By the Rt Revd Stephen Platten
We pick up the story of Joseph, with him now in Egypt. As in the earlier part of the narrative there are ‘ups and downs’. Joseph’s talent and wisdom always provokes jealously and suspicion. So Pharaoh throws Joseph into jail. Not long after, however, his skill as an interpreter of dreams comes into its own again, this time advising Pharaoh himself. The interpretation sets out a strategy for the Egyptians to preserve sufficient food for their needs. Then follows the moving episode of Joseph meeting with his family, giving them a tough time and then relenting.
This entire narrative is part of a tapestry of ‘wisdom’ writing which weaves in and out of the texture of the Old Testament. The psalmist picks up similar reflections but in song form as part of the worship of God. Today’s psalm implicitly contrasts wisdom with foolishness. The fool’s lack of wisdom is rooted in lack of faith: ‘Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”’
Faith and our lack of faith appears again as one of the themes in our passage from Matthew’s gospel. Peter sees Jesus walking towards him on the water and attempts to do the same. Peter fails and Jesus speaks of faith in our relationship with God. Such faith allows Jesus to nourish the hungry in the classical story of the feeding of the 5,000. This also looks forward to the eucharist, to the Last Supper and to God’s feeding of all his people. Finally the terrifying story of the death of John the Baptist, shows how the faithful servant of God, endures even unto death.
Faith is at the heart of the Christian life and the experiences of Joseph, John the Baptist and Jesus himself tell us so much of how faith, worship and prayer can shape our lives and the manner in which we mediate that life to others.
In which ways does the ‘lens’ of faith transform our actions and attitudes in the light of these narratives?
In your reading of the Bible where else have you encountered suffering for faith and a response to that suffering?
Open our hearts, O Lord, and give us strength under suffering and wisdom to inform our faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.