Gospel Irony in the Joseph Narrative

As we saw in the last post, the story of Joseph is an incredible narrative of forgiveness. This being the case, we can learn some helpful things from this story as we think about the gospel.  I want to focus on the theme of irony and its link to the work of Christ.

The sinful act of the brothers was the saving act of God. By selling their brother into slavery they were securing their rescue. This is how Joseph saw it. This is how God saw it. The story is dripping with irony. Sin was the instrument of salvation. Here is God’s saving equation in the story of Joseph (Gen 50:20).


One event: Joseph is sold into slavery.
Two intentions: Human evil and divine good.
One result: Salvation for the sinful brothers.


 Joseph absorbed in himself the pain of the wrong done to him and extended grace and forgiveness. He recognized that their sin toward him was God’s chosen means to preserve their lives.

This gospel irony is ripe in the crucifixion narratives. God is saving sinners through their sinful actions. The nails pounded into his hands were necessary for the forgiveness of the man holding the hammer.

There was never a more wretched act than the murder of God’s Son. God came to us and our response was to wipe him off the face of his own earth. The cross reveals the true nature of our sin. We would rather destroy God than exist with him. The biblical assertion that we are “enemies of God” is not hyperbole.

Yet, and this is mind boggling grace, the assault of humanity on their Creator is the occasion of their salvation. Here is God’s saving equation in the life of Christ (Acts 2:23).


One event: Jesus is crucified on a cross.
Two intentions: Human evil and divine good.
One result: Salvation for the sinners.


 At the cross, the Son of God takes into himself the vengeance of God against sin. He does not destroy his attackers, he rescues them. He takes our sin to the grave. And do you know what is on his mind when he is raised the third day? Bringing grace to the people that crucified him.

His first order of business was to get his disciples organized to go forth and preach the good news. And their first mission was to herald the gospel to Jews in Jerusalem who were responsible for his death! He was in haste to forgive his enemies. He was eager to wash the hands that were covered with his blood. I don’t understand God’s math, but I am so thankful he operates that way.

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