I’ve been thinking about Joseph’s role in the Christmas narrative lately. I think Joseph gets a bad rap sometimes. Most of our talks about Joseph center around the fact that he is NOT Jesus’ father, (said with a hand on an outset hip and a finger shaking) and that we really don’t hear much about him outside the birth stories. It makes him sound really disrespected. It sounds like we are saying he’s not good enough to be in Jesus’ blood line, and that he was an absentee father. It is very important to understand that God was Jesus’ father. Theologically, that is significant. And it’s true that we don’t hear anything about him after that one time he lost Jesus when he was 12 years old (…really, really a bad rap.) Some speculate that he died. No one really knows. But one thing is clear in the birth narrative: God chose Joseph as much as He chose Mary.
In realizing Joseph’s full rights regarding Mary, I realize how much God trusted Joseph. When Mary told Joseph she was pregnant, (as in God was already living inside of her!) Joseph had every legal right to take her out of the city and have her stoned. Joseph was the first man with the motive and opportunity to murder the Son of God. His reputation was at stake, and we do a lot to protect our reputations. He opted against this route and instead decided he would just quietly end their engagement and spare her life. God found a man abounding in grace to usher in His kingdom built on grace.
I have also been thinking that God really wanted Joseph to be a part of the story. The story could have been different you know. Joseph could have put Mary aside, and she could have had the baby on her own. The story would have looked much different, now a single mom rather than a family, but did it matter? (After all Joseph was NOT the father!) Looking at Jesus’ lineage, you see more than enough scandal. Joseph wasn’t kept in the picture to avoid scandal. God has never shied away from scandal, much to our pious dismay sometimes. But God very intentionally kept Joseph in the picture. God sent an angel to Joseph as well as to Mary. This piece is perhaps the least told scene in the birth narrative. But it shows God’s desire for Joseph.
It makes me think of the many people I know who are living for God, and who are doing mighty things in the Kingdom. Beautiful people whose names will never be recorded for their deeds this side of heaven. God is taking note of everyone of them, but this world doesn’t seem to notice. You, my friends, are in good company.
Not all who are chosen by God are noticed by the world.
One thing we do know about Joseph is that he was a man of incredible faith. On first glance it seems that he and Mary are on equal footing in terms of faith required for the evidence given. Both got an angel visitation after all. But Mary had experience on her side as well. The girl KNEW she was a virgin. And she KNEW she was pregnant. Joseph was trusting simply in words, Mary’s and the angel’s. That’s an added level of faith that deserves some recognition. This virgin birth is literally the only one in the history of mankind. And Joseph was taking her word for it. It reminds me of when Jesus said “blessed is he who has not seen, and yet believes.” Incredible faith.
Sadly, we don’t know much more about Joseph. But we know he was chosen by God to raise the Son of God. What a mighty, insurmountable task! What kind of man was this?! Apparently not the kind we would have chosen, but then we’re not God are we?