by Ricky Chelette, Executive Director
Not much is written about his life. Most scholars treat him as a minor character in the most amazing drama in history – the birth of Jesus. Church pageants portray him as a dutiful helper to Mary, with few if any lines, but not much more. He was a good man and he had a heart that was sensitive to the things of God.
We know him as Joseph, the earthly father of the Son of God.
Ponder the significance of that eight-word description. Let it linger in your mind for a moment. Can you imagine the weight of such an assignment? Most father’s feel ill-equipped to raise a child, but to raise the Son of God was a task no one could have even anticipated!
However, Joseph was up for the task. Like many men in a new experience, Joseph rose to the occasion. His response, fortified by his faith in God, gives insight and direction for us all.
Though Joseph is only mentioned in Matthew chapters 1 and 2, Luke 2, and John, 6:42-43, these few passages give us deep insight into his character and what it means to be a godly man and father.
1. Joseph was a just and kind man who honored women.
“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” (Matt. 1:19 ESV)
Joseph had every right to put Mary away, to disgrace her publically, and even to have her stoned. After all, Mary’s guilt was ostensibly apparent given that no one had ever become pregnant without a sexual relationship. Yet, Joseph’s concern for Mary and her future showed his heart of compassion and love.
2. Joseph believed and obeyed God.
“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’” (Matt. 1:19-21 ESV)
“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” (Matt. 1:24-25 ESV)
Despite what was seemingly impossible, Joseph trusted the words of the angel of the Lord and, by faith, obeyed. Furthermore, realizing the significance of the birth which was about to take place, Joseph exercised incredible restraint in his relationship with Mary, abstaining from all sexual relations with his wife for the first nine months of their marriage.
3. Joseph was a faithful father who loved his son.
“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it…” (Luke 2:41-43 ESV)
“And when his parents’ saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.’” (Luke 2:48)
A rhythm of faith permeated the life of Joseph and his family. Notice that “every year” and “according to custom,” Joseph consistently led his family to spiritually engage with God. His willingness to leave his business, travel to another city, and participate in the Feast of Passover further attests to the priority Joseph placed on the spiritual growth of his family.
Additionally, Joseph was engaged with and attuned to Jesus. Knowing that Jesus was the son of God, it would have been easy for Joseph to disconnect from Jesus, but he did not. Verse 48 indicates bothMary and Joseph were searching for Jesus and both were distraught over his whereabouts. This offers us a small glimpse into the many ways Joseph was a good father.
As the pageants are delivered and the applause are given this Christmas season, few will notice the steady and faithful father Joseph, but Jesus did. Jesus was shaped in his earthly manhood by his earthly father just as we are. He learned a skill and a craft from hours at the feet of Joseph. He saw faith and sacrifice lived out through a simple, faithful builder, who loved God and loved Him. Not everyone lives in the spotlight or has the starring role in the drama, but we each play a significant role in God’s cosmic saga of redemption, just like Joseph.
Today you may feel unnoticed, unseen, or even forgotten, yet God knows and sees you. There are no bit parts in His story. Your life matters and others are observing you to see if you reflect the faith you say you believe and the God whose name you claim. Live carefully and faithfully. You might be an unsung hero!