It is surely no coincidence that just as there were twelve sons of Israel there were twelve apostles of Jesus. The twelve patriarchs were the foundation of national Israel just as the twelve apostles were the foundation of spiritual Israel. So it has been very interesting to read the narratives of Joseph's relationship with the sons of Israel (Gen. 41-42) in juxtaposition with Mark's account of Jesus' relationship with the apostles, especially in today's reading in Mark 16.
The thread that connects these two passages is the failure to recognize. In the case of the sons of Jacob, it is their failure to recognize Joseph as the governor over the land distributing grain. Of course, they could hardly be blamed for this. When they last saw him he was a seventeen-year-old Hebrew boy sold into slavery, and by Gen. 41-42 he was a thirty-year-old Egyptian man serving as Pharaoh's number two man.
In the case of the apostles in Mark 16, their failure was to recognize the truth about Jesus' resurrection. This failure is much more difficult to excuse. Not only had Jesus explicitly told them - three times! - that He was going to die and be raised from the dead (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34), but multiple eyewitnesses told the apostles they had seen the empty tomb and the risen Lord (16:9-13). Yet the disciples were slow to accept this truth, and were rebuked by Jesus for "their unbelief and hardness of heart" (16:14).
Yet it seems to me that both groups of twelve deserve a lot of credit. Joseph's brothers were grieved at the memory of what they did to their brother, and fully accepted responsibility for their actions, a change of heart which deeply touched Joseph long before he revealed himself to them (Gen. 42:21-24). And the great thing about the apostles is that immediately after Jesus rebuked them, they accepted His commission to go and take His gospel to the whole creation (Mark 16:15-16). God can work with people who are humble enough to admit their mistakes.
Most impressive in these accounts, however, is the gracious spirit of Joseph and Jesus. Both were willing to forgive people who had viciously betrayed them. Indeed, both of them displayed grace to those who offended them even before there was actual reconciliation. Joseph gave his brothers grain, returned their money, and even supplied them with provisions (Gen. 42:25). And Jesus told the disciples in the garden that they would scatter in fear, but that He would see them again in Galilee (Mark 14:26-28).
In the world in which we all live, we have plenty of opportunities to learn from the twelve, and from Joseph/Jesus. The nature of life in a sinful world means that we all have moments of hardness of heart, of reluctance to belief what God intends for us to believe, and so we all have many occasions to experience God's grace as He forgives us for our stubbornness. And a world like ours is one where others will hurt us, and like Joseph and Jesus, there is no lack of opportunity to show others the same grace, patience, and mercy that we have been shown.