Joseph – Unsung Hero of Christmas
J. N. Manokaran
God loved the world, the sinful humanity to send His Son Lord Jesus into this world. It happened in an historical context, geographical location and with the active involvement of wonderful people of God. Of the many instruments of God, Joseph could be considered as the unsung hero of Christmas. This marvellous and remarkable man of God is a great role model and inspiration to all of us.
Walk before God
Joseph was a descendant of David the most loved King of the history of Israel. The children of Israel lost their status of covenant relationship with God by their continuous rebellion of rejecting Him and His Word. With the spiritual deterioration came the political downfall, the nation became slaves to many foreign powers. Joseph who could have been one of the ruling class elite, had to work hard to survive. In this adverse situation, Joseph did not murmur or resent against God. His faith in God was not dictated by the external situations.
Being carpenter was a hard job. It needed immense physical energy, mental agility and skills to produce useful products for people. He should have been reputed artesian. His spiritual life and convictions helped him to do his job excellently well.
He was also known as righteous or just man. “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “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.” (Matthew 1:19-20) According to Jewish law, Mary could have been branded as adulteress and be stoned to death. Living under Romans, the Jews did not have freedom to give death penalty. The other option for Joseph was to ‘divorce her quietly’. A righteous person is sensitive to other people; not judgmental; and not vengeful. He accepted Mary unconditionally, lovingly and thankfully – to serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
God spoke to Joseph; without hesitation, doubts, questions or arguments Joseph spontaneously obeyed. Matthew’s narration expresses that obedience beautifully. “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24,25) Joseph did not go and ask suggestions and counsel from his mother or father or kith or kin or peers.
Joseph walk with God is reflected in his attitude towards the law of the land. “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.” (Luke 2:1-5) Joseph did as required by the decree, even though Mary was in the advanced level of pregnancy. He did not provide any excuse to bypass the decree.
Walk with Mary
Joseph accepted Mary as his wife, loved her, cared for her and even served her. From Nazareth to Bethlehem, the distance was about 120 KM. They could walk or Mary could have had the privilege of riding on a donkey or mule, while Joseph walked. Travelling such distance by a pregnant mother would have been an arduous journey. Joseph, was the provider of the needed moral support for Mary. Joseph would have walked with Mary slowly to help pregnant Mary to have a hassle free journey.
In the era, where advance booking of rooms in hotels were not invented or practiced; the inn was packed. May be the hotels of that time did not even have lobby but had parking space (for animals). The Inn keeper made some quick bucks by renting out parking space for this hapless couple. Most probably, Joseph was the mid-wife helping his wife to deliver her first born child. An unhygienic environment, no equipments for safe delivery and no expertise for Joseph. Indeed, Joseph was willing to walk additional mile for his love for Mary.
Walk for Jesus
Joseph also walked for the sake of Lord Jesus Christ. It would have been easy for Joseph to walk alone from Nazareth to Bethlehem. However, he had to walk with Mary and yet to be born Lord Jesus. May be, he had to run here and there, when Lord was born, calling help from other women in Bethlehem, trying to get other needs for new born.
“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21) Joseph and Mary had to carry infant Jesus to perform the religious duty of circumcision. The walk was about 5 miles or 8 KM. Walking that distance right after delivery would have been difficult for both parents. Joseph and Mary were spiritual and were willing to work hard to fulfill God’s requirements.
The Wise men visit stirred Herod, to seek and kill the infant. “Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:13-15) It was a midnight crisis evacuation. Again, Joseph was always spontaneous in his obedience. For the safety of Lord Jesus, Joseph had to walk, in fact run to Egypt with his wife Mary and Lord Jesus as refugees.
As Jewish practice, Joseph took his family on pilgrimage year after year to Jerusalem. However, when Jesus was twelve years old things were different. Lord Jesus stayed back in the temple of Jerusalem, most probably without informing parents. Joseph presumed Lord Jesus was within the huge group of pilgrims. They realized their mistake and had to walk back in search for three days. “After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” (Luke 2:46) This must have been a difficult walk for Joseph. Anxiety in mind, fatigue in his old frame and fear of failure in his duty in his spirit must have wearied him. However, there is no record of anger or bitterness or resentment in the whole episode. This also reveals how Joseph managed his home. As a spiritual person, he taught Scripture, practiced prayers and was an example to Lord Jesus in his childhood.
Joseph was called by God for a very special and specific purpose. Without doubt, Joseph demonstrated his trustworthiness by responding amazingly to this lofty position. He was righteous and did not deviate from the Law or the law of the land. Faithfully, he fulfilled his role as husband to Mary without any feeling of hurt or anger. Amazingly, he was sensitive and merciful to Mary. A spiritually mature person, he was spontaneously obedient to God’s directions. As husband and father, he was faithful provider and protector of the family. What a great hero was Joseph as a righteous instrument of God?