Fact is, he didn’t deserve it. The honor given him in his death seems disproportionate to the manner in which he had conducted most of his life. The funeral was over the top. But as I noodle it, I realize that it was over the top for the sake of another.
So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household. Only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen. And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen. It was a very great company. (Genesis 50:7-9 ESV)
Jacob had made his boys promise him that they would not bury him in the land of Egypt. Instead they were to bury him in the family burial plot, the cave bought by Abraham where Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Leah were buried. Interesting that Jacob doesn’t allude to it the land God had promised to him . . . but maybe I’m being too tough on Jacob. While it was still the land of promise and not yet the land possessed, that’s where Jacob wanted to be laid to rest.
But I was struck by the big deal that was made over his transport back to the land and his burial. I get it if Joseph and his brothers and their families escorted the body back to Canaan. I’d understand them mourning over the death of their father. But check out the entourage that accompanied them. All the servants of Pharaoh . . . the elders of Pharaoh’s house . . . the elders over the land of Egypt . . . chariots . . . horsemen . . . Moses records that it was “a very great company.”
Imagine the most elaborate state funeral you may have seen on the television . . . JFK’s or Princess Di’s funeral comes to mind. I don’t think any of them compared to the pomp and ceremony afforded Jacob. Imagine the entourage of chariots and horses escorting the elite of the Egyptian government who themselves had determined to escort the body of Jacob. Consider the sheer number of people joined together to form a processional that would march for days in honor of a man most of them didn’t even know.
And had they known him, would they have gone to such great lengths? A schemer who extorted his brother’s birthright and conned him out of the firstborn’s blessing. Careless on his wedding night allowing his father-in-law to “slip one under the covers” . . . literally. Ending up as little more than a manipulated and hired-out stud for his two wives and their two handmaids. Though he fathered 13 children, he doesn’t seem to have been a very consistent father to his children . . . favoring the second youngest, he caused ugly division and dissension within his house. Not to be too hard on Jacob . . . you know, one finger pointing at him, three fingers pointing back at me . . . but on the surface, he didn’t deserve the honor given him at his death.
But as I noodle on it, I think that’s the point. Though his sons may have returned to Canaan to bury Jacob out of obligation to their father, the courts of Pharaoh joined in the funeral procession because of another, Joseph. Because of who Joseph was . . . because of all that Joseph had done for Egypt . . . for him, they would go over the top in mourning and burying Jacob. The great company that would escort Jacob was there for the sake of another.
Isn’t that the gospel? Honor given those who don’t deserve it for the sake of another? Isn’t that our hope? That we will be welcomed into the very presence of God . . . that the rejoicing in heaven which occurred on the day we first believed (Luke 15:7), will culminate in a great wedding feast of celebration hosted by the Lamb Himself . . . not because of who we are or what we’ve done . . . but for the sake of another . . . the greater Joseph . . . Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Thank God for over the top grace shown to those who don’t deserve it. All for the sake of another . . .