Then There Was Joseph

Of the Bible characters associated with the pending birth of Jesus, Joseph is one of the most ignored participants. He, like Mary, was of the house and lineage of David and lived in Bethlehem. The girl he was betrothed to and scheduled to marry was pregnant, and that was punishable by death. Had it not been for him, like Mary, being visited by an angel and told why she was pregnant he wanted to hide her. Though he believed that still afforded community shame and pain. This identifies him as being possessor of boldness, courage, daring, and strength of character to defy the expectations of his entire community and take Mary as his wife. This required great strength of character.

He even obeyed the angel’s instruction and named the baby, Jesus. Jesus had no earthly father through which to be born of the Davidic line. Joseph gave Him the name “Jesus.” By Joseph, the surrogate father, naming Him Jesus, that was equivalent to adopting Him, thus qualifying Jesus to be considered of the house of David, in keeping with prophecy. 

The name “Jesus” means “Yahweh is salvation.” The angel’s interpretation has important Christological implications, the angel unequivocally insisted that Jesus Himself would “save his people from their sins.”

Joseph did some things indicating his character and faith.

He obeyed and was faithful to take Mary as his wife.  (Matthew 1:24)

He respected the virginity of Mary until after Jesus’ birth.  (Matthew 1:25)

He acted according to Mosaic law and took the infant to the Temple in Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord. (Luke 1:21-27)

He obeyed the order from another angelic messenger and took Mary and Jesus to Egypt to avoid the massacre by Herod. (Matthew 2:13-14)

After the death of Herod, he obeyed the Lord and took Mary and Jesus to Nazareth where Jesus developed in His youth. (Luke 2:39-40) 

Jesus, like other children, grew up learning. His knowledge was uncommonly excellent, far more than he could have learned in Nazareth. Joseph, Jesus, guardian, doubtless played a role in this. Joseph is said to have been a carpenter. The word has various meanings. He likely was a stonemason because most work in Sepphoris was with stone, not wood. Here Jesus would have been exposed to commerce and trade. Later in dealing with the Jews in Jerusalem, He used illustrations based on business.

Based on the fact Joseph was not at the wedding in Canna of Galilee, it is commonly assumed that by that time he was dead. At His death Jesus committed Mary to His disciple John further indicating Joseph was dead, ( (John 6:42)

Joseph, the man always in the background, slips out of the story without even a sentence to mark his passing.

The minimization of his role today is characterized by an experience at a plantation in South Georgia often visited by many guests. In a great room there hangs a lovely oil painting of a scene representing the gathering of people and animals normally associated with the birth of Jesus. There is a long standing employee at the home who delights to tell the story identifying various ones. He goes through all the animals and what they might indicate as forthcoming. There is a description of the Wise Men, the shepherds, and the highlight, Mary. Then he concludes by saying, “And there is old Joe, he is just there.”

Often that is our role, just to be there. If we are where God wants us, it is important that we be there.

Such can make for a MERRY CHRISTMAS.