Sunday, January 22, 2017

January 22

Genesis 44:1-45:28; Matthew 14:13-36; Psalm 18:37-50; Proverbs 4:11-13

I was away this weekend.  My husband was home - by himself - with our five children.  I escaped on a "Sarah weekend" to my parents' house.  I left Thursday night after the younger kids were in bed, and I returned home last night at dinner time.  Eric and I have discovered that this time to hunker down and sleep and read and be in the quiet is an excellent restorative for me, enabling my introverted self to continue mothering and wife-ing and living.

It is a huge gift, one that comes from my husband's self-denial.  He gives up what would be easiest or safest or best for himself in order to benefit a larger system.  Eric does what he can to ensure the flourishing of others, even at cost to himself.  This weekend, I spent part of the time reading Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey.  I've been pricked by his depictions of the self-denial and self-sacrifice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. Paul Brand.

I see the actions of all three of these men (to varying degrees) in today's Scriptures.  The life of a follower of God is a continual call to lay down one's life for the other.

Look at Judah, approaching this powerful Egyptian lord, to plead with him for Benjamin's release. Judah puts himself on the line ("Let [me] remain here as my lord's slave in place of the boy" [Gen. 44:33]) to fulfill the promise that he made to his father Jacob (Gen. 43:8-9).  He is willing to give up his own freedom to preserve Benjamin's, and his courage is the final catalyst for Joseph to reveal himself.

And then Joseph - he sets aside the pain and suffering of his years in Egypt.  He recognizes that God had used the bitter loneliness "to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance" (Gen. 45:7).  Somehow - miraculously - Joseph is able to see.  The self-denial enforced on him for the preceding years (at least 11 - see vs. 6) has been reframed by the good that it did for others.  Many lives were saved, not just those of Jacob and his family.  Joseph is living out the blessing that God gave to Abraham - all the peoples of the world will be blessed through Abraham's line.

Jesus, the epitome of self-sacrifice, sets aside his own agenda and desires.  After the death of his cousin, John the Baptist, he withdraws, privately, to a solitary place.  I can only imagine that he grieves, and that he desires to be alone in his sorrow.  But the people follow.  Instead of sending the interlopers off on their ways, Jesus "had compassion on them and healed their sick" (Mt. 14:14).  He sets aside what would be good for him and moves toward what would be good for others.

Lastly, there's the anonymous (in Matthew's gospel, at least) donor of the five loaves and two fish (Matt. 14: 17).  Though the disciples deride the food as "only," emphasizing its inadequacy for the crowd, someone gives up his or her meal.  It would be enough for that individual.  Though the rest of the crowd might hunger, this person has the foresight to plan ahead and will be satisfied.  There is no reason to expect him or her to broadcast the existence of the meal, and even less reason to sacrifice it for the greater community.  What possible good could such provisions do for such a gathering?  And yet God takes this willingness and multiplies it.  Jesus turns this offering - small in the eyes of the crowd, but enormous in the eyes of the one who lets it go - into such an abundance that twelve baskets full of food are left over (Mt. 14:20).

We don't know where our willingness to be useful might lead.  Some of us may be called to greater self-sacrifice than others.  It is doubtful that we will become a martyrs for a cause.  Nor are we likely to rescue a nation from starvation.  But as we deny ourselves, as we take up our crosses and walk with them behind Jesus, who knows what good God may work of our glad self-giving?

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Sarah, for this powerful reminder of our call to self-sacrifice and denial.