Jacob loved Joseph just as any good father loves his son. He lavished upon him great gifts. There is nothing of Jacob's that he would not have gladly and freely given to Joseph. But Joseph's brothers chafed at their father's generosity.
They thought dad was playing favorites. And there's no doubt about it. Joseph was the favored son. But Reuben and the others had it all wrong. They were thinking, “Because our Father loves Joseph, he certainly does not love us.” But they were also Jacob's sons. He loved them.
Reuben's crew didn't see it. They hated Joseph. They dug a pit and chucked him in. And the only thing that made them think twice was their own greed. When they saw an Ishmaelite caravan, they hear the jingle of gold. So they sold Joseph into slavery.
But in our text, it's a bit different. The times, they are a' changin'. Now Joseph's ruler over all of Egypt. Now his brothers, his father, and all their households live only due to his generosity. Only Pharaoh is more powerful. Joseph can kill his brothers with a word, and they know it. They are terrified of the possibility.
They send messengers to Joseph. They know their sin and what they deserve for it, and that's what they expect to get. They don't expect the good things to keep coming. For Jacob, maybe... he didn't sell Joseph into the slavery. But the brothers... they expect death. Because of their fear, they send messengers first. They don't want to bear Joseph's wrath. What they don't know is that Joseph loves them. His heart breaks when he sees that it is not his brothers who have come. And so, when they finally do arrive before him, Joseph gives them words of comfort.
Moses writes, “But Joseph said to them, "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones." Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”
Joseph was in the pit, but the Lord lifted him up. Joseph was a slave in Egypt, but the Lord freed him. Joseph was poor and destitute, but the Lord made him rich. Joseph felt the wrath of his brothers, but he received mercy from God. And so the Lord comes to you today and says, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
Joseph is in the place of God, and so he does what the Father does. He is merciful even as his Father is merciful. With the measure you use it will be measured back to you. But mercy is far from our hearts. We, curved on on ourselves, see not the neighbor in need. We see the neighbor in their sin, and we rejoice in their come uppins.
To us, the speck in their eye is the size of the moon, and we are so focused on it that as we laugh in derision, we knock our neighbor flat with what we don't see... the log that juts from the other eye.
Repent of your petty rivalries. You know what they are. You are a good man, better than many, and certainly your neighbor's need is their own fault. How often have you regarded your neighbor in this way? Lay aside your accusations. Who are you, O sinner, to judge? Who are you, oh, Reuben to scoff at the one you enslaved? Are you not as much a sinner as they? Are you not the ungodly one for whom Jesus died?
The Jesus who calls you to remove the log from your eye allowed himself to be fixed to the wood of the cross for your sake. There was no jutting log, no floating speck that would keep God from forgiving you or your neighbor.
And so it is right that he calls you a hypocrite if you refuse to give the mercy to your neighbor that the Lord has already given. The hypocrite will stand under judgment, and it will be a judgment he cannot bear.
Do not think that you earn mercy by being merciful. Did Joseph's brothers earn the mercy he gave them? They deserved what they expected, and Joseph proved himself to be other than who they thought they knew him to be. He, greatly given to by God, even through the evil of his brothers, was merciful to them.
Joseph, slave in Egypt, had already received mercy. His life had been spared by greed. He had been given prison by the evil of an Egyptian wife. He had been made ruler over all Egypt by having a dream. Gift upon gift. That is all Joseph knew, and this even when burning anger smoldered in his sinful heart.
Only the heart of Jesus knew perfect mercy. Only He fell into the pit with joy. Only He accepted chains with arms open wide. Only the Lord sang songs of joy as the nails pierced His hands. He deserved mercy, but He turned it aside and won it for you. He merited life, but he chose your death for himself. He loved the ones who killed you, and that's why you, the murderers of God, are here.
You fail to show mercy, but He does not. You pound the nails in, but he does not repay it with anger. With the measure you measure, so will it be measured to you. And how does Jesus measure? He gives, and He gives, and He gives. He gives you all that He has, and then He gives you more.
Jesus has come to you, the poor sinner terrified by conscience, crushed by sin, and poured in all His abundance of mercy. Because you have received mercy, you show mercy. It is who you are. The mercied are merciful and so we know that they are mercied. And so are you merciful to your neighbor.
How simple and joyous it is to be merciful when Christ has already filled you to overflowing. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.”
For the blessed Trinity, mercy is of His very essence. It is who God is and what He does. He is for you, and so he reckons not your sins against you. For you, mercy flows from the abundance of what is received.
Be merciful. Know that in this mercy that Christ who has shown you mercy on the cross is using you as His instrument to share that mercy with your neighbor, the one for whom He died. When you are His instrument of mercy, you cannot help but be made more certain of His mercy toward you.
Be merciful, for the Father is merciful and has sent His Son.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.