Those who are parents understand there are few people to whom we would entrust our own children in the case that we pass on. We would consider a number of qualifications and requirements so seriously in making a selection that it would likely be a truly difficult decision. This is what amazes me about Joseph, the father of Jesus. God allowed Joseph to be His earthly father, meaning he would see to the physical and emotional upbringing of His only begotten Son. How amazing a responsibility that was! In a task many of us would feel unworthy or hesitant to take on, Joseph excelled. Why did God allow Joseph to be the earthly father of Jesus Christ? How could God trust that Joseph would provide His Son with proper training in the way that He should go? Joseph was entrusted with Jesus because he obeyed both God and government, his actions were led by reason, and he showed mercy and compassion like God Himself.
God desired Jesus to be raised by a father who was obedient to His laws and the laws of the government he lived under. Joseph showed obedience to God’s laws and to the laws of the Roman empire (Luke 2:1-5). Matthew, being inspired by God to write an account of Jesus’ miraculous birth, wrote that Joseph was “a just man” meaning he was righteous in God’s sight (Matt. 1:19). For example, while he was considering the circumstances of his betrothed suddenly being with child, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him what he must do. Immediately after the angel had finished speaking to him, Joseph did exactly as commanded (Matt. 1:20-25). Doing exactly as commanded despite his own plans shows a trusting obedience. Later, when we read of Joseph’s early fatherhood of Jesus in Luke’s account, we see that it was not merely a one-time show of great faith, but he made a habit of doing what God had prescribed His children in the Law of Moses (Luke 2:21-24, 27). Being just and righteous means to be following God’s laws with the right heart, and Joseph set a great example of this to God’s only Son and for us today as parents and as Christians.
While he was certainly not without emotion, Joseph was not ruled by emotion and passion. For example, after he found his betrothed wife seemingly unfaithful to their covenant, he “thought about these things” meaning he was not quick to wrath but gave thought to various aspects of the situation (Matt. 1:20, Jas. 1:19). Joseph allowed himself time to reason through the difficult, emotional circumstances which surrounded him. By allowing time for his emotions to settle, he allowed time for God to speak with him. His actions were guided by reason and revelation, not passion and selfishness. It seems fair to assume this was the character of Joseph, because we also see him control his passions for the whole pregnancy until after the birth of Jesus (Matt. 1:25). God desired His Son to have an earthly father to exemplify self-control even in painful and emotional situations; in like manner, He desires every father, mother, and Christian to follow this example and be rational rather than rash. Perhaps if we allow some time, we will allow God to speak to us by going to His Word when we are overwhelmed.
Joseph could have responded with malice and made a public example of Mary for what it seemed she did against him, but he responded instead with mercy and compassion. What an amazing example! He learned that he did not have the whole story and his assumptions were wrong about Mary. It is certain that Jesus had in mind His Heavenly Father in all His teachings, but I wonder if Jesus thought of his earthly father’s example of mercy when he gave these words to His disciples “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12). If we are to be parents and people who follow Christ, we must also follow the characteristics of mercy and compassion like we find in Joseph.
Following Jesus requires we walk on a narrow path. If we follow the footsteps of our Savior who followed the footsteps of his earthly father, we are walking that narrow path to enter into the glory of God one day. Thought he was not sinless, Jesus’ father, Joseph, was entrusted with God’s only Begotten Son due to his faithful obedience, his reasonable decisions, and his merciful compassion. May we seek to follow Joseph’s example.