"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
December 8, 2010
Growing up, my dad played a very important role in the life of me and my sisters. He was a hard worker and made sure his family was provided for. We knew that if needed, he would do everything possible to protect and care for us. But in our day to day life, it was Mama that we spent the most time with. She was a homemaker and worked hard cooking, cleaning, sewing our clothes, and being there to see us off to school and there when we got home. In the summers she canned garden produce and fruit, and made homemade jellies. My parents would order baby chicks in the spring and raise them, then butcher them in the fall to put in the freezer. Mama was the one who read me stories, gave me hugs and kisses, and came and laid down beside me when I got scared during the night. I have a lot of memories of time spent with Mama, but that doesn't mean that Daddy wasn't important in my life too. And it doesn't mean that he wasn't just as important in my upbringing. Each parent had their own particular role that they played in my life.
I believe that it was much the same in the life of Jesus. This time of year when we hear the Christmas story about the birth of Jesus, it seems as if most of the focus is put on Mary. In fact, throughout the life of Jesus the writers refer to Mary occasionally, even when He was on the cross. But there are very few scriptures that speak of Joseph, and none after Jesus passes the age of twelve. But I believe that Joseph had a very important role in the life of Jesus. In fact, had he not been an extraordinary man of God, I don't think Mary would have been chosen to give birth to Jesus. I believe when God chose Mary to be the mother of His Son, he also took into account who the earthly father was that would be raising Jesus.
Matthew chapter one begins by saying, "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham." Verse 16 says, "And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ." This genealogy is not the lineage of Mary, but of Joseph. Although Jesus was not the biological son of Joseph, his family lineage was important enough to be listed in the very first chapter of the New Testament. King David was in part of that genealogy, and Jesus was often referred to as the "Son of David", although David was in the blood line of Joseph and not Mary.
Although the ages of Joseph and Mary are never mentioned, tradition says that he was somewhat older than her and she was a young girl of approximately 14 years of age. Matthew begins by telling the story from Joseph's standpoint, but Luke begins by telling it from Mary's side. You really need to read both books to get a full picture of what exactly happened. I will be going back and forth between the two books.
Beginning in Luke 1:26 the scripture says that, "... the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, 'Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!'"
The angel then proceeds to tell Mary, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest."
Mary questions, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God." The angel reminded her that her relative, Elizabeth, has conceived a son in her old age; and although she had been barren she was now in her sixth month. Then the angel concluded, "For with God nothing is impossible!"
It doesn't seem as if Mary argued or questioned, but instead replied, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word." Mary then went into the hill country to a city of Judah to visit Elizabeth, where she stayed for three months.
The scripture never says if Mary went to tell Joseph the news herself, or if she sent her father, or exactly who told him about Mary's pregnancy. Perhaps relatives who went to visit Elizabeth during that time noticed that Mary was pregnant and beginning to show, and came back to Nazareth and gossiped about her and Joseph, so he heard it through rumor. The scripture doesn't share those details. But after listing the genealogy, Matthew 1:18 says, "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about; His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband was a righteous (or just) man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly."
That last verse always confused me somewhat because the scriptures speak of Mary and Joseph as being betrothed, but yet it says that he decided to divorce her quietly. From my understanding, during those times when a couple was pledged to be married, they had entered into a legal binding agreement. The only way to undo that betrothal agreement was to sign a legal document of divorcement. Although they had not yet entered into marriage, Mary was legally pledged to Joseph as his wife.
Apparently at this point, Joseph is not aware of the angel's visit to Mary. Once he found out she was pregnant, perhaps he began to wonder if Mary was in love with another man. All he knew was that she was with child, and he was not the father. At that point, Joseph must have felt very hurt and betrayed. He probably questioned how he could have misjudged her character so wrongly. An adulterous woman during that time could be punished by stoning. The scripture says that he did not want to expose her to public disgrace, which could mean that she would have been put on trial in a very public court. Joseph showed a lot of maturity and just how honorable he was by not wanting Mary to be publicly disgraced, but wanted her to be as protected as possible. I'm sure after a lot of thought, he concluded that the best way he could do this was to secretly sign the divorcement document. Many men would feel betrayed and want revenge and think, "She deserves any punishment she gets by embarrassing and humiliating me like this in front of the entire village! All our friends and family know that we're betrothed, yet she becomes pregnant with another man's child; and most of them will think we sinned and it's my baby." Yet I think Joseph's response shows just how much he truly did love her. It also showed what an upright, righteous man he was.
But something happened that stopped Joseph before he could act upon his decision. Verse 20 says, "But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.'"
Verse 22 explains that, "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet; 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' -- which means, 'God with us.'" The Son of God could not be conceived by human methods, because that would take away from His holiness and would not fulfill scripture. The Holy Spirit placed that seed within Mary's womb, a young girl who was a virgin. Although Jesus was fully human and was birthed from woman, He was also fully God's Son who had been sent from heaven to fulfill His Father's purpose.
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife, and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to Jesus.
After the birth of Jesus, Herod felt threatened so began a search in order to kill him. Once again, and angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." So Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus during the night, where they stayed until the death of Herod.
Yet again, Joseph had an angel appear to him in another dream to let him know that those who were trying to take the child's life were dead, so he was to take the child and His mother back to Israel. Upon their arrival, Joseph heard that Herod's son was reigning and he was afraid to go there. It seems as if he had another dream, and took his family to go live in Nazareth instead.
