Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Life of Joseph

A number of people named Joseph are mentioned in the Bible, and the most well-known is probably not Joseph the husband of Mary, mother of Jesus. At church meeting on Sunday I mentioned that I don't think I have ever preached a sermon on Joseph or heard one preached. As he took a lower place behind his (as was supposed) son Jesus and his wife Mary, so we have often relegated him to a place in which he is only spoken in passing. Yet he, being dead, has some things to speak to us.

Joseph is mentioned by name about 16 times in the New Testament, often only in passing -- also once in a reference to Jesus as the "carpenter's son".

Joseph was an earthly descendant of David, King of Israel. He lived in the northern part of the country in Galilee in the city of Nazareth. In that city he betrothed a young lady named Mary. Before they married Joseph learned that his chosen bride was pregnant with a child he knew was not his. He thought about what to do and decided to break the betrothal in a private way rather than make her a public example of impurity. While meditating on that decision, God's angel appeared to him and declared that Mary was not guilty of fornication, but that the child in her womb was put there by the Holy Ghost. At God's insistence, Joseph took Mary to be his wife, but they did not consummate the marriage until after the birth of the Son of God.

During the pregnancy of Mary, the Roman ruler issued a taxation proclamation that required families to return to their native cities. Being descendants of David, Joseph and Mary made the arduous trip* to King David's city, Bethlehem, where Jesus was soon born. On the eighth day they made the trip to Jerusalem, where the child was circumcised and named. They found a home in Bethlehem and settled down in anonymity until that situation was interrupted by wise men from the east who hailed Jesus as King of the Jews. The ruler Herod was not happy to have a rival, even if a baby. Through an angel, God warned Joseph that the child's life was not safe, and the little family fled the country for safety in Egypt. After Herod died, God instructed Joseph to return to Israel. They passed through the area of Bethlehem, where Herod's son now ruled, and returned to their old home of Nazareth. There in that same town, and amongst a growing family, Jesus the Son of God was raised to manhood. Joseph carefully led his family in the ways of their faith, taking the family annually to Jerusalem for the Passover. It is there, in the 12th year of the life of Jesus, that we last hear of Joseph.

What happened to Joseph? We know not. His absence during the public ministry of Jesus suggests that he had died. The presence of the mother, brothers and sisters in Mark 6:3 hints that Joseph was no longer alive at that time, and the marriage at Cana in John 2 hints this as well. That Jesus as the eldest son makes arrangements for the care of His mother (John 19:25-27) seems fairly conclusive that Joseph's decease occurred before that event. Alas, we do know of a certainty, and cannot say with more certainty.

* the distance is some 65 miles "as the crow flies" (which definitely would not have been how Joseph and Mary traveled, and they probably went by way of Jericho to avoid Samaria); some suggest that the journey was a five day walk if the roads were dry and the travelers few; adding a pregnant woman to the equation would slow the travel time even more

No comments: