And Joseph said to his brothers, I am Joseph; does my father yet live? And his brothers could not answer him…
Not a stranger, but a brother. Yet they were slow to receive comfort from it. The fact beyond all expectation; the suspicion of the unknown ruler attaching itself to the newly-found brother; the remembrance of their own former cruelty; the doubt whether indeed the past were forgiven, combined to make them "troubled at his presence." Akin to this is the slowness with which the great revelation of the gospel is received, our adoption as sons (Galatians 4:5) through our brotherhood with Christ; members of Christ, and thus children of God. Not the doctrine, for we are familiar with its terms, but the practical reception of it. The gospel preached is "good-will to men;" the foundation on which it rests is the work whereby the eternal Son became our brother and representative (2 Corinthians 5:14). The means of appropriation, belief that God has indeed done this thing for us (Matthew 11:28). Yet even to those who are longing for peace and salvation the message often seems to bring no real comfort. The truth of the doctrine is admitted, but Jesus is not recognized as a personal, present Savior. There is a feeling that something not declared lies behind; that there is some unexplained "if," some condition to be fulfilled, some part of the work to be done, ere it can be safe to trust. Conscious of sin, they do not fully receive the offer as made to them such as they are. The fact is, men often want to begin at the wrong end; to make some worthy offering to God ere they have it to give (cf. 1 Chronicles 29:14; 1 Corinthians 4:7); want to gather fruit ere the tree is planted; to build a spiritual house ere the foundation is laid.
I. GOD'S OFFER PRECEDES FAITH. The gospel proclaims a fact - Christ crucified for us, the fulfillment of Isaiah 53:5. Its primary message is not of something to follow our faith, but of that on which our faith rests. The "foundation" of spiritual life is not our belief but Christ's work (1 Corinthians 3:11). But in practice many seem to regard the right to trust in Christ's work as depending on their being in a fitting state of mind. And thus their mind is turned away from Christ to their own state (cf. Matthew 14:30). No doubt there must be a conviction of need ere the Savior can e welcomed (Matthew 9:12). But the evidence of that conviction is not our feelings but laying our burden upon the Lord.
II. GOD'S OFFER MUST BE RECEIVED BY FAITH - that is, it must be accepted as it is made; not something else put in its place. God's message is, Trust in Christ. To do this is to exercise faith. But the answer often is, I must first see whether I have faith. It is as if when our Lord bade the impotent arise, he had answered, I must first feel that I have the power. Faith depends not on accurate knowledge. The gospel is for the ignorant; and what it claims is that we receive it according to the measure of our knowledge, guided by those means of instruction which we possess.
III. GOD'S OFFER IS TO MAKE US WHAT WE OUGHT TO BE. Christ accepted, trusted, is made unto us wisdom, &c. (1 Corinthians 1:30). Faith leads to more communion with Christ. The Bible becomes a living voice instead of a dead letter. Channels of knowledge are opened, and daily increasing powers are given where the will is to be really Christ's (John 6:68). - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence.