Then There Is Joseph
If there was ever anyone in the Bible whose life seems almost perfunctory it’s Joseph. Yet, he is one of the most important pivotal players in the life of Jesus who represents true servanthood and humility to be unheralded for his work. All the attention of Jesus’ birth rightly goes to Jesus first, then to Mary His mother, then to the angel Gabriel, to Zacharias, Elizabeth, the Shepherds, the Wise Men, even Anna and Simeon prophesied concerning Him at His dedication to the Lord [Luke 2:21-39].
But what about Joseph? He is mentioned as the betrothed of Mary, and Gabriel comes to him to tell him it’s ok to marry Mary because her pregnancy is a miraculous Holy act of God. Then we hear no more from him except in reference to him being the supposed father of Jesus.
He did take Mary to Bethlehem for the census and the birth of Jesus, and he did flee with them soon after into Egypt at the instruction of the Lord in a dream, returning to Nazareth only after Herod was dead. From that time on he is not mentioned in the life of Jesus. Even when Jesus was 12 years old and left behind in Jerusalem while his family returned to Nazareth, when they discover Jesus was not with them they returned to look for him. Then, finding Him in the Temple, Joseph is little more than an observer standing by the way as Mary questions Jesus about staying behind after the family had left, and moreover is reminded by Jesus Himself that he, Joseph, was not His father.
“So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Luke 2:48-49
Joseph was faithful to accept the call of God on his life. He was to be the one to nurture, protect and raise this child to know God, to know the traditions of the Covenants of God with His people, to be industrious, to learn to be a carpenter, to learn the values of work, compassion and of giving to others. As a human being Jesus had to learn about life like every other boy in his time, through the instruction and pattern of the life of their fathers.
Joseph was Jesus’ first role model of what He would learn to be a loving father. And there is every indication that Joseph did his job well. Though he did not receive earthly awards or accolades for fatherhood, the evidence of Joseph’s success as a father was in the fact that the brothers and sisters of Jesus, the children of Joseph and Mary also become disciples of Jesus, following Him in ministry.
Joseph was a man of great humility and faith in the Word of God. He was called to lay aside his plan for his future to submit to God’s plan that did not offer him prestige or fame or earthly reward and the esteem of his fellows. He accepted the role he had to play in Jesus’ life with nothing more than the knowledge that he would simply be obedient to God’s command and leave the results to the Lord.
The message of Joseph’s life for us is that obedience is not a guarantee of gaining earthly things but it is a great guarantee of the means of pleasing God.
“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22
Sometimes we are called to be, in the eyes of men, just another unremarkable part of God’s plan. But, with God nothing is perfunctory or nonessential or unremarkable. You and I are essential to God’s eternal plan at whatever level we are call to serve now in this world.
In God’s eternal plan Joseph was strategically chosen to serve God’s higher purpose as much as Mary was. Each did their part by faith in obedience to God and each received the same reward.
You are important and essential to God’s purpose and plan. Your part is unique and no one else can substitute for you. You are highly valuable to God. In fact, you are as valuable to God as His only begotten Son, our Savior and our Lord Jesus Christ. In the body of Christ there are no surplus parts.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
“And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” Matthew 19:29-30
What we sacrifice in obedience to God’s higher purpose will be eternally rewarded in Heaven. In the meantime while we are here on Earth we have much to enjoy and to gain of God’s goodness and grace, of His abundant provision and favor, of His fellowship in the Body of believers and of His Love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, so that we are transformed to be radiant and filled with the light of the Holy Spirit shining out to the world the hope, love and peace of Jesus in God our Father.
Joseph in the life of Jesus fulfills the story. Without him, the celebration of Christmas is incomplete. Moreover, without Him God’s plan is incomplete. Without you, the body of Christ is incomplete. With you we are all made the better. Thank God for you.