We wrapped up the book of Genesis today in Sunday School, having traced the pathways of the partriarchs from Abraham in chapter 12 all the way to chapter 50 today (Easter Sunday). And what might the end of Genesis, and the end of the life of Joseph, have to do with Easter?
Quite a lot, actually.
The chapter opens with the mourning of Jacob (Israel), father of the 12 tribes, and the carrying of his embalmed body back to the Canaan, where he had made Joseph swear that he’d bury his body. Jacob wanted his body to be with those of his fathers, in the land of promise, and Joseph faithfully discharged his duty to his honored father by leading a procession back there for the burial. The spirit of Israel was departed, but his body was not discarded – Joseph and his brothers did not forget about his bones.
Then, the chapter fast-forwards to the end of Joseph’s life. He and the growing tribe of Israel were still in Epypt, where in fact they would remain for 400 years, enslaved by those who once welcomed and honored them. Joseph made his relatives vow that he would not be buried in Egypt, but that he’d be interred with his fathers in the land of promise. After death, he was embalmed and in a coffin his body was placed . But not misplaced.
Now fast-forward 400 years, into the book of Exodus, when the children of Israel leave Egypt to take up their rightful place in Canaan. They left in haste, but they did not leave empty-handed – in Exodus 13:19, we see that they carried with them the bones of Joseph. All those years, from generation to generation, the memory of Joseph and the promise to finally bring his body to its proper place was remembered. “Quick, gather the children, the flocks, the unleavened bread – gather all our possessions – oh, and DON’T FORGET Joseph’s bones!!!”
Now, fast-forward many more generations, to the tomb of another Joseph, Joseph of Arimathea. A body has been there since Friday. Dead, but not forgotten – for on the third day, there was a resurrection that shook the world. A man unjustly accused and brutally executed by the jealous rage of men was due to be liberated from that grave, and made alive again. As Joseph long ago said regarding the plot of his brothers to get rid of him, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). So in this case – men intended to get rid of this upstart preacher, but in crucifying Him, brought about untold good.
And that risen Savior, Jesus, is called the “first-fruits” of those who have “fallen asleep in Him.” Translation – He’s not going to forget the bones of his followers. They, too, will be raised with Him. Death will hold their decaying bodies for a season, but they will be resurrected to a promised land where there is no more death and decay. It’s sealed with an oath, and pre-figured in His own conquering of death.
Those looking for a better land, a land of promise, are not content to be forgotten in a foreign land. This short life can be full of the groans of Egypt. Every one of us will be raised, to judgment or to glory. Our bones will not be forgotten.