Earthly Bread and Heavenly Bread (Genesis 41 – Genesis 44:17)
This week we will read about the rise of Joseph to greatness in Egypt. Pharaoh dreams his strange dreams and non of the sages of Egypt is able to solve them. After two years in which Joseph was imprisoned in the pit, the chief cupbearer of Pharaoh suggest to summon the Hebrew boy to solve the dreams. Joseph indeed solves the dreams and warns from years of affluence followed by years of famine. Joseph astonished everyone with his wisdom (Genesis 41: 37-35). Similarly, the twelve-year-old Jesus astonished his audience at the Temple (Luke 2:47) And similarly to Joseph, Jesus also speaks a great deal about the days of satiation followed by days of famine – but his intention is different: the spiritual fullness that his disciples experience as long as they are with him stands in contrast to spiritual hunger and fasting after his disappearance (Matthew 9:15, Mark 2:20, Luke 5:35, Luke 17:22). The biblical description of bread as heavenly-spiritual food, not only as earthly-material food, is constant and frequent in the sriptures, and if I made you hungry, it is time to eat.
This week I want to take you to the Room of the Last Supper on Mount Zion, also known as the Upper Room. The history of the place is fascinating: it is the attic of a random Jewish man in Jerusalem who was kind enough to host the apostles on Thursday before the Passover. In the Byzantine period there was a church that was destroyed by the Persians, rebuilt and destroyed again by the Muslims in the 11th century then rebuilt again by the Crusaders in the 13th century partly destroyed and renovated by the Franciscans. The Christians were expelled from this room by the Muslims in the fifteenth century and the place served as a mosque until the twentieth century. During the British Mandate, Christians were able to visit the site again and pray there during Pentecost, and since 1948, the government of Israel is in charge of the place and keeps the status quo. Sacred sites that go through so many hands are not uncommon in Israel…
There are many parallels between Joseph and Jesus and the story of the Last Supper: Both of them started their ministry at the age of thirty (Genesis 41:36, Luke 3:23), in both cases foreign kings recognize their greatness (Genesis 41:38, Matthew 2:2), in both cases the brothers and the apostles don’t recognize them and their ministry (Genesis 42: 8, John 21: 4). Joseph gave his brother water to wash their feet (Genesis 34:24) and Jesus washed their feet (John 13: 5), Joseph ate and drank with his brothers bread and wine saving them from the famine in Canaan (Genesis 34: 32-4) and Jesus not only ate and drank with his apostles bread and wine but also gave it a new spiritual meaning: with this food, this sacrifice- you will be saved (Matthew 26:26). In both cases, the path to the father is through the son: Since Jacob’s disappearance, Jacob refuses to be consoled: “Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” (Genesis 37:34-35)
The brothers can’t compensate their father Jacob for the loss of his beloved son and can’t really approach him because he can’t rejoice without Joseph. The next time Jacob spoke to his sons would be years later (according to Jewish tradition twenty years later) when he ordered them to bring food from Egypt. Similarly, the apostles also know that there is no way to God but through His Son Jesus (Matthew 11:27, John 14: 6). Most importantly, salvation comes from the Son: Joseph saves his whole family from earthly hunger with earthly bread (Genesis 45:7) Jesus saves all humanity from spiritual hunger: “Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
Next time you eat bread remember the temptation of Jesus by Satan:
“The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”(Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4: 3-4).
Itamar Ben David is a professional tour guide and educator. He is one of the most popular Travelujah guides providing valuable biblical, historical and modern day insight on the land of Israel to Jewish and Christian groups and exclusive private tours. He has guided famous media personalities such as Larry King, congressmen and other VIP clients. He and his wife live in Jerusalem.