“What part did Mary and Joseph have in God’s plan?” was the question posed in one of the children’s Bibles we read from one evening last week. The answer the editor provided was “God chose Mary and Joseph to be Jesus’ parents on earth.” I love the simplicity of children’s Bibles, but the answer to this question is much deeper than the one provided on page 176 beside the picture of a somber looking and surprisingly clean shaven man, who I can only assume represents Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. The answer, when unpacked, can take you down many winding avenues, but the one it is currently taking me down is the part Joseph, in particular, played in the story of Christ’s birth and subsequent upbringing.
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about : His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)
I can only imagine what this world and the families making up the churches today would look like if more men embraced their walk with the Lord in the ways the Joseph did. While we do not know much about this Jewish carpenter/builder (Matthew 13:55), what we do know speaks volumes about what it means to be a man legitimately following God. His words may be silent to us, but his actions show us he was a strong man who provides a glimpse into depths often unheard but physically shown in many ways.
- Real men love God and obey Him no matter the cost. Think about it. Joseph, of all people, had every right to walk away from Mary, and no one would have batted an eye. In fact, people could find him much more relatable had he simply said, “you’re on your own” to the young girl who was his bride-to-be. But not Joseph. This young carpenter stepped up and shows everyone what it looks like to fully embrace the role God calls you to in His sovereign plan for your family. Those who love Him will obey Him no matter the cost.
- Real men lead and honor the mother of their children. While Jesus was not his biological child, Joseph cared for Mary and the babe in her womb as though it were his own son. He was a daddy in every sense, and he treated the mother of his child(ren) with care and protection. He physically led her to safety so she could birth the Savior! Joseph chose to make Mary forever part of his legacy and record for history that this woman and child were his. He listened and used wisdom as he cared for his bride on their journey, providing safety, shelter, and stability. What a man! If every man led and honored his wife in such a way as Joseph did, we would undoubtedly have very different homes and families. Men who are led by the Lord will lead and honor the mother of their children well.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:25-33)
- Real men seek to serve and do so humbly. Real men serve Jesus and their families with humility. Even though Joseph was the adult, he served the Savior in the role of “dad,” teaching Him and instructing Him in the way He should go. Not one time do we ever read any words from Joseph in Scripture, and yet we know that from the time he knew he would be the one raising God in the flesh, Joseph accepted his unique role in the salvation story. He did what he was to do without question. This man shows every man what it means to embrace his lot—even when the lot completely alters your life.
From the first time Joseph appears on the scene to the last time we hear of him in Scripture (Luke 2:41-52), we are left with more questions than answers. We don’t know how or when he died, and we can only speculate about other details surrounding his life. Like many men today, their roles often go unnoticed as the focus is on the mothers. Yet we all know fathers are paramount in the life of a family. We have a Father God who earthly fathers are meant to imitate, and if they do so well, their families are blessed because of it.
So while we focus on the birth of Jesus during this season, let’s make a concerted effort to think about the fact that even Jesus had someone fulfilling the role of “daddy” while he was young. Joseph teaches us through his actions what it means to parent in such a way that our name is one generations afterward will uphold with honor. Real leaders do not scream and shout—they are often silent and simple as they point the way to our Heavenly Father. People may not speak about Joseph much, but we all know who he is, and we all know he loved and led a woman he did not have to, and he in turn loved and led a child—the One child who loved us all so much that He gave His life so we might know Him and spend eternity with Him. Our Creator and King. Our Savior and Father.
In His Great Love,
Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni loves Jesus and is passionate about serving him through the arts by leading worship and writing for various ministries. She is married to Greg, her hard-working, iron-sharpening-iron spouse. They are opposite in personality but equal in dedication to their marriage and family. Gabbie and Greg are the proud and sleep-deprived parents of two active, sweet, and fun boys and recently welcomed the arrival of their first little girl. An Aggie and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Gabbie is a small-town country girl trapped in the city and loves getting to know people and encouraging them as they seek to know Jesus and make him known.
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