DJoseph (Jesus’s earthly father) has always been an underdog in the Christmas story. He’s God-fearing, he works hard to provide, he listens and obeys to God, and he’s Jesus immediate guardian for the majority of Christ’s life. Upon studying Joseph’s life, I’ve come to see him as an untold hero that sheds a while new dimension to Christmas. But what do we know about this mystery man? Not much really. Here are some reflections that I’d like to share.
Joseph was a ‘righteous’ man
When Joseph found out his wife Mary was pregnant, the Bible immediately points him out as a ‘righteous’ man (Matthew 1:19). The Greek word here means ‘deacon’, or a person who is in good covenant standing with God. So you could say that Joseph is a holy man. When he discovers his fiancee is pregnant, the Bible says he wanted to divorce her quietly. For Joseph assumes that Mary had committed adultery prior to their engagement. Even though her pregnancy is not his fault, he wants to protect her dignity. Rather than pointing out her guilt to his church, thereby washing his hands clean, Joseph would rather ‘let the gossip train float’ par say and discreetly break off his relationship with Mary. That’s the amazing thing about righteousness; it values and protects each other, even when it hurts.
Joseph is Jesus’ adopted Father
Let this sink into you soul: Joseph is not really Jesus’ biological father. Joseph willingly adopted Jesus into his family. This provides a unique twist which we overlook. Jesus grew up with parents that were not connected with him by blood, but rather by divine appointment. The Bible never mentions Joseph griping about this fact, nor does it mention him about desiring additional children afterwards. Then also, to have to drag your family from place to place in order to protect this baby boy that isn’t really yours. On top of it, training him up in carpentry and the ways of God based on a promise given when Jesus was a baby. That takes tremendous amounts of faith.
Joseph dies before Jesus does
The only reasonable explanation for Joseph’s disappearance after the nativity story and throughout the gospels is that he tragically dies somewhere along the way.
At the bottom of the argument, Joseph lived at least until the family was safely in Nazareth, and Herod (the Great) had died. Also, the whole family shows up at the temple dedication in Luke 2. Therefore, Joseph lived at least up until Jesus was 13 or so years old but could of died anytime after.
At the ceiling of the argument, he could of at latest died shortly before Jesus hung on the cross, else Jesus telling John to take care of his mother in John 19:26 would make no sense. But nonetheless, I think its safe to assume that Joseph had died before Jesus did.
Putting it all-together, I’d estimate that Joseph died shortly before Jesus entered ministry when Jesus was around 30 years old. Then, this leads me toward some reflection questions:
- What did Joseph have any last words to pass on?
- How did Jesus feel when he saw his father die?
- Did Jesus ever experience the loneliness that comes from not having his earthly father around?
- Was Mary ever jaded from the experience of losing her husband early on?
This got me thinking about those who have grown up without the support of Christian parents, either father, mother, or both. The same with myself; growing up with non-Christian parents and having few role-models for a large part of my Christian life. I just want to say that Christ can identify that sense of loss. For he had to rely on his heavenly father for support during his ministry.
On that last point, one more thing. In Luke 2:35 a prophecy is given to Mary that ‘a sword shall pierce your own soul too’. While we traditionally believe it is talking about Jesus’ death, I think it could also be referring to Joseph’s too. Again, just something to ponder.
Joseph gave his life in service to the little boy who would be called Jesus. His deeds go unnoticed in our Bible, but are remembered in eternity.
May you have a wonderful and Merry Christmas today, as we worship the coming of the savior and messiah.