This week we’re studying a story about Jacob, who had a surprise wrestling match with a mysterious opponent. After wrestling all night Jacob got a new name, a limp, and a blessing from his opponent. I asked yesterday if you knew who he’d been wrestling with, and what clues you used to decide. Here are some more:
So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh. (Genesis 32:22-32 ESV)
Jacob’s new name was Israel – which meant he was a fighter, but specifically that he had “striven” with God and with humans and prevailed. He’d fought and hadn’t given up. But wait, God? He was striving with God?
We have another clue – he walked away from this saying “I have seen God face to face”.
The mysterious wrestler was God. He doesn’t need to give his name because he doesn’t need a name, he just is. When he finally does name himself with Moses later in the OT, it’s with a riddle – I AM – which basically says he doesn’t need a name, he just exists and always has.
So Jacob doesn’t get to know God’s name, but at least he gets to live! No wonder he was happy to get away alive. He was just fighting GOD! What a huge mistake – don’t mess with God!
Yet, he does. So does Jesus.
Jesus and his father are one – One God. And yet at one pivotal moment, Jesus and God the Father seem to be wrestling. In the Garden of Gethsemane a day before his death, Jesus starts to pray, and questions the plan. He fights in prayer – so anguished he bleeds.
He comes away from it bleeding, arrested, then whipped and mocked by Roman guards. He’s crucified, and dies. But then God has mercy on him and then raises him from the dead. Jesus appears to his disciples with wounds in his hands and side, but also as the resurrected son of God, about to ascend to the kingdom of heaven and be seated at the right hand of God. He walks away wounded, but also blessed, with a new status. He establishes a new people, like Jacob/Israel did as well. Jacob/Israel had thirteen sons who established twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus had twelve disciples, who became a new unified people called the church.
Question: Why do you think it’s significant that Jesus and Jacob have these parallels? Do we ever fight with God today? How does it end?