Joseph is only referred to a couple more times following this. Jesus is later referred to in scripture as a carpenter's son. So we know that Joseph worked as a carpenter, and very likely taught Jesus the trade. The two of them may have spent many hours together working on various building projects. Joseph probably showed Jesus how to build and fix different things. I wonder when Jesus began His ministry and was traveling around to different villages if someone had a leaky roof or needed some carpenter work done in their home, while He was staying there, if He'd get a hammer and saw and fix those things for them? Scripture doesn't say so, but it could have happened.
Probably while Jesus was a young boy working with his father, Joseph would teach Him all about the religious law. I can imagine Joseph being a fatherly example to Jesus in how to respect and treat and love other people. Although scripture doesn't say, I believe that Joseph played an important role in the upbringing of Jesus and had great influence upon Him. God handpicked not only the mother for His Son, but He also handpicked who He wanted to be the earthly father of His Son. That makes me believe that Joseph must have been a very godly man who loved Jesus and was made sure He was well provided for and protected.
The only other references to Joseph are found in Luke chapter two. It tells of Joseph and Mary presenting the boy Jesus to the Lord in the temple in Jerusalem. It was time to circumcise him and they went to offer sacrifices.
Every year they went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When Jesus was twelve, the feast was over and his parents were returning home. Jesus had stayed behind in Jerusalem, but His parents were unaware of it, thinking that He was in the caravan. They probably thought Jesus was running around playing with the other kids. They didn't miss Him for a day, then began looking for Jesus among their relatives and friends. They had to return to Jerusalem to look for Him. Like any parent who loves their child, I'm sure their hearts were filled with fear at the thought of what could have happened to their son. Although they had been told that He was the promised Messiah, I don't think they fully recognized what that meant. All they knew was that their boy was missing and they had no idea where He was.
After three days, they found Jesus in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. Like a typical mother, Mary said, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you!" He answered, "Why were you searching for me? Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" But they didn't understand what Jesus was saying to them.
After this the scripture basically skips ahead 18 years till when Jesus began His ministry at the age of 30. Joseph is never again mentioned, although scripture mentions Mary and the fact that Jesus had siblings that would have been born to Mary and Joseph. Many believe that by the time Jesus began His earthly ministry that Joseph had already died.
Although there's not a lot of verses that refer to Joseph, he still had a very vital role in the life of Jesus. I imagine Joseph being a muscular man from years spent sawing wood and working as a carpenter. I can picture his hands being very calloused and rough. Yet I can also envision him wanting all customers to be pleased with his work, regardless of how large or small the job may have been. He may have been a quiet man who didn't have a lot to say. But I can also imagine him teasing and joking with Jesus as they worked, enjoying the sound of Jesus' laughter. Perhaps during a break he would play a game with his son. Obviously from how he reacted upon initially hearing of Mary's pregnancy, Joseph had a sensitive spirit and was a very gentle, understanding man. He was probably very humble too. Carpenter's didn't make a lot of money in those days, so it's doubtful that they had a lot of money and may have been very poor. But I think Joseph and Mary had a very happy, peaceful home.
I think we can learn a lot from Joseph. Although we may not know a lot about him, we know enough to know that he was an honorable man who always tried to do the right thing. When he learned of Mary's pregnancy he didn't want revenge, but wanted to protect her as much as possible. When he received direction from dreams, he didn't question or worry, but he obeyed. He took his family to Jerusalem in observance to the Feast of the Passover each year.
We need men like Joseph who will be honorable husbands and fathers. Men who will teach their children about God and take them to church. Men who will strive to obey God in all things, without question. Men who are righteous and just.
But we women can also learn from his life. We need to not let our emotions jump to conclusions regarding other people, and try to protect the reputations of those who may have hurt us. We need to try to prevent public humiliation or embarrassment of those who may have offended or betrayed us. We need to treat others as Joseph treated Mary. Also, we need to learn to obey God without questioning and worry. Joseph didn't know what faced them once they reached Egypt. He didn't know where they were going to live, what kind of house they'd live in, how he would provide for his family, or any other details. He just knew that he was instructed to do this to protect his child, so he said okay and went. Oh to have strong faith like that!
May we all follow Joseph's example and be godly men and women who are known as being just and righteous!
Once in awhile, I run across a pearl of wisdom from an unexpected place. One of our favorite comic strips, Pickles, recently had a quote, "You are as you think, not as you think you are." Original or copied, it's good.
Sometimes we dream of being a wonderful, giving, helpful person, someone who would help an elderly relative who needs to be driven to the doctor every day. But when the time comes, we think about anything else to avoid feeling guilty for not really doing it.
This month I'll be sharing family recipes for Christmas -- some from myself and others from other family members.
Oven Caramel Popcorn
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. Baking Soda
2 sticks butter
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 cup corn syrup
6 quarts popped popcorn
1 tsp. salt
Pop corn in large pan; remove all un-popped kernels. Mix brown sugar, butter, syrup and salt in a saucepan; boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add baking soda and vanilla. Pour over popcorn; stir well. Spread mixture in large pan. Bake at 200 oven for 1 hour, stirring at each 15 minute interval. Store in tight container.
For with God nothing will be impossible. Luke 2:37
We love you!
Loretta & Jon