Talk of unsung heroes, outstanding men who were largely ignored and soon forgotten, and Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather, goes to the top of my list.
The last we hear of Joseph is in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, where we read that Jesus’ “father” was present on a journey the family made to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old. Even then, Joseph is not named. That’s it! We never hear of him again, not even as to his death.
Much has been made of Mary, and rightly so. She was a special woman given a role second to no one else in the annals of history. We can only imagine what a moving experience it must have been the first time she realized she was holding God in her hands!
But she was not alone. For Joseph, also, it was an awesome responsibility. As head of family, it fell to Joseph to give Jesus the stability and the security He needed as a child. During his teen years, he watched as Joseph managed the affairs of their home. Jesus’ understanding of truth and honesty, self-discipline, morality, respect for authority, and godliness were all influenced by what he observed in the man he called, “Dad.” He watched as Joseph responded to the frustrations and challenges of managing a business in first century Israel. It was, undoubtedly, a critical factor in His education.
Keep in mind that Joseph was a normal man. He, like each of us, needed to discover the strength of character that can be developed only through the give and take of life. There were surely times when he blew it, and perhaps occasions when he didn’t respond well to the growing-up antics of his unique stepson. But he was a good man and God Himself chose him for the rearing of his beloved son.
Although history records little of Jesus’ childhood, one can surmise that Jesus also saw Joseph smile and relax as together they spent many a quiet afternoon fishing and enjoying each other’s company. What an impact the many conversations they had together must have made on Jesus’ outlook on life! Joseph, as no other man on earth, helped make Jesus the man he was to become.
As we face the new year, it prompts a lesson we all need to take to heart. If we are typical, we develop our self-respect, indeed, our very attitude toward life, by the things we own and the success we have experienced. We admire wealth, power, and fame. God, however, seems to have a very different agenda. He is far more interested in who we are than in what we do. Character is primary!
Our accomplishments may be limited. We may be unknown and unheralded. No one may ever squabble over our estate. Heroes we are not! But much like Joseph, that does not determine our personal worth. The quality of our life will be seen in the lives of the family for whom we have been responsible. As they follow in our footsteps, as they honor the God they have met through our living … then will our personal worth and the impact of our lives become evident. Our living will not have been in vain!