If you have spent any time at all in a Christian setting, you have undoubtedly heard the story of Jesus's conception, birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection. You have probably wondered at the faith of young Mary as she willingly accepted her calling from the Lord and were amazed by Jesus's ministry and His sacrifice for our sins... but have you ever stopped to thing about Jesus's earthly father, Joseph? Today I want to take a very short dive into Joseph's own calling at the time of the immaculate conception and the faith he, himself, must have possessed in order to accept such a difficult task.
"This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”
When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus." – Matthew 1:18-25 (NLT)
We learn so much about Joseph in this passage, and unfortunately, I think much of it goes unnoticed by most readers. Let's break this passage down a bit and see what we find, shall we?
"This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit." – Matthew 1:18 (NLT)
Joseph and Mary were engaged; this we already know, even if we have only limited knowledge of the Bible. There is more to this, however. According to ancient customs, when a man and woman became engaged (most definitely at an alarmingly young age for modern standards), they were essentially married (even before the ceremony). They were committed to one another and in the eyes of the world, an engaged couple was a settled affair. This was really serious stuff! Becoming pregnant before the marriage itself took place and with another man's baby, no less would have been a massive scandal and disgrace to Mary, Joseph, and their families.
"Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly." – Matthew 1:19 (NLT)
We learn here that Joseph was a good man, and I would also venture to say a Godly man by the use of the word "righteous" here (Also see Matthew 1:16; Joseph was from King David's ancestral line). Despite being well within his rights at the time to take Mary to court for her apparent infidelity and have her condemned for embarrassing himself and his family; Joseph decides that he would spare her such embarrassment and leave her quietly. This, I would say, also shows Joseph's deep love for Mary as he sought not to hurt her after he, himself, was clearly hurt by her pregnancy (at least in the beginning).
"As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” –Matthew 1:20-21 (NLT)
We learn a lot in this passage alone! Once again, we have reference to Joseph's ancestry which shows that he has at least a deep family tie to the spiritual. He also clearly knows this, it is not news to him that he is a son of David. Here we also see a large request from God being asked of Joseph. God asks him to go ahead with marrying Mary (which would be seen as a disgrace in the eyes of everyone he knew and met). He has also been chosen to raise the Son of God. This to me shows that God feels he is worthy for the task... but, I wonder if Joseph felt the same? Finally, he is asked to give up a very traditional and important role a father had back in ancient times, naming their children, especially their first born son. This would have perhaps made Joseph feel as though he did not matter to the boy, though it is clear that he did very much; or that he was not important to the story, although he very much is! Perhaps, this is why WE take Joseph for granted as we discover the Gospel story of Jesus and we place him below others in importance.
Now, I want to show you how Joseph, in light of all this, responded to his amazing and honored call from God...
"When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus." – Matthew 1:24-25 (NLT)
When Joseph was asked to take on a task that would bring him, his wife, and his new son dishonor among men, ostracizing, perhaps pain, and would take away the customary rights of him as a father, Joseph answered in obedience. We never learn in the Bible teachings, but it would be fair to assume Joseph had a family and I would love to know how the conversations went when he explained that Mary was in a family way and that he still intended to marry her. I wonder how often he felt left out, scared, and looked over, but continued in his faith, knowing that the picture was bigger than himself, that it was for all of us. Further still, as this passage states, Joseph gave up the rights to his wife as a married man until Jesus was born. How many men could say that they had the faith and the patience to do the same.
Though Joseph is often one of the most overlooked and underappreciated characters in the New Testament, I believe it is clear that Jesus's earthly father was a man of God with the faith of giants and a heart so tied for his Creator; there is no doubt why he was chosen to help raise the King of all nations.