December 20, 2020 Jesus: The Son of Joseph
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
The O & N Testament Bible is God’s own Holy Scriptures; there we learn everything we need to know about who God is, & what He has done. God Himself has perfectly preserved His Words thru the years for us. In His Bible, God also informs us what to call Him. For example He spoke to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, and made a special covenant with them. So, God refers to Himself as ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ In this covenant-relationship with mankind, God says that He would be like a ‘father’ to us; so we also call God ‘Father’.
In order to rescue us from sin & death, He planned to enter into our world. His holiness made that a challenge = like putting fire next to dry kindling. So, the 2nd person of the Trinity came clothed among us in human flesh, setting aside His power & glory for a time. He came as ‘a son’ in the lineage of certain people. The Bible traces that ancestry back thru king David, and thru Abraham, and Noah, back to Adam. For our Sundays in Advent, we’ve been talking about Jesus’ genealogy. Today we think about Jesus being referred to as ‘the son of Joseph.’ Our verse-of-the-day is Matt.1:16, “And Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.”
You might recall, back during the 2008 presidential election, (between Obama & McCain) the media picked up on a man named Joseph Wurzelbacher; he became known as, ‘Joe the Plumber,’ a symbol of the common, ordinary citizen. Like us, he questioned the political debates with simple logic & common sense. For a while, he was used by the candidates to appeal to the ‘Average-Joe-American’. Some news outlets got a little mileage out of him. But after the election he slipped back into obscurity; just another plumber in Ohio.
Every family tree has many members who are obscure, & been forgotten over time.
This is a sobering reminder, as we think about our own position in our family tree = *are we that important = to be remembered? Many of our ancestors are little more than ‘names’ in the past; they have no statues, or books about their accomplishments. After the third or fourth generation, their living memory is gone. Unless they are famous, or infamous, they’re just a name. This is also true in the history St.Matthew traces in Jesus’ family tree.
The last male name in Jesus’ genealogy is ‘Joseph.’ It was by holy design that Mary became the key figure in the life of Jesus; and Joseph ….we don’t even know when he died. He is just an ‘Average Joe.’ Outside of the birth accounts in Matthew & Luke, the only specific mention of Joseph is when he & Mary took 12 yr.old Jesus to Jerusalem for The Passover.
After Jesus went missing for a time, it’s Mary who scolds Him, not Joseph. After that event, it’s Joseph who goes missing from Scripture = like ‘joe-the-plumber’ who was suddenly gone from the news. Bible scholars don’t even speculate how he died or when. ‘Average Joe’ = /took Mary as his wife, /was Jesus’ guardian-father, /raised his family faithfully in the Lord’s Church & teachings, /& then -Biblically- was ‘no more’.
So, if you like to count: Jesus was called the ‘Son of David’ 15 times in the Gospels; He is called the ‘Son of God’ about 30 times; the messianic title ‘Son of Man’ is used almost 80 times = Jesus called Himself that many times. And just 3 times is Jesus referred to as ‘Joseph’s son’; & one time = ‘the carpenter’s son.’
In my family tree, there are those who have a name, but that’s about it. Some died young, so they didn’t have much of a life to remember. Maybe your tree has some names of those who kind-of ‘disappeared’ & were lost-track-of. Joseph is kind-of that extra figure in nativity sets who is not a shepherd, but not a Wise Man. He merely balances out the scene with the beloved Mary next to the cradle. In many paintings of the nativity, Joseph is in the background, hardly visible. Which may make you & me ask: *how visible are we in our family, or in the world? Or the more important question: *how visible does God expect us to be?
The way Luke writes his gospel account, we get the impression that he probably talked with Mary, & got some details from her experiences. In Matthew’s gospel, we don’t hear of the nativity scene with shepherds under a sky filled with angels; we don’t hear about the trip to Bethlehem, or the no-vacancy inn; no stable & no manger. It actually sounds like Matthew writes from Joseph’s perspective. We hear of Joseph & Mary being ‘betrothed’; that is, formally engaged to be married. That engagement time would be about a year long, & there would be no physical intimacy = that would properly come after the wedding ceremony. But this engagement was legal & permanent; ended either by divorce or death.
When Mary was found to be ‘with child’, Joseph had the right to put her to death, which was God’s OT way to highly-value & protect marriage & morality among His holy people. But, Joseph chose the other option: he decides to divorce her quietly, because he’s not willing to publicly shame her for her supposed adultery. This approach of solidly, justly, standing against sin, but doing it without anger and with compassion toward Mary, shows us why God chose Joseph to be the guardian father who would raise the Son of God.
In godly wisdom, Joseph is both a righteous man before God AND a compassionate man toward others. Rather than lashing out at Mary in anger & punishment, Joseph chose to show her mercy & compassion, while still being faithful to God, and turning away from her sin.
When the angel-of-the-Lord appears to Joseph in a dream, & tells him that this child in Mary was not the result of sin, but of God’s own Spirit & grace, Joseph has to revamp his plan.
He was a student of Holy Scripture; & when the angel informed him that he was to name the child ‘Ye-shua’//Ye-sus’, because He would save His people from their sins, that would’ve been like Joseph getting a shot of adrenaline. The Biblical Time -of all times- had arrived!
This was no ordinary conception, because this was no ordinary child.
For many Hebrew names, they speak of some characteristic of God. Yo-seph means ‘God will supply’, and the name John is Yo-chanan, ‘God is gracious.’ By the message of the angel, this Child’s name was not just another ‘reminder’ of God’s goodness, but the sign that God was taking action. This Child was the long-promised Messiah. His name would not just symbolize the past action that Yahweh saved His people from the angel of death in Egypt, or delivered them from earthly slavery thru the opening of the Red Sea.
Instead, this Child himself would be the embodiment of God’s salvation, to save mankind from sin & its eternal punishments. People would suppose this was just the Son of Joseph,
but the reality was – this was thee Savior from sin. As promised, from the lineage of David, this offspring would be a king, but anointed with the Holy Spirit; so that all who believe & are baptized into His name would be saved unto life-everlasting. Unlike any child ever born, this was God coming to redeem His own broken creatures by giving His own life.
I guess Joseph is one of those strong silent types; because Matthew records no comment to the angel, and no conversation with Mary – or anyone else. Joseph doesn’t argue or delay.
Matthew says: “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took her as his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” (Mt.1)
While we are told that Mary, for her part, treasured things & pondered them in her heart, we’re not told what Joseph either thinks or feels. For many men, that’s not a focus.
God commanded something; so it simply needs to be heard, believed & obeyed. Men think:
‘God has His plan; when He wants me to know something about it, He’ll tell me. Until then, I’ll just do what He says.’ Some men feel things, and some men try to figure out how or why things work.
As for Joseph, ‘he did what the angel of the Lord commanded him.’ The Lord had not canceled Joseph’s plans with his beloved Mary; but the Lord altered those plans for a time. The Lord hadn’t changed his responsibilities as a husband & father, but there was this additional thing to do: raise this Child Jesus properly & as his own; and then stand back, and behold the glory & working of the Lord to save people from their sins.
We should take a lesson or two from Joseph, and apply them to our lives. +Most obviously, we should not be quick to complain against God for the life that He’s assigned to us.
He alone has given us life. Life in this world has ups & downs for all people; but God gives us faith to contend with all those things. God is trustworthy, & promises that He will not let us be tested beyond what He will help us handle. +He promises that troubles cannot take us away from Him; sorrows do hurt, but that’s only because this fallen world takes away some of the good things & people God gives to us. Because of God’s Savior, our loved ones are safe with Him until we join them in the Lord’s heavenly home.
+Joseph’s life can remind us that our children are -really- not our own; they may be our offspring, but their life also comes from God, and He has given them their own assignments. They will have their own ups & downs, and He alone decides the number of their days on this earth. We raise & love our children, but they are truly in the Lord’s hands. And no matter what happens with them, we will thank the Lord for their part in our lives.
And Jesus’ guardian, ‘average Joe’, reminds us that having our name known in this world is not that big of a priority for us. It is enough if we are righteous and compassionate people; doing what the Lord assigned to us.
It’s a good thing for us to be known & remembered as a good Christian example in our living; But we don’t have to worry about whether our name & life is remembered more than two or three generations down the line. The important thing is to enter into the Lord’s eternal kingdom.
The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph twice more. First, Joseph was told to take his family to Egypt to protect his adopted son from the murderous King Herod. Then, after Herod’s death, Joseph was told in a dream to return to Israel; to protect the Child, Joseph chose the area of Galilee, & settled in Nazareth. Once again, simple & straightforward; Joseph did what was commanded of him. Compared to all the men of this world, I’d say that
-just in those things- Joseph is way above average.
What about YOU = *how do you compare to either Joseph or Mary? Mary praised the Lord for choosing her to bring the Savior into the world. She said: ‘…from now on all generations will call me blessed.’ And, *whose name is more well-known than The Virgin Mary? Joseph was also chosen for an important assignment, which he carried out faithfully. But history remembers almost nothing except his name. So, *why should you be remembered?
The real hope we have is not that the world will remember us, but that God will never, ever, forget about us. That’s why the Son of God came down as the Son of Joseph. Joseph’s assignment was to protect baby Jesus from Herod’s soldiers as they marched into Bethlehem, and ran their spears thru all the boys two years old & under. But Joseph could not protect his son later on from Jesus’ own mission to be run-thru with thorns & nails & spear at the cross on calvary.
I wonder if the reason Joseph wasn’t around at that time is because he might’ve tried to protect his son from the very crucifixion that would save a whole world full of average & forgettable sinners from their sins. It was not in Joseph’s assignment to be at the cross; but Joseph, & all of us, have benefited greatly from that awful crucifixion, and that glorious resurrection of Jesus-the-Savior. For that, our lives are to be lived in gratefulness, in prayer, in praise, and in thankful obedience to the God who never forgets His people.
Jesus is referred to as the ‘Son of Joseph.’ Joseph serves as a witness for all the quiet & faithful people of God; some are in our own family trees. May God comfort us in knowing that He knows us by name, and He remembers to forgive our sins, & open heaven’s door for us. Amen.