Shrek and Fiona live happily ever after, Beauty discovers her Beast is a handsome prince and James Bond has always lived to fight another day. As corny as they are, we all seem to love happy endings. There’s just something magical when everything works out right. Perhaps we are secretly hoping that reality will be as kind to us as the movie world. We all want our happy ending.
While happy endings are usually consigned to Hollywood movies, there are real-life examples.
While happy endings are usually consigned to Hollywood movies, there are real-life examples. We find one in this weeks parasha, Vayigash, which is the conclusion of the Joseph story – and what a story it’s been! Joseph, sold as a slave by his own brothers and considered as dead, survives prison in a foreign country and ends up becoming second-in-command in one of the most influential countries of that era. It’s a classic rags-to-riches story, but there’s something deeper going on here. In this week’s instalment, Joseph tests his brothers to see if they have really changed from the jealous, conniving individuals that they once were. As his brothers leave Egypt, he tells his servants to plant his silver cup in Benjamin’s bag and then chases after them demanding an explanation. Judah, the one who came up with the plan to sell Joseph in the first place proves that he has changed by offering to remain in an Egyptian dungeon so that his younger brother Benjamin can go free. Joseph, convinced by his brother’s change of heart and overcome with emotion reveals all and the rest is history. Jacob brings his whole family down to Egypt and our people survive the famine. A remarkable turn of events, which we learn has been orchestrated by God in advance (see Bereshit/Genesis 50:20).
Going deeper, we realise that this happy ending is only possible due to the change of heart of both Judah and Joseph. Joseph has somehow been able to forgive his brothers for selling him and has also been able to forgive God that he ended up in Egyptian jail and been able to see God’s hand in all of this. We don’t really get an insight into how he felt along the way, but once it’s all over, he lucidly states, “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.” (Bereshit/Genesis 50:20). For a man who has been through what he has, that’s an incredible statement!
We get less insight into Judah and his thinking, but it’s possible to make a couple of educated guesses.
We get less insight into Judah and his thinking, but it’s possible to make a couple of educated guesses. The whole Joseph narrative is interrupted in chapter 38 of Bereshit/Genesis to focus on Judah after he had sold his brother into slavery. Judah goes through his own hardships and realises his own hypocrisy in dealing with his daughter-in-law. The Judah that we meet in this week’s parasha has been softened to the point of being willing to exchange his life for his brother’s. Ultimately, Joseph is reconciled to Judah and his brothers because their hearts have been changed by God, who orchestrated their circumstances.
The parallels between the Joseph story and that of the Messiah Yeshua are fascinating and I’m certainly not the first to notice them. Yeshua, one of us, one of the people of Israel, was given over to death by us, his people, and betrayed by one of his closest friends, called Judah (Judas in Greek). Similarly, Joseph was given up to certain death by his brothers, but specifically by Judah. Today, many of our Jewish people do not consider Yeshua to be from them or for them, because he looks like a foreigner or a foreign deity, just as Joseph’s brothers did not recognise him because he looked like an Egyptian. The Messiah Yeshua died as a criminal but will come back again as the messianic King, just as the prophets wrote. In a similar way, Joseph was last seen by his brothers as a slave destined to be forgotten, but ended up ruling over them as the prince of Egypt. The Messiah Yeshua died in order to rescue his people and all peoples, just like Joseph had to go through his traumatic experience in order to be able to rescue not only has brothers and his whole family, but also the whole of Egypt and other peoples in the surrounding countries. And there are many more.
The story of Joseph and the Messiah Yeshua can be summed up in two words – rescue and reconciliation. Joseph rescued his brothers from famine and was ultimately reconciled to them. Yeshua rescued his people from their sin and will one day, ultimately be accepted by the majority of our people, just as the prophets foretold (see Zecharya/Zechariah 12:10-13:1).
Rescue and reconciliation – two components vital for any happy ending including our very own. The Messiah Yeshua has already taken on himself the punishments that we deserve for all of the wrong things that we’ve done – in other words, he’s already rescued us. But in order for everything to work out all right in the end, we also have to be reconciled to God through him. What if he really is the Messiah, and what if he died in order to save you? In your own Joseph story, perhaps you’re at the point where you realise that the man standing in front of you is actually your brother, the one who you have wronged. Yeshua is reaching out his hand to you in order to be reconciled to you and so that you can be reconciled to God. Putting your faith in him doesn’t mean that your life won’t have hardships afterwards, but it does mean that your life will have a happy ending – spending eternity with the eternal source of happiness and joy, God. Sounds like a happy ending to me!