J is for Joseph -
After Jesus, Joseph is probably my favorite person in the story of the birth of Christ. Not much is written about him, but scripture certainly lets us know that he was a man of great integrity and character. His story is often overlooked, but he had to have been so in tune in his relationship with, and obedience to God, to have been given the awesome responsibility of raising Jesus.
As we look at the story in a different light, there are a few things worth noting from Joseph’s perspective. Mary was visited by Gabriel, who let her know of the child that would be growing within her womb. Shortly after this encounter Mary left to visit Elizabeth without telling Joseph what had happened. Mary remained in Elizabeth’s home for the first three months of her pregnancy. It wasn’t until some time after she returned that she was found to be with child. (Mt. 1:18)
I can only imagine the gamut of emotions Joseph surely felt when found out – anger, sadness, hurtfulness, fear, panic, among others – must have coursed through him. Matthew 1:19 tells us of the dilemma Joseph faced. He was torn between his desire to be faithful to the law and his love for Mary, whom he did not want to be publicly disgrace. In all probability, she would be put to death.
The scripture tells us that he decided to “quietly divorce her”. I’m not sure how that would have worked in those days…but then God enters the picture by sending an angel to Joseph in a dream. It was considered a mark of God’s favor to be visited by an angel in your sleep. The angel told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, that the baby had been conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that he was to name the baby Jesus. Joseph woke up and did what the angel had told him to do. I find it interesting that Joseph didn’t question the angel. He just did what the Lord had told him to do.
The scriptures tell us in Luke 2:21-22 that Joseph fulfilled the obligations of law by having Jesus circumcised on the 8th day and they then took him to Jerusalem for the purification offering and to present him to the Lord. Some time after the circumcision and purification offering, the Wise Men visited Jesus. Matthew 2:13 tells us that Joseph receives another message from God via an angel. “After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,’ the angel said. ‘Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’” Again, Joseph immediately obeys, taking off for Egypt that night.
Joseph is visited by an angel two more times in Matthew chapter 2, both times in a dream. After Herod’s death he is told to return to Israel. Again, he obeys without hesitation. When he had returned to Israel, Joseph found out Herod’s son had come to power and this frightened him. He once again is visited by an angel who instructs him to settle in the Nazareth, in the region of Galilee.
Little more of Joseph is mentioned in the Bible. With the exception of their annual trip to Jerusalem for the Passover, the happenings of Jesus’ everyday life during his growing up years are not recorded. We know that Joseph was a carpenter and that he is not specifically talked about during the ministry of Christ. During the time of Christ’s ministry, Matthew 13:55 and John 6:42 speak of Jesus being referred to as “Joseph’s son” and “the carpenter’s son”. The tense the text is written in indicates that he could have still been alive, but He is not mentioned at the end of Jesus’ ministry or during his death and resurrection, leading us to believe that he had passed away.
Joseph was obedient and was willing to answer the call that God had placed on His life. I am most certain that when Joseph entered heaven, he heard God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”!