Overheard unpacking a nativity set one year when Joseph was misplaced, “You know, we really don’t need Joseph. If we don’t find Joseph it wouldn’t matter.”
“You have to have Mary and you have to have Jesus, but Joseph isn’t necessary.”
I beg to differ. Joseph is INCREDIBLY necessary. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about Joseph. You can read the passages in which he is mentioned in a few minutes, but you can also paint quite a portrait of the man who raised Jesus.
Foremost, he was faithful. He was faithful to Mary and he was faithful to God.
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ ” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. (Mat 1:18-24 NLT)
It is easy to lose sight of what is remarkable when the story is so well known. The way that Joseph remained present and committed is commendable. In the special needs community it is also rare. One of the advisors of my ministry is Steve Rhatigan, an attorney who helps families plan for the financial future of their children. On our first meeting he shared with me that all too often the dads “check out” and moms raise their children solo. He helps families deal with the hard side of that reality. What he told me wasn’t news. I’m far too familiar with the statistics.
What about the example of Joseph? Joseph stayed when it was hard. Joseph stayed when the custom of his day was to leave. Joseph stayed and protected the family.
After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” (Mat 2:13-15 NLT)
It would be nice to think it was easy for Joseph to do the right thing. I doubt it was. He fled his country with his family under fear of death. He eventually returned with them to Nazareth where there was likely small town gossip. He parented an extraordinary child and it wasn’t easy. I wonder, where did Joseph find support?
Today, Jeff Davidson seeks to fill that gap for fathers. He founded Rising Above Ministry and authored the book “No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches” about his journey as a special needs dad. Realizing the unmet need for support for dads, he founded the “No More Vacant Dads” initiative. This is a positive ministry with a mission to preserve, encourage and equip special needs dads. Still in the start-up phase, there is a long-term vision for coaching and mentoring. You can learn more about Jeff’s ministry through GoodnightSuperman.com.
I see Jeff’s mission in ministry as equipping dads who have the heart of Joseph. Joseph was the nurturer, the equipper, the protector and the faithful follower of God. We need Joseph in the story. He is so much more than the quiet one in the back.
Father God, we thank you for the example of Joseph and for his faithfulness to you. It is so hard when times are challenging. It is so tempting to walk away. Nurture fathers with your courage and strength. Help each parent, mothers and fathers alike, find the heart of Joseph. Amen.
Photo: Domenico di Pace Beccafumi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons