The Father in the Background

Of all the parts of the Christmas story, one that took a back seat was Joseph. He didn’t complain but was an example of how we should feel toward the working of God. He shared the title of father to Jesus. He was not his actual father; God was. But he was assigned the responsibility to be the earthly father. All through the birth and the tender young years Jesus needed care. It was not until a Jewish male was 30 years old that he was considered an adult man. At 30 Jesus stepped out into ministry. He was ready. I believe that a good earthly father and mother helped him. When he stepped out at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, there is no mention of Joseph so we assume that by this time he had passed away.

Matthew gives us Joseph’s role in the nativity. If ever a man went out on a limb of faith, Joseph did. He questioned things at first because he didn’t know what was going on. After the angel spoke to him he followed the Lord.

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.

Joseph is in the background. There is so much involved in the birth of the son of God. Mary was young, in her teens, and a virgin. She was devout and loved the Lord. She was looking for the Messiah and trusted the one to come just as we now trust the one who has come. Salvation works forward from the death of Jesus on the cross and it works backwards. Everyone before the death of Jesus who was looking for the Savior was forgiven. Mary was looking for the Messiah but never in all her imagination knew it would be her.  She knew the prophecy but how a virgin would conceive was a mystery to all of them. I don’t know how it happened either.

Joseph was about to put Mary away privately. He loved her and didn’t want to hurt her. That’s why he was going to do it privately. He didn’t rush into a decision. He didn’t just say “that’s it” and parade her around town. He was patient and sought the Lord. There are just a few verses about Joseph. He was a carpenter and trusted God. He and Mary, two nobodies, were the least to be selected but God chose them to receive his son. Surely town leaders. Surely someone from Jerusalem’s upper class. Jesus came to save all classes of people from all nations. Mary said the Lord had regarded her low estate. She knew it was surrendering her entire future but she said “be it unto me according to thy word.”

Joseph didn’t understand at first but what impresses me the most is the trying of his faith. He was just. He trusted God. He studied the Old Testament scriptures. He lived to please the Lord. We all have crises of faith, but he didn’t ‘push the button’ to write Mary off. While he thought on everything from his teaching to wait on the Lord, in a night of fitful sleep, an angel appeared to him. Even not understanding it all, he waited to get an answer. The angel told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.

God had Joseph in mind from the foundation of the world to take care of his son. Jesus was the Messiah that Joseph looked for. His wife carried him in her womb. No doubt, if there was no midwife around, Joseph helped deliver Jesus. We don’t know for sure. But imagine the privilege of cutting the umbilical cord. Joseph probably held Jesus before Mary did. He was a father in the background yet did his best for his foster son.

He told everyone the baby’s name would be Jesus. That was his role as the man to name him and take him for circumcision. Who taught him carpentry skills? Who took Jesus to Egypt for safety? Who took him back to Nazareth to be raised? Joseph gave his all to fulfill his role in what God wanted him to do. We can all learn to better serve the Lord by the example of Joseph. He showed us the value of waiting on the Lord. We see what it takes to trust God regardless of what it looks like or how it feels. He retained his integrity.

Even if your service is in the background, the goal is to meet the Lord with a ‘job well done.’ Will God say that to me? To you? Do we need to surrender more of ourselves to God? We can hear that ie we’ll be the kind of Christian that Joseph was.

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