(Photo by Selma Komisky)
Joseph: A Man Behind the Scenes
By Mike Komisky
At this time of year, we celebrate the birth of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. It is the greatest event in the history of man. He was born to die and rise again so man could have purpose and hope. During this season, this story mentions many people we are familiar with. There is of course Mary whose miraculous virgin birth by the Holy Spirit caused rejoicing. There were the wise men who followed the star to the stable and offered gifts to the King of Kings. Then, there was King Herod who tried to stop the birth of Jesus before it even happened.
Yet it in this story, there was a man who appeared that was rarely mentioned at all, his name was Joseph. His lineage traced back from Abraham to King David. We first read about him in Matthew 1:18. The Bible says he was betrothed to Mary. Jewish betrothal was binding. Only divorce could terminate it and Joseph (at the time) was already viewed as Mary’s husband. We are told in Luke 1:26-37 that an angel appeared to Mary and told her and that she would conceive in her womb, that a son would be born, and that his name would be called Jesus. He would be great and the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the child would be called the Holy Son of God.
Then in Matthew 1:19, we get a little glimpse of the character of Joseph. The Bible says he was a “just man.” This means he followed the Jewish law to the letter. But he was also a very humble and merciful husband. Realizing Mary could be seen as an adulterer (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), the penalty for her being pregnant before marriage was to be stoned to death. I can only imagine the fear that he felt for Mary. At first, he didn’t have understanding until an angel appeared to Joseph and told him to take Mary as his wife as she had conceived by the Holy Spirit. He also told him not be afraid. His son’s name would be named Jesus – the Messiah he had been waiting for all his life (Isaiah 7:14). When he awoke from his dream, he did exactly what the angel told him. He took Mary as his wife and Joseph didn’t care about his own reputation, only about Mary’s. Joseph was a servant and earthly father of Jesus.
We next see him mentioned in Luke 2:1-7 as he goes to register for the census with Mary by the order of Caesar Augustus. The trip from Galilee to Judea where Bethlehem was, was a trip compromised of more than 70 miles through rough terrain. This made the journey for Mary very grueling. Yet I’m sure Joseph must have felt deep compassion for his wife and concern about her health. And, this journey would actually fulfill prophecy (Micah 5: 2).
Next after Jesus birth, Joseph in a second dream is told to flee to Egypt and remain there till the death of King Herod. Again, Joseph packs up his things and obeys the angel’s instructions. After Herod dies, Joseph has his last dream and is told to return back to Nazareth.
Lastly, he is mentioned in Luke 2:41-51 as a parent. His son (Jesus) has stayed behind in Jerusalem. We are told in verse 48 that Joseph and Mary were both in great distress wondering where he was. That’s the last we read of Joseph. He’s never mentioned again.
So, you may ask, why would I write about a man who is hardly mentioned and who we know little about? And, what can I learn from his life and examples?
First of all, we see that Joseph was a very humble and merciful husband. The Bible says in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.” His heart was motivated towards others first. He loved Mary deeply and unselfishly.
Secondly, he wholeheartedly believed the promises of God. We never see him questioning God’s Word. He simply believed what he was told. That’s what true faith is – acting on God’s Word and not doubting it.
Thirdly, we are told in Mark 6:3 that he was the son of a carpenter. Joseph used wood for his profession. He was a hard worker who took care of his family. He was responsible. Interestingly, Jesus himself used images of carpentry in lessons to his disciples (Luke 14:30; Matthew 7:24-27; 21:42). Because of Joseph’s example, I believe it had a big impact on Jesus.
And finally, he was a true servant. He stayed in the background and didn’t care about being in the limelight.
As you can see, Joseph was more than just a obscure biblical figure, he was truly an example for generations. Yet, as this story comes to a close, the summation of of it leaves me thinking a lot about what it means to be a husband and a dad. So for all your husbands and fathers out there, here are some final encouraging words from Joseph’s story:
Be the godly husband Christ called you to be. Love your wives unselfishly as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:27). Cherish her and always be concerned about her welfare like Joseph was with Mary.
Be responsible and be an example as a father to your children – Joseph was and I believe Jesus never forgot it. Be the leader at home by the way you live your life as a true godly man and have integrity in all you do.
Know God’s promises like Joseph and have unwavering faith in God’s Word. Trust Him and obey Him completely.
And lastly, stay humble and serve without complaining. It’s OK if people don’t notice what you do – God does, and will reward you accordingly. Maybe that’s why Joseph isn’t mentioned much. He preferred to stay in the background. He knew what the real Christmas story was about. It was about Jesus – not him.
Overall, may you have a blessed Christmas as we rejoice and praise God for our Savior and King, Jesus!