Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want to tell you the story today of a man who didn’t say much. A man best described as the strong, silent type. Yet this man was an integral part of our Gospel despite never issuing one word throughout it. This morning, we’re going to look at the story of Joseph, the Father of Jesus.
Joseph was raised in the town of Bethlehem. Joseph moved to the town of Nazareth probably to find work as a carpenter. The town of Nazareth wasn’t very big; it only had a population of about 400 people. Barely anyone had even heard of Nazareth. Yet Nazareth was nearby the city of Sepphoris which was the regional capitol of Galilee a little more than 4 miles away. Within the town of Sepphoris lived Joachim, Anna, and their daughter Mary. Joachim and Anna knew Joseph, they were distant cousins, and they knew that he would be good for Mary. They both knew that there were things that Joseph lacked mainly money and desirable skill. Joseph was merely a common laborer. Yet Anna and Joachim figured he had the type of character that would see to it that Mary was always treated well and cared for her above all others.
Mary would have been prized above all else for her virginity. The Marriage of Mary and Joseph was arranged when Mary was about 12 years old. Joseph and Mary were then considered to be betrothed to each other. They were considered to be husband and wife in the legal sense, yet they were going to have to wait for a period of one year to consummate the marriage in a moral sense.
Then one day Joseph’s whole world began to change. Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant. Joseph knew that he wasn’t the Father. This news crushed Joseph! Joseph had so much going on inside him when he found out. Joseph feared becoming a laughingstock; once it was made known to those around him that he wasn’t the father. Joseph internally went through a whole range of emotions upon hearing this news: Joseph was depressed, then Joseph was confused, but more than all this Joseph by shattered wishes that things weren’t going to work out with Mary. Joseph’s response to Mary’s pregnancy though was noteworthy. Joseph was a man of high character. He was the type of person who would stick up for someone when the chips were down. Joseph was the type of person who would stay loyal to someone who didn’t give them any obvious benefit.
Joseph didn’t want to try to one up Mary as a way of lessening his own humiliation. Joseph looked upon Mary with grace. So Joseph looked at Mary wishing to divorce her quietly. Joseph knew that if he made a spectacle of what Mary had done the consequences would be dire. Joseph knew that the Law of the Land was such that if a woman cheated on her finance, she and her lover were both ordered to be stoned to death. People were especially harsh if the women involved were a virgin.
One night, Joseph’s whole world changed forever. Joseph was visited by an Angel. The Angel then proclaimed to Joseph- “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit”
As soon as Joseph heard these words, he was at the crossroads of his life. He probably couldn’t have imagined the purpose behind such an arrangement. Yet the Angel’s next words brought it all into perspective.
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us)
Joseph was given no concrete proof of this new reality of life. He merely knew that he needed to marry Mary as soon as possible to protect his wife from getting stoned to death once evidence of her pregnancy began to show. Mary and Joseph then had to get ready to the 80-mile journey with his pregnant wife Mary to his hometown of Bethlehem to participate in the Roman Census as she readied to give birth.
What Joseph’s story does for us this morning is illustrate how one’s worldview guides them in life.
To illustrate this let me tell a story.
I knew a guy we’ll call Jim that had all sorts of things going for him in life; Jim was smart, he became a lawyer, Jim was hard-working, Jim was detailed-oriented, and made millions of dollars. Yet Jim had one guiding principle that carried him through all human interaction, “Never forget a wrong”. When Jim was getting up there in years, he decided to write notes to all of his 8 children to be given to them upon his death. These notes were going to highlight the ways that they disappointed him over the years. Some of Jim’s children upon reading these notes proceeded to take the last words that they ever received from their father and throw them in the trash. As you can imagine, years after this man’s death kind words are rarely spoken about Jim. I want to defend Jim this morning. Jim had experienced plenty in life to cause him to expect disappointment in other people. Jim had seen others try to take advantage of him for his wealth. Jim wasn’t a villain; he was incredibly smart, and more complex than others would give him credit. He was generous with his money and always wanted what was best for other people. Yet Jim thought like plenty of other people think the same type of people who laughed at Joseph for daring to take Mary as his wife. The type of people who would think it was foolish to risk their whole world on the visit of an angel. Jim didn’t want to embrace the possibility of hope and renewal when it came to other people
Compare Jim to Joseph. I imagine Joseph was taken in with an almost gullible, optimism as he heard the words “and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” These words seemed to be a pronouncement of foolishness. Words that a hardened cynic would laugh at, yet Joseph embraced a great hope that these words could be true. Joseph believed that grace was real and was about to come to him in the form of a child.
