Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Joseph Dreams of Greatness
37 Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. 2 This is the story of the family of Jacob.
Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves.[a] 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
Joseph Is Sold by His Brothers
12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” 14 So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.
He came to Shechem, 15 and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16 “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17 The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. 18 They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” 21 But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves[b] that he wore; 24 and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.
25 Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. 28 When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
Jesus Walks on the Water
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land,[a] for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind,[b] he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
‘What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.’
- Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan
It’s easy (not to mention fun!) to be cynical. For many of us, particularly in Ireland, it is our default setting. I sometimes wonder if it is a result of the weather … You can only spend so long looking at gloomy skies through a window before the grey gets into your bones and taints your outlook on life. We have been rained on so much that it has become our joy to rain on other people’s parades. Asking an Irish person to celebrate with you is like asking Eeyore to sing a Bruno Mars song — even if he does it, it won’t sound sincere.
I would be lying if I told you that I don’t enjoy being cynical. I do. I love it and I’m cynical about a lot of things. I’m cynical about politics and pop music. I’m cynical about most things that are mainstream and everything hipster. I’m cynical about a lot of Christian culture and Christian music in particular.
What I’m trying to change, however, is my tendency to be cynical about people. This is quite a challenge when one lives in Ireland, a country where the greatest crime someone can commit is to ‘have notions.’
To 'have notions' is to have an inflated sense of one’s own importance, status or charm. (Source) It is to overestimate one’s station in life. It is to act or live in a way that would cause someone to ask:
‘Who do you think you are?’
There are only two types of people in this world who get asked that question: the amnesiacs and the arrogant. Unless you have a large bump on your head, it’s intended to hurt your feelings. The intention is to remind you that you are not as awesome as you think you are.
The challenge that each of us faces is managing to avoid arrogance while also believing that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ and that 'God can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine according to his power that is already at work within us.' (Ephesians 3:20)
Arrogance is unbecoming of us … but so is self-hatred and a lack of belief in God’s ability to use our lives for good. For those of us learning to take that risk, those of us trying to step into a calling beyond what we believe to be our own limited potential, our greatest fear is that those around us will call us dreamers.
19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” (Genesis 37:19-20)
The world does not deal kindly with dreamers … and yet God has called us to dream.
I would understand if some of the disciples (and even some readers) were to think that Peter was guilty ‘having notions’ about himself. Sitting in a boat in the middle of a storm, the disciples mistake Jesus for a ghost (a fascinating insight into beliefs about spooks in first century Palestine). Jesus says, ‘Take heart! It is I!’
While the rest of the disciples catch their breath and allow their heart rate to decrease, Peter says, ‘Jesus, if it is you, then command me to come out to where you are.’
As we’d say here:
‘The cheek of him!’
'He’s got some nerve.’
'How dare he?’
'Who does he think he is?'
Peter’s language, however, reveals something different. He doesn’t say ‘Jesus, let me’ or ‘Jesus, empower me’.
Peter says ‘Command me.’
He wants to be obedient … but he wants obedience to take him beyond the ordinary.
This is the beautiful tension of the life of the dreamer. It is learning to find the balance between submission and permission. It is realising that obedience makes you more rather than less.
It is believing and trusting that God ‘has notions’ about you.