Interesting Observations About Jospeph

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Title: Interesting Observations About Joseph

 

Text: Genesis 37:5-6, Genesis 45:7-8, Genesis 50:26, Matthew 1:20, Matthew 2:13-14, Matthew 13:55

 

Time: December 5th, 2013

 

 

 

We’re only three weeks away from Christmas, so we’ll continue talking about the Nativity again today. Over the many years I’ve been in Christian ministry I’ve had the opportunity to talk about almost every topic related to the birth of Jesus Christ. But the good thing about the biblical account of Christ’s birth is that it never grows old, and it’s impossible to exhaust its meaning. So far, I’ve published two books of Christmas sermons; as soon as I have enough for a third book I’ll publish that as well. And if the Lord permits I’ll continue to talk about Christmas and never run out of things to say about it. Today, I’d like to talk about Joseph, the earthly, human father of Jesus. Now the Bible never calls Joseph the father of Jesus, although it refers to Mary the mother of Jesus many times.  That’s because Mary was quite literally Jesus’ mother, but Joseph wasn’t really the biological father of Jesus, only his stepfather, or sorts. God the Father Almighty through the power of the Holy Spirit was literally the father of Jesus. So that puts Joseph in a situation – he was the father of Jesus in one sense, but he wasn’t the father of Jesus in another sense. For this reason, Joseph is often left out of conversations about Christmas, except for his role of guide, getting Jesus and Mary from point to point in the journey. But there are plenty of interesting observations to make about Joseph nonetheless. I’d like to take some time today to make three observations about Joseph. First, there is an amazing parallel between the New Testament Joseph and the Old Testament Joseph – dreams. Second, there is another amazing parallel between the New Testament Joseph and the Old Testament Joseph — faithful stewardship. Third, nobody is quite sure what ever happened to the New Testament Joseph. What did happen to Joseph? In years past I’ve talked about Joseph before, but I’ve never developed the parallel between him and the Old Testament Joseph. Today, I’d like to take a couple of points to develop that parallel, as well as try to answer the question, “Whatever happened to Joseph?” It’s a fascinating topic, that is, trying to learn more about the earthly father of Jesus. We don’t have very much information about Joseph because he appears early in the gospel accounts, but is nowhere to be found at the end of the four gospels. Mary appears both at the beginning and end of the gospels, as well as in the middle, but Joseph appears only near the beginning. Although we only have a little bit of information about him, we know Joseph was a great man. He played his brief but important role in the life of Jesus, then vanishes. But Christmas is a good time of the year to try to learn as much as we can about him, so that we can appreciate our faith heritage more. In a secular, skeptical, and unbelieving world, we need to know as much as possible about our Christian faith. Let’s learn a little bit about it as we study the man Joseph.

 

 

First, there is an amazing parallel between the New Testament Joseph and the Old Testament Joseph – they both dreamed dreams. Genesis 37:5-6, “Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream I had.’” Matthew 1:20,” 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 if from the Holy Spirit.’” What’s striking about both the Old Testament Joseph and the New Testament Joseph is their number and frequency of dreams. God spoke to both of these men in dreams. Now everyone has dreams once in a while, some people more so, some less. But most everyone has dreams. Usually, it’s pretty hard to make sense of our dreams because they come as disjointed thoughts and visions in our minds during sleep. Is God speaking to us through dreams? Probably sometimes, but mostly not. Still, it’s hard to know when a dream is from God, and when it’s not. Still harder is it to understand what the dream means – if it has any meaning at all. Since psychologist Freud it’s assumed that dreams are merely the product of our subconscious mind. Or in other words, it’s the random firings of our mind in some kind of sleep cycle that accomplishes some important yet unknown function. But according to the Bible, God Almighty uses dreams on occasion to reveal his will to certain individuals. Both the Old Testament Joseph and the New Testament Joseph were such individuals that God chose to reveal himself through dreams. In the Old Testament, through dreams, God guided and directed Joseph to ultimately protect and preserve his chosen people the Jews. The New Testament Joseph was given dreams by God to protect and preserve the Messiah Jesus. It’s probably the single most striking feature of the life of Joseph – the many dreams he had. And they all had very important implications. An angel appears to Joseph and tells him to marry Mary. He has a dream telling him to escape with Jesus and Mary to Egypt. Once there, he is instructed in a dream to return to Israel. Then, once they return, he is further instructed where to specifically live in Israel. So just like the Old Testament Joseph, the New Testament Joseph is a dreamer of dreams. Now some skeptical and unbelieving scholars see this as solely a literary invention – the writers of the New Testament copied the Old Testament Joseph and made up the dream accounts in the New Testament. But there’s no indication that they’re made up stories; they make sense historically. No, they are real, just as the accounts of the Old Testament Joseph are real. God chose to use two men named Joseph, and worked through them with dreams. It’s a link from the Old to the New Testament. It’s another sign from God that the Old Testament belongs in the Bible, just as the New Testament belongs in the Bible. There was a debate about whether to include the Jewish Old Testament in the Christian Bible, but at a very early stage the church voted correctly in favor of including it. In that we are thankful today.

