Just as it is human nature for us to ask such a question, I can only imagine that Joseph and Mary were asking the same. Why would God chose this couple from a humble town to care for His Son? Mary, a young woman already promised to Joseph, an ordinary man with carpentry for his trade. As opposed to Mary who becomes well-known, Joseph was an obscure part of the story, with no evidence of notable authority or notoriety.
Matthew Chapter 1 of the New Testament gives us a glimpse of the man who would become the earthly father of Jesus:
“So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.” Matthew 1:19
Imagine the shock. The disappointment. The hurt. It doesn’t surprise any of us that he would want to divorce her for carrying a child that wasn’t his. Engaged to a woman that seemingly betrayed him.
“But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit.'” Matthew 1:20
Don’t miss the description of Joseph. He was considered a righteous man. A good man. Moral. Honorable. That means his integrity was intact. It could have said that Joseph was a religious man, but there is a difference. Righteousness is a word the Bible uses to describe a person in right relationship to God, meaning he was not just religious. We see evidence of him following the customs and traditions of religion, but more than that, righteousness means that his motives were pure. The difference between the two comes when our reason for being religious is because we love God and want to honor him in obedience, as opposed to religiosity that is ceremonial but not personal. This was personal. Marrying a pregnant woman would surely cause some to question either his sanity or his morality.
“When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her, but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son.” Matthew 1:24
Joseph “…did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him.” He obeyed. This righteous man chose to do what God was asking him to do, even when it was difficult. Even when he couldn’t fully understand the “why?” Though it would seem an obvious time to ask it, there is no mention of him asking “why me?” or what would happen to them. He simply obeyed.
“He did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him.“
In his sermon on this very passage last Sunday, pastor hubby said, “Sometimes we miss the most profound things in life because they can be so simple.” Joseph obeyed what God told him to do, and it didn’t just affect him, but all of those around him. How often do we fail to realize the full ramifications of our own obedience or disobedience?
Simple obedience should never be underrated.
“While they were there (Bethlehem), the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough–because there was no room for Him at the inn.” Luke 2
“‘She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.'” Matthew 1:21
This child would become his son, but going against the tradition of the day, He would not carry his name. In another act of obedience, His name would be Jesus, “The One Who Saves”, just as the angel Gabriel had commanded. As a parent he would carry the responsibility of protector and provider. Teaching Him, training Him in carpentry skills, Jesus would certainly learn from his earthly father. Did Joseph even realize just how much would he learn from this boy? Did he see in him just how different He was from his other children? Unless he was an absent father he had to have known that Jesus was special. But did he ever fully comprehend just who He was, or did he have doubts just like Jesus’ brothers?
Every year His parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. When He was 12 years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival. After those days were over, as the were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but His parents did not know it. Assuming He was in the traveling party, they went a day’s journey. Then they began looking for Him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for Hm. After three days, they found Him in the temple complex sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers. When His parents saw Him, they were astonished, and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for You.” “Why were you searching for Me? He asked them. “Didn’t you know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” But they did not understand what He said to them.” Luke 2:41-50
Twelve years old. Definitely not what we would call an adult in our generation, had Jesus disobeyed his parents? The answer should be obvious because Jesus is the Son of God who never sinned. [i.e. Hebrews 4:15 and other verses] While it seems incomprehensible in some ways that Mary and Joseph wouldn’t know where their son was, it wasn’t necessarily unusual for them to let someone else be responsible for Jesus well-being. I know first-hand that this wasn’t the first or last parent to lose a child (personal confession!), and we see from Jesus’ maturity in His response that He was ultimately under the full authority of His Heavenly Father. By age 12 He already knew who He was!
“I and the Father are one.. All things have been entrusted to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal him.” Luke 10
Real life is always more complicated than what we can write down on paper, isn’t it? How do you fully express all of the details that surround an event like this? The emotions, the fear, the relief when He is found, and later, the grief when He is crucified on a cruel cross. Recognizing that Jesus was coming of age, Mary and Joseph must have been wondering what would become of their boy. No dream, no angel, and no presupposition could prepare them for what was coming, but remembering that God had chosen them would be all they needed for this special role in history.
Joseph had been chosen, just as Mary was chosen. In Matthew 1, the genealogy of Jesus Joseph is “the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah. An important prophecy surrounding the Messiah was that He would come from the lineage of David. Joseph’s lineage mattered. His life mattered. Though maybe not recognized as significant to the story as Mary, Joseph was an important part of God’s plan for the incarnation.
Joseph’s life isn’t recorded in the Bible after this story. There’s a lot of speculation about the absence of Joseph from Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana, His crucifixion or any event thereafter. What we do know from the Bible is that Jesus is later mocked for his heritage– “Isn’t this the son of Joseph of Nazareth?” (John 6:42).
Jesus was God Incarnate (John 1) and first born of Mary and Joseph. Fully divine yet human, the child Jesus needed earthly parents to care for Him. While we can’t know what happened to Joseph, we know that he did give Jesus siblings James, Joses, Jude, Simon, and sisters who are not named. We know that two of his brothers (James and Jude) came to believe Jesus was truly the Messiah only after the resurrection. Because of their belief, these brothers would author books in the Bible bearing their name.
James “spent so much time in prayer that his knees ‘were like those of a camel.’
Jewish historian Josephus reported that Jewish leaders stoned James to death.Stephen Miller, Christianity Today
What stands out to me is that, if all that we know about Joseph was that he trusted God enough to obey Him, then that’s all we really need to know. I’m sure the enemy whispered a thousand different reasons for Joseph to disobey, but he didn’t. Because Joseph made the choice to obey, he protected his young family by escaping to Egypt when Herod threatened to kill Jesus. He later brought them safely home to Nazareth.
Every person has a story to tell. Was Joseph’s part in this story important? Of course it was, and it is a great reminder for us in this Christmas season that our journey is our own. Every person’s story matters. God’s word tells us that Jesus came to change not just the world, but your world. Let Him in this Christmas. Read Luke 2 and rejoice in the miraculous–there is always hope–BECAUSE HE CAME!