There are approximately 13 different Josephs mentioned in the Bible. The name Joseph was certainly common throughout history and it still is today. However, when I study the story of the more prominent Joseph of Nazareth, I have learned that he was anything but what you would call, your “average Joe.”
While Joseph may not be the highlighted part of the Christmas Story, his involvement in the birth and rearing of the Messiah was nothing less of fundamental. If you are looking for a solid lesson of biblical manhood from Scripture, the story of Joseph is a powerful exemplar. For the single Christian guy desiring a meaningful and God-glorifying relationship, learn from the story of Joseph. For the single Christian gal desiring the same, pray and look for a guy like Joseph. Yet, whoever and wherever you are in life, the story of Joseph is one that can certainly challenge and encourage us all to Christ to grow in our Christian life.
So, who was Joseph? And what makes his story such a great one? Let’s dive in!
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name ‘Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus. -Matthew 1:18-25
He was a protector.
- He protected Mary’s purity.
During this time in Jewish culture, an engagement was a legally binding agreement. After the established engagement, the couple would then spend a minimum of nine months apart to observe the bride’s purity. Joseph acted in obedience to honor and protect Mary’s purity and likewise Mary did the same. So, when Joseph was confronted with the news that not only was Mary with child, but a child who was not biologically his, one can imagine how confusing and perhaps even hurtful that knowledge could be.
- He protected Mary’s reputation.
Should either fiancé(e) decide to end the engagement, a divorce was necessary to call things off. Divorce was a very public ordeal in that time, yet in Matthew 1:19, we see that Joseph had resolved to go against the grain of common practice and not put Mary to shame. Being presented with news of her expecting a child, one would assume that she had been unfaithful to him. Matthew describes Joseph as being a “just” man in his response to Mary’s life-altering situation, He demonstrated a Christ-like kind of grace over disgrace.
- He protected his family.
Read little further Matthew 2, verses 13-23:
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.”
Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Under the rulership of the jealous and bloodthirsty king, Herod, Joseph bravely yielded to the message of the Lord to provide refuge for his family and protect Jesus from being slain. The trek from Egypt to Galilee would have certainly been difficult, yet Joseph bore it in obedience and fortitude. Again, we see that Joseph was no passive counterpart in what we know today as the Christmas story, but rather, his role as husband and earthly father to Jesus was active and essential in fulfilling God’s plan. Joseph was courageous, shielding, faithful and obedient.
In the remainder of the gospel chapters we hardly hear Joseph mentioned any further. I know I, for one, wish to know more about him and his life. Some theorize that perhaps he died later in Jesus’ life, but Scripture does not outright say. Though his part in Scripture is brief, he is yet another remarkable underrated saint whose story can teach us to live out the same God-honoring virtues and empower us to boldly live out our faith and obedience to God in humility and without fear.