Joseph: Probably Not a Christmas Story

Joseph, husband to Mary and the man who raised Jesus, has been on my mind quite a bit lately. As the father to four boys myself, he and I have that much in common. As I lean into God’s word for wisdom in raising my boys, I was led to Joseph. Mostly, I thought it absurd that the man who raised Jesus gets so little mention in the Bible. But then I learned how right that was.

Joseph was only mentioned about thirteen times in the Gospels, the highlights are: Joseph as betrothed to pregnant Mary, Two times in which he was to lead baby Jesus and Mary away to fulfill prophesy, and when He and Mary left Jesus in Jerusalem at the temple.

At this last instance, Jesus was 12 and it was the last mention of Joseph in the Bible. Joseph’s life isn’t well documented in the Bible, but scholars think Joseph died when Jesus was 19. As far as I can tell, Jesus never mentioned his earthly father – at least, in recorded text.

Details in the Bible

So to round it out, here’s what we know about Joseph. Mathew 1:18-20 tells us he stayed committed to marry Mary, who became pregnant out of wedlock with a baby that was not his. He was obedient to the angel who told him he should marry Mary and name the boy Jesus.

Joseph was obedient again when he had to travel to Bethlehem for the census in Luke 2:1-5. Here, of course, Jesus would be born.

In Mathew 2:13-23, Joseph had a vision in which an angel told him to take Jesus and Mary and flee to Egypt. Once King Herod died and Jesus was safe, he again moved his family, this time to Nazareth. Joseph is obedient yet again.

Luke 2:41-51 tells us about Joseph and Mary traveling to Jerusalem for Passover. They inadvertently left Jesus behind, and when they found him THREE DAYS LATER, and asked where he had been, 12 year old Jesus says:

“Why were you searching for me?”he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 😅

Joseph’s response is not recorded, but maybe he was quiet again out of obedience.

Joseph’s Character

I don’t know if Joseph was a good dad to Jesus and his other sons. The Bible doesn’t offer much of an opinion. But it does provide the facts. Joseph was a man who questioned, and wasn’t often moved until a literal angel descended from heaven to tell him exactly what he should do in key moments. Most days, I need to be told exactly what to do, so I can relate to Joseph here!

But then Joseph was faithful and obedient. Joseph didn’t demand attention, or call attention to his own sacrifices. He sacrificed out of love, and perhaps some fear.

Maybe like me, Joseph wasn’t very clever, and he needed guidance. I Can hear him say, “Lord make the road clear and straight, don’t let me mess this up!” But, when he knew what to do he was a man of action.

Maybe like many fathers, Joseph just had no clue about how to raise a son. Can you imagine your son being born and you’re sitting in the corner taking it all In as the manger fills with guests who are giving gifts and praising God, and…the chaos it must’ve felt like! But he was present and ready to take action when needed.

Scholars think Joseph died when Jesus was 19. They think he was about 111 years old at the time. Joseph was flawed and obedient. He didn’t have the answers, but God always provided them when he needed them. He managed to raise and keep safe the savior of the world. I like to think he read the Bible to child Jesus. We know Joseph at least took Jesus to Passover each year in Jerusalem. I like to think Joseph had a local synagogue he took him to at least weekly as a child.

An earthly father has immense impact on his sons. Although the Bible wasn’t explicit, I bet Joseph was loving and kind, nurturing. I bet he was learned, and he taught Jesus to question. Joseph was obedient to the law of the land, but perhaps he taught Jesus the injustice of the law. When Jesus flipped tables at the synagogue, I wonder if that was Joseph’s anger, too,

Most often I think the sons may only come to appreciate the love, obedience and sacrifice of a father many years down the road, if ever. A father’s job is just that, a job. Jobs don’t have to be rewarding to the worker, but instead to the stockholders, which may best describe sons. And perhaps that’s why Joseph is the Patron Saint of Workers. Workers are those who thresh in the fields and factories. They’re replaceable and generally unappreciated. Fatherhood is likely the highest level of unskilled labor.

Joseph has taught me that fathers should love their wife without condition, raise your children in the light of The Word, and be obedient to the law and to God.

Ironically, last week Rachel kept telling me “this isn’t about you” during a certain disagreement – she did not know how right she was. It seems God sends angels in all forms. Listen and be obedient.

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