14 And Joseph returned into Egypt, he, and his brethren, and all that went up with him to bury his father, after he had buried his father. 15 And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.
Joseph had already gone to great lengths to assure his brethren that their offenses were behind him, but evidently they are still gripped by a fear that he only restrains himself out of respect to his father. If that fear is true, then now that Jacob is dead and buried, there is nothing to stand in the way of Joseph’s wrath. And given Joseph’s powerful station in Egypt, if he does wish to pursue vengeance, he will be able to do so with impunity.
And so, Joseph’s brothers betray a faithlessness here. They have a hard time accepting that they could truly be forgiven, perhaps because they have a hard time forgiving themselves. Certainly many of us can relate to this failing, it is only natural to feel that if our sins don’t deserve to be forgiven then they won’t be. But the gospel is the “good news” that the natural order can be overturned for one that is entirely unnatural. An “eye for an eye” can be replaced with “turn the other cheek.” Part of us will always have difficulty with such seemingly irresponsible grace, but until we are able to accept it, we will forever remain a prisoner to our sins, even when the door to our cell was unlocked long ago.