When the prophet tells us in Jeremiah 17:9 that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”, the truth he speaks is from of old, arising from the very first sin and the fall of man. Yet, many people don’t believe this about the human condition. They choose to believe that man’s heart is good and pure, and that it is the circumstances around a person that cause him to react as he does.
In the reading for today we see two incidents that discount this non-Biblical thinking. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, has two dreams that enrage his brothers, who already hate him for the favor he had in their father Jacob’s eyes. The dreams are the tipping point for them. Despite their sibling relationship, they despise him even more. In Genesis 37:18 they begin to act on the wickedness in their hearts in a place far from home:
“They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him.”
How their hatred must have festered within each one of them for so long to even consider such an extreme action! Only Reuben, the oldest among them, argued to spare his life. He knew the story of his ancestors Cain and Abel, and how even the earth cries out at the shedding of blood and brings a curse upon the murderer (Genesis 4:10-11). He had enough sense not to bring that damnation upon their heads, and, seemingly, the understanding of his responsibility as the oldest for the youngest. However, Reuben is also the son who slept with his father’s concubine, Bilhah, the mother of his brother Naphtali (Genesis 35:22), an act which ultimately caused the loss of his firstborn rights .
Following their conspiracy against Joseph, the brothers sold him into slavery. They lied and brought false comfort to their father, who would not be comforted (Genesis 37:35).
Jesus in His ministry regularly confronted the Pharisees for their legalism and lack of mercy. He often went to the synagogues on the Sabbath to test the hearts of these shepherds of Israel. Time after time they failed to show love toward their fellow man. The Law took precedence in their view, and nothing would inhibit their adherence to it.
One day Jesus enters the synagogue and finds a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees, having previously seen Him in action, goad Him by asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (Matthew 12:10).
As usual, He knows their hearts and lack of compassion, and He heals the man, once more proving His claim to be God is not an empty one. But, the Pharisees are so blinded by the evil within them and the sense of their own righteousness, that they can’t see the truth right before their very eyes. The healing incenses them. It results in Matthew 12:14:
“But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, how to destroy Him.”
Just as with the brothers who schemed to kill Joseph, the Pharisees plotted to likewise eliminate this troublemaker Jesus, who was upsetting the way they thought and viewed the world. The actions of Jesus revealed that which was deep within them. He exposed the nature of their hearts. The bad fruit of their unbelief was brought to light.
There is only one solution to the true nature of man buried deep within us all. That is the answer from the very beginning made known through Jesus Christ. Each one of us must acknowledge our sin and repent of it. We must come to the Father through the Son. As Jesus said in John 14:6, revealing this truth: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”