There was no real good reason for Joseph to be chosen to be the Father of Jesus. Joseph was no religious scholar, Joseph had no political power. The only real noteworthy thing about Joseph was that he was a distant relative of King David, who had been deceased for over 900 years. For the reason that Joseph’s story is so noteworthy is because it really emphasizes the Gospel. We receive God’s favor not for doing anything. We receive God’s favor in spite of our initial misgivings that a Virgin could really give birth to the Son of God. Joseph’s story says something to us about the nature of faith. How our faith in the Angel’s pronouncements can’t be proven. Yet the whole plan and reality of salvation is so different from our everyday experiences that it really can’t be any other way.
Joseph’s impact upon Jesus’ life cannot just be seen in Gospel lesson for Today. The visit of the Angel to Joseph would be the first of four visits in Josephs’ dreams.
The second dream would occur shortly after Jesus’ birth as the Angel tells Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt, and remain there awaiting further instruction, because Herod is seeking to find and kill Jesus as Herod had ordered the killing of all young male children born in the vicinity of Bethlehem for fear of his own throne-Matthew 2:13.
The third dream has the Angel instruct Joseph to return his family to Bethlehem with news of the death of King Herod. Yet Joseph was still hesitant because of fear of Herod’s Son- Matthew 2:19-20
The fourth dream has God himself assuring Joseph that it was ok to return his family back to Bethlehem, before Joseph eventually leads them to settle again in Nazareth in Galilee where Jesus was raised.
One thing that should also be stated this morning is that Joseph had several other children besides Jesus. Matthew the 13th chapter makes a reference to James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon being Jesus brothers along with a reference to Jesus having sisters who are never named.
The last appearance of Joseph in our Gospels is the story of Jesus visiting the Temple with the Boy Jesus at the age of twelve. This last appearance shed unique insight into their relationship. Jesus didn’t in these moments speak of Joseph as his father, but described himself as being inside his Father’s house. When Jesus spoke this description was not common. No one would have dared to describe God as their Father before this, except the one that came from heaven itself.
Yet the relationship between Jesus and Joseph still remained like that of Father and Son. In the 6th chapter of John upon a return to Nazareth early in his earthly ministry, people from his hometown grew greatly skeptical of Jesus claims to be the one to usher in the Kingdom of God. They saw Jesus as too ordinary, too common to say the things that he said. John 6:42 has the crowd asking “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven?’
Yet as the crowd grew upset with Jesus claims, they missed something very important about heaven. Heaven is not some distant far away reality, we cannot grasp, when instead Heaven came down to Earth in the most ordinary, human of forms raised by a woodworker.
Church tradition has Joseph dying around the year 18 or 19 AD or about 10 years before his son began his ministry. When Jesus and his Mother Mary attend the Wedding at Cana, the sight of Jesus first’ miracle and the beginning of his ministry, Joseph is never mentioned. In Mark the 6th Chapter upon, Jesus is referred to as Mary’s Son a reference that would only make sense in a male-leadership driven culture if the Father was not dead. There is never any evidence given in the Christian Gospels that Mary was anything other than a widow during the time that Jesus lived.
Yet the limited impact of Joseph during Jesus ministry doesn’t take away from the impact of his story. Joseph’s story for us is a story of the Gospel. It’s a story of a young man who had his heartbroken when he found out his young wife was pregnant, yet he wasn’t the father. Though Joseph even upon receiving this most difficult of news wished that harm wouldn’t come Mary’s way. Joseph’s story is a story of hope, a story of being able to embrace that a new day will be different from the old day. Joseph went against every previous life experience, because the Gospel goes against every previous life experience. “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Amen
 Markquart, Ed. “Joseph and the Virgin Birth”. Sermons from Seattle. Web. Dec.11.2013
 Matthew 1:19
 Leviticus 20:10
 Matthew 1:20
 Matthew 1:21-23
 Matthew 13:55-56
 Luke 2:39-52