One of the central tenets of Christianity is that Jesus is the mediator between God and man. Since the root of "mediator" is "media," we can see that there is an element of communication involved in such a role. But often, Christianity gets confused about what Jesus is communicating and to whom. So why does Jesus play the role of mediator? And what the heck does any of this have to do with Genesis 44?
In this chapter, Judah places himself between Joseph and Benjamin. In other words, he begins to mediate, to try to negotiate Benjamin’s release and return home. If Joseph will let Benjamin go, Judah says, he will remain in Egypt as Joseph’s slave instead.
Judah has had a rough life. You know, evil really does have its own consequences, and I wonder how difficult it was for Judah to live with the guilt of what he did to his brother. He gives a hint in his conversation with Joseph when he says, "How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father." (vs 34) I’m sure, in that moment of anger and annoyance when Judah made the rash suggestion to sell Joseph into slavery, he never stopped to consider what it would be like to have to tell his father that Joseph was never coming home. I’m sure Judah spent every day being run down by guilt, haunted by the decision he had made.
Here’s a revelation: Judah suffered more because of his evil than Joseph did.
Yet, in this chapter, not having a clue of who he’s really talking to, Judah throws himself at Joseph’s feet and begs for mercy. Somewhere along the line, even though the Bible records such wicked behavior in Judah’s life, Judah has had a change of heart. Now, he is no longer willing to "get rid" of someone else for his own convenience. Instead, he is willing to lay down his own life to spare someone else.
In verses 18-34, Judah lays out what we would call a prima facie case, a convincing argument of why he should be allowed to take Benjamin’s place as the slave. Undoubtedly, his arguments would have convinced any stranger to the family who was only intent on making sure "justice was served." As long as somebody "paid" for the crime, what did it matter which brother stayed behind?
But Joseph is no stranger to the family. He loved all the brothers who were standing in front of him. Joseph didn’t need a mediator. But the brothers, in their fear and bewilderment, didn’t know that.
The same thing is true for us and God. God is no stranger to the human family. He loves every single person on the face of this Earth. God doesn’t need a mediator! But we, in our fear and bewilderment, don’t know that. So, yes, Jesus does act as a mediator... but He mediates to us, not to God! In Jesus (who is God and who came as a man to reveal God to us), we see the truth that God — in all Three Persons — is always mediating to us, negotiating with us, trying to secure our willingness to return home.
Judah is soon to find out that Joseph didn’t need a mediator. When will we learn that lesson about God?