Since its earliest days, the Church has recognized a harmony between the Old and New Testaments. The apostles sought to understand how the ancient Hebrew Scriptures pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. The early Church Fathers then recognized that the mystery of Christ that is hidden in the Old Testament comes fully alive in the New.
Saints and scholars alike have seen that many elements of the Old Testament—people, events, and places—anticipate realities fully revealed in the New. They call them “types,” or prefigurements, of Christ.
The Old Testament story of Joseph gives us one of the most stirring Old Testament types of Jesus. Joseph, a favorite son of Jacob, was despised by his brothers, who decided to sell him into slavery in Egypt. But Joseph eventually became the instrument God used to save his family from famine: “Even though you meant harm to me,” Joseph later told his brothers, “God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).
It’s not hard to see why many Church Fathers read Joseph’s story as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ life and God’s plan of salvation. Just look at the many parallels between the two. Both were favored sons of a loving father. Both experienced rejection from some of their own people. Both were sold for silver. Both were falsely accused and imprisoned. Both were unexpectedly exalted—Joseph to Pharaoh’s right hand and Jesus to the throne of God. And both provided salvation for the Jewish people as well as the Gentiles around them.
Learning how people, prophecies, and events in the Old Testament find fulfillment in Jesus can help us come to a clearer understanding of the marvelous plan of God. It can also help us come to a deeper grasp of the salvation he has won for us and the love that moved him to save us.
As you continue to pray through the Scriptures this Lent, look for Jesus’ “footprints” in the Old Testament readings. As you do, you’ll see how much God loves his people—including you. You’ll see that God has planned glorious things for you. Your life is secure in him!
“Jesus, you are Lord of history. Thank you for opening my eyes to your wonderful plan of salvation!”
Grant, we pray, almighty God, that, purifying us by the sacred practice of penance, you may lead us in sincerity of heart to attain the holy things to come.