wish as long as it is simply a wish to stand in his presence. (We know in faith that we will stand in his presence, and bow down.) 

Often, this wish comes with assumptions. 
We assume that faith comes easily when we witness miracles. 
We assume that the disciples were ancient simpletons and that our quick modern minds would easily decipher Christ’s pedagogy of parables. (We ignore that science tells us that our species’ intelligence has been identical for eons.)

We are wrong on both those counts.
Those who witnessed the miracles of the Bible still struggled to have faith.
Some modern scholarship has not brought us greater understanding of Christ, but has muddied the waters with doubt, conjecture, and fringe theology presented as “faith” accompli—as if it has always belonged to the mainstream.

Junk science is rejected by an overwhelming percentage of scientists. Junk theology is rejected by an overwhelming percentage of theologians. It is ironic that some who reject junk science are willing to accept junk theology and some who reject junk theology are quick to accept junk science. Both groups are blind, deaf, mute, and immobile.

When we pray this prayer of intercession for the blind, deaf, mute, and immobile in our culture, may we not forget to include ourselves.

A Prayer of Intercession from Great Britain
Thank you, God, for the Church,
Help us to share fully in the church family.

We pray for people who are blind:
Help them to see Jesus.

We pray for people who are deaf:
Help them to hear Jesus.

We pray for people who cannot use their legs:
Help them to walk with Jesus.

We pray for people who cannot speak clearly:
Help them to know that Jesus understands.

Please help us all to serve you.
Fill us with the fruit of the 
Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
When your word goes forth it gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. — Psalm 119.130

Today’s Readings
Genesis 38 (Listen – 4:24)
Mark 8 (Listen – 4:29)

This Weekend’s Readings
Genesis 39 (Listen – 3:08) Mark 9 (Listen – 6:16)
Genesis 40 (Listen – 2:59) Mark 10 (Listen – 6:42)

Read more about Forgiveness to Soften the Hardened
There is no level of spiritual achievement or growth at which one is not susceptible to hardening of the heart and the spirit. Christ’s call echoes again. Calling us deeper into every discipline we pursue.

Read more about God of the Weak and Doubtful
When God shows us his doubtful children, he comes to where we are, puts his reassuring hand on our shoulder, and claims us as his children as well.

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