Our teaching pastor (here’s his blog) made a statement that rattled me. To paraphrase, he said Jesus needed an earthly father. Really? I thought Jesus didn’t need anything? He is the Son of God, after all. You know, fully God and fully man. But the statement kept circling back: Jesus needed a dad. He needed Joseph.
Joseph. That mystery man without a speaking part in the original Christmas pageant. The one who forgot to make reservations at Bethlehem’s Holiday Inn. The one who stands in nativity displays with a staff and coy smile – the “third wheel” of the holy family.
I don’t intend disrespect with my tongue-in-cheek musings. The truth is Joseph was chosen by God to participate in a promise fulfilled – the Word becoming flesh. I find it amazing God delivered redemption within the context of family. It’s seems so understated. He could have brought salvation in a much more spectacular, attention-grabbing, Fourth of July kind of way. Instead, He infused the common with something unexpected. A young virgin. A baby. And Joseph.
I confess I’ve sometimes thought of Joseph as weak, even a wimp. A passive man who followed behind the spectacle of Mary and her miraculous baby. A stage hand to the “big show”, left to carry diapers, push the stroller and be at the ready with an open wallet. I know, now I’m adding blasphemy to my prior disrespect. Thankfully, my pastor’s statement brings productive pondering and causes a reconsidering of the real Joseph – Jesus’ dad.
A dad is a role model. An influencer. A challenger. A trainer. A lover of his wife. Someone who works and provides. A protector and keeper. Scripture tells us Joseph was just, obedient and patient in dealing with Mary and her blessed calling (Matthew 1:18-25). I wonder how I would have responded. Honestly, the whole setup was a little “out there.” Angel visits, a miraculous conception and the God-Man baby. Mary’s baby. Joseph’s Mary. Certainly there must have been lots of “why?” questions. But in the midst of the miraculous, Joseph models astonishing faith and prompt obedience. Mary’s man was no wimp.
Tacitus, a first-century Roman Senator said, “The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” I bet Joseph felt the pull toward the safe and familiar. All men do to varying degrees. I sure do. Scripture tell us Joseph planned to divorce Mary quietly. That would have been safe, and acceptable. But God called Joseph to leave the predictable and join Him in the enterprise of Incarnation. To be a dad to a child not his own – an exceptional child who would require exceptional parenting. To love a baby who would disrupt plans and shatter dreams. After all, despite his pedigree, Jesus needed a dad.
If Jesus needed a dad, what does that mean for me – as a dad? I’m thankful none of my children are divine, although displays of divine character are always welcome. Divine or not, my children need a dad. They need me. They need my love, leadership, discipline and nurture. They need to know I am proud of them. They need my time and energy. My patience. A listening ear. They need to observe my successes and failures. My laughter and tears. I must be committed to their mother, and our God. Jesus needed the same things from Joseph.
The father who stands quietly smiling at Mary and the Christ-child in our nativities was a courageous man. He wasn’t just a place-holder to round-out the holy family. Joseph was a man who protected and risked. A man who sacrificed. He was a good father, a good husband. Faithful. Obedient. A real man. A dad. Thank you, Joseph, for being Jesus’ dad.