Jesus Stepfather, Joseph
Matthew 1,2 and Luke 1:26-38, 2: 1-20
As the celebratory season of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ approaches, I like to hit the pause button and research the backstory (or should I say the real story) of portions of the Nativity. It’s so easy to gallop right into the Christmas season so focused on the thousands of things that must be done that we forget to relish in the multiple miracles that had to take place in order for Jesus to enter our world.
One of the miracles that is easily overlooked is the heart of Joseph, Jesus stepfather. Obviously, God knew the heart and soul of this gentle giant. I refer to him as giant only in that he had to have had the hugest heart to stand counter-culturally, swallow his pride, and go above and beyond worldly standards to protect and honor Gods plan, his betrothed Mary, and his unborn stepson Jesus.
Allow me to set the stage. Joseph and Mary by 1st century culture & Jewish standards were bound together as man and wife. Mary’s father had negotiated her bride price with Joseph and his father. At the point of Mary’s immaculate conception, Joseph had already paid Mary’s bride price, hence they were now betrothed.
No real marriage ceremony took place. The payment of the bride price was the ceremony. Though, there was usually a huge parade for the whole town to participate in that lead the bride to the marriage supper where everyone would gather, eat, sing, dance, and witness the brides’ father giving the bride to her groom and his family. Once the couple consummated their union, they move from betrothed to married.
By Mary stating, “behold your bondservant” to the angel after he told her that she would become pregnant and give birth to God’s son, she was then set up by legal and cultural standards to be dragged out of the city and stoned to death as an adulteress. Her life was in Joseph’s hands.
It is obvious that Joseph did in fact love Mary deeply. Had their union simply been a business deal as most arranged marriages of that time period, Joseph would have been expected to save his families honor and have Mary killed. He didn’t do what was the norm. He went home, I’m sure broken hearted, and too, “pondered these things in his heart.” God knew Joseph’s heart. He knew what Joseph would decide and how Joseph would care and nurture Jesus as the perfect stepfather. After the angel appears to Joseph while he was sleeping again Joseph’s actions portray the intentions of this gentle giant. He does not do what the world expected of him. Joseph honored God and not what the worldly standards deemed honorable.
Joseph’s honor is seen in action by Mary traveling with Joseph to Bethlehem for the census. The trip by foot would have taken four days. At this point, Mary was at full term carrying Jesus. She should have stayed at the home she shared with Joseph and his family. But Mary went with Joseph. Did you ever think to ask why? By law, only the head of household had to account for their family during a Roman census. Mary did not need to be there. Joseph was still protecting Mary and keeping her by his side. The danger of her being killed by his family or the town still hung in the air. Traveling on foot back then was quite dangerous. The main route, The Via Maris, was notorious; full of vandals and bandits attacking and stealing from travelers. Most people traveled in groups and caravans as there was safety in numbers. Bringing Mary with him was the lessor of the two dangers between leaving her home and traveling the Via Maris. Joseph’s loyalty to God in protecting Mary and Jesus is how our Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem came to be. Fulfilling prophecy.
Yes, Joseph is a testament of a man honoring God and His will despite worldly expectations. Joseph is a testament to all fathers and stepfathers everywhere.
From Sisters in the Spirit to you and yours. May God richly bless you this Christmas season and we pray that each of us find a moment to pause and glory in the multitude of blessings bestowed gearing up to the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.
In and Through His Grace,
President, Sisters in The Spirit