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Joseph: The earthly father of Jesus

Being a father is an awesome responsibility. Most men have little preparation for rearing children and find it a huge challenge. But what if the child you are raising is Jesus? Consider Joseph, “the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.” Matthew 1:16 (NASB)

The Bible does not tell us much about Joseph, but we do know that he was self-sacrificing, righteous, obedient, loving, and financially supported his family. While tradition says that Joseph was a carpenter, the Bible simply says that he was a craftsman (tekton). This term was used interchangeably for one who worked with wood, stone, or metal. For sure, Joseph was a common laborer with a strong work ethic.

His engagement to Mary was complicated. Usually, marriages were arranged by the families, with the bride and groom giving final consent. According to Jewish custom, once the engagement agreement was finalized, a waiting period of one year was instituted. It was during this time that the shocking Heavenly announcement was made.

When Joseph heard that Mary was expecting, he was devastated. Caught between love and what appeared to be immorality, Joseph was about to make a history-changing decision (Matthew 1:18-19). To his credit, his humble submission to God caused Joseph to make the right choice while risking major embarrassment.

After the birth of Jesus, Joseph fulfilled the duties of an earthly father with excellence. Remember those strange situations with the shepherds and the Wise Men? A new father would be very protective and even suspicious of these strangers. But Joseph had an extra measure of wisdom and grace to manage all of these “interruptions” in his normally reclusive life.

Speaking of the Wise Men, they brought sudden wealth into Joseph’s impoverished household. The acquisition of gold, frankincense, and myrrh would require proper procedures for security and expense. Just how did Joseph manage this increase of affluence? Some say that the money was spent for their escape and sustenance while in Egypt. A few teachers believe that Joseph sent Jesus to Rabbinical school for ministry preparation. Others think that some of it was saved to maintain Jesus’ three years of ministry. The Bible is not clear on these points.

Unmistakably, Jesus knew that his biological Father was God. When Jesus was 12, the family visited Jerusalem (Luke 2:41). When they left to return to Nazareth, Jesus remained behind in the Temple. Once Mary located Jesus, she remarked that “your father and I” have been worried. Jesus quickly responded that “I must be about my Father’s business.”

In hindsight, we realize that Joseph was an outstanding example of an earthly father. He loved Jesus with complete devotion, and we should also. Remember, the first Christmas was a family affair. And God provided enough wisdom for their complex life situations. He still does!


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