Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Joseph: The innocent prisoner

They made a particularly glum pair this morning, the butcher and the baker. “Why do you look so sad,” Joseph asked. “We've both had strange dreams,” came the reply, “but we have no one to interpret them for us.”

Joseph thought for a moment. “Don't all interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

The baker went first. “Mine was really weird. I was standing in front of a vine with three big branches. Suddenly, the branches started to bud and the buds turned to grapes and soon the branches were heavy with these huge clusters of ripe grapes! I looked down at my right hand, and I was holding Pharaoh's cup. I watched my hands reach out to squeeze the grapes and catch the juice with the cup. Then I turned and there was Pharaoh seated next to me on his throne. I placed the cup into his hand... and that's all I remember.”

“Here is the interpretation,” Joseph began. “The three branches represent three days. Within three days Pharaoh will bring you up out of this prison and return you to your former position. You will again put the cup into his hand, as you had in the past.”

“When you are returned to the king,” Joseph said, “Remember me.”

Pharaoh's butcher and baker were sent to prison for offending the king. The exact nature of their crimes is not recorded for us but, whatever their crimes, it appears that they were both facing execution. The morning after their bizarre nocturnal visions, they sit together with Joseph as God reveals to him the interpretation of their dreams.

The baker's dream foretold that within three days he would die. The butler's dream showed that he would be delivered from prison, returned to his post and to favor with the king. Joseph pleads with him to remember him, to bring his case before Pharaoh, and to seek his deliverance from prison. Although the dream comes to pass and the King frees the butler three days later, it is two full years before he recalls his promise to Joseph.

The scene in Genesis 40 is an innocent man and two condemned criminals. We see a similar scene at Calvary: the innocent Jesus hanging between two thieves. When one begins to curse and blaspheme Jesus, the other confronts him. He rebukes the man, confesses his own guilt, and then pleads with Jesus for mercy. “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” he cries. There will be no delays, no forgotten promises. “Today”, Jesus declares, “you will be with me in Paradise.”

(Genesis 40, Luke 23)