Theology Thursday: Joseph's Character

man with head down praying

We know little about his parentage, nothing of his upbringing, when or how he died, but he was responsible for the safe keeping of the most important person in history. From the few times that we meet Joseph, a portrait develops of a man who was just at his core a faithful follower of God.

Of all the people we tend to read about at Christmas, Joseph is one who is especially intriguing. We are introduced to him in Matthew 1:16 as “the husband of Mary” and after just a few passages he is off the scene in Matthew. In Luke, we see Joseph and Mary finding a twelve-year-old Jesus at the temple, but that is the last we hear of him. So what, if anything, can we conclude about this man who was entrusted with the rearing of God’s “only begotten Son” (John 3:16)?

The first time Matthew discusses Joseph at length, he describes him as “just” (1:19). Despite his legal and cultural rights, Joseph did not want any harm to come to Mary even though she was pregnant during their engagement. An angel woke him from a dream and explained that Mary’s pregnancy was a miracle, that her conception was the fulfillment of prophecy and that her son would be “God with us” (1:23). We are not privy to Joseph’s response, other than to observe what he did, which was to marry her.

The next time Joseph is encountered, he had just welcomed the wise men from the east who brought gifts to Jesus. Once again, he dreams, but this time he was warned to leave for Egypt because Jesus was in danger. Matthew notes that Joseph not only obeyed, but “he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt” (2:14). The fact that he left by night would suggest that he not only obeyed, but that he obeyed immediately.

The times that Matthew chronicles about Joseph, the family was living in Egypt and once again he was visited in his sleep. This time, he learned that he was safe to return to Israel and subsequently was told him to settle in Galilee. One can only speculate whether Joseph began to wonder what each night’s sleep would bring. We do not know how long Joseph lived or how he died. We do not know if there were other visitations that were not recorded in the Bible. We can, however, begin to see that God had placed his Son in the hands of a very capable man; a man who was just, obedient, responsive and flexible. All of these are characteristics that one could emulate in their profession and family.

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