One theologian said that all Scripture is about Jesus.
Every word, every line, every story, everything in the bible is about Jesus.
While that may be up for debate, it is true that some biblical characters lived in such a way that their actions easily reflected the character and actions of Christ. One could say that they played a flawed role, which Jesus later played perfectly.
Such is the son of Jacob, the fore father of king David and King Jesus, a man by the name of Judah.
Judah is not known for his righteous actions. He had sex with his daughter-in-law, got her pregnant, and then wanted the one who was responsible killed.
She did trick him into having sex by pretending to be a prostitute, but that doesn’t make Judah look any better, especially when he had several wives.
Judah was also responsible for selling Joseph, his younger brother, into slavery in an attempt to avoid bloodshed. At least, any bloodshed that would fall on his hands, though he was totally guilty of human trafficking.
But these actions are not the sum total of who Judah was.
Towards the end of the Genesis account, Judah does something that is remarkably Christ like. Something that He would do on a magnified scale, making Jesus a better Judah.
Now the famine was still severe in the land. So when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little more food.”
But Judah said to him, “The man warned us solemnly, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother along with us, we will go down and buy food for you. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, because the man said to us, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’”
Israel asked, “Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?”
They replied, “The man questioned us closely about ourselves and our family. ‘Is your father still living?’ he asked us. ‘Do you have another brother?’ We simply answered his questions. How were we to know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?”
Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.”
Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this…” – Genesis 43.1-11a NIV
It is interesting to note that Judah isn’t the first one of Jacob’s sons to make this offer.
Reuben, the eldest of all the sons, offered up his own child to death should anything happen to Benjamin. While there is a time gap between Reuben’s offer in Genesis 42.37 and Judah’s offer, Judah is the one that takes his offering up a level.
Judah does not sacrifice his son’s life should something befall the young Benjamin. Judah is offering his own life.
And it isn’t just for the sake of Benjamin that Judah is offering. In verse 8, Judah says,
“Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die.”
Judah offered his live as forfeit, not only for Benjamin and for his safety, but for the lives, for the prosperity, for the survival of all of the Israelite nation.
Judah offered them all a hope, a future, all at his life and death expense. Should it come to that.
In the case of a better Judah, Jesus, it did come to that.
Jesus did have to die to see that his people would be saved from the impending death. Not just the people of Israel but everyone.
Jesus offered himself up as a sacrifice for all humanity, the Jews, the Gentiles, the rich, the poor, the slave, the free, the man, and the woman.
It was and is the purpose of God to see that our lives are not empty, hopeless and shadowed by death like it was for Israel in Genesis. Rather God wants our lives to be full, to have an abundance, to have hope and love.
While Judah’s sacrifice was to save his family from a solely physical death, the sacrifice that Jesus made was for our souls as well as our bodies.
Judah was a sinner and a royal screw up by most people’s standards. Yet, Judah, in all his mistakes, knew the power that came from sacrificing oneself. The value of offering himself up for others was not lost on him.
His actions helped set a precedent, “that no great love have any man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Jesus would ultimately and completely fulfill that precedent not just for his friends, but for everyone.
What Judah did was good, but Jesus made it better. In His sacrifice, Jesus became a better Judah.