 

 

Second, there is another amazing parallel between the New Testament Joseph and the Old Testament Joseph — faithful stewardship. Genesis 45:7-8, “But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.” Matthew 2:13-14, “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.” Now it’s clear to see the other parallels between the Old Testament Joseph and the New Testament Joseph. One of the biggest parallels is their faithful service. They were both faithful and responsible for their calling. Joseph was called to protect and preserve the godly line of the Jews, and his New Testament counterpart was called to protect and preserve the Messiah Jesus. And they both did an excellent job. Now the question I have is, did the New Testament Joseph see the parallels between his life and calling with the Old Testament Joseph? Was he conscious of the many similarities? I can’t see how he could miss the many parallels, especially in respect to dreams, but also in his calling of protecting and preserving. Both Josephs were very responsible individuals; we gather that from both the Old Testament accounts and New Testament accounts. They were both wise and worked steadily towards the fulfillment of their specific callings. They didn’t get sidetracked or distracted from their assignments from God. The Old Testament Joseph, for example, was made a great and powerful ruler in Egypt, but he never lost track of the reason why God had raised him up to a position of leadership – to save the Jews. And neither did the New Testament Joseph ever lose sight of his mission – to save the Messiah’s life (and his mother Mary) from harm. If the first Joseph had failed, there’d be no Jews; if the second Joseph had failed there’d be no Messiah. They both had incredibly important tasks to perform from the standpoint of history, and they both took their assignments seriously, and performed faithfully. It’s a good lesson for us all. We are all called by God to accomplish certain things during our lifetimes here on earth. Do you know what your calling is in this life? If so, are you fulfilling your calling? Are you faithful in your assignment? The Josephs are good role models for faithfulness in our calling from the Lord. Let their lives inspire you to carry out with faithful service your specific and individual calling from God.

 

 

Third, nobody is quite sure what ever happened to the New Testament Joseph. What did happen to Joseph? Genesis 50:26, “So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.” Matthew 13:55, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?” The irony is that we know more about the death of the Old Testament Joseph than we do about the New Testament Joseph. It’s usually the other way around in history – we usually know more about more recent figures than we do about more distant past figures. But in the case of the Josephs it’s the opposite. We know more about the older Joseph than the newer Joseph. Now my question is, why don’t we know more about the New Testament Joseph? Why wasn’t something said about his death, about how he died, or when he died? We are only left with clues and educated guesses. For example, we know that when Jesus was crucified he put his mother Mary under the care of the disciple John, so then Joseph her husband must have been gone at that time; he’s not mentioned. Why would Mary need to be under John’s care after the death of Jesus if Joseph were still alive to care for her? It doesn’t make sense, unless Joseph was not around. Now today, we might think that perhaps Mary and Joseph divorced – which says a lot about our divorce culture. But back then divorce was rare, like it was throughout most human history until the recent modern era. Besides, we know both Mary and Joseph were godly people chosen by God to raise Jesus the Messiah; it highly unlikely they would divorce. So it’s most probable that Joseph had died at some point. But then the question becomes, when did Joseph die? Was it early on in the life of Jesus or later? Matthew 13:55 reveals people asking of the adult Jesus, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” but it doesn’t say whether they are talking about “the carpenter” in the present or past sense. It’s clearly a reference to Joseph, but does it indicate that he’s still alive during the ministry of Jesus, or is it simply a statement of fact – Jesus is the son of the carpenter? Whether that means, “the carpenter who died,” or whether it means, “the carpenter who lives,” we don’t know. But if Joseph were still alive during the ministry of Jesus, it’s strange that we don’t hear mention of him at all, while we do hear of Mary. In all likelihood, Joseph by this time in the life of Jesus is gone, had died. But that raises the question, how did he die? Did he die of natural causes or was he murdered? Did he have a work-related accident or did he get sick and die? Again, we don’t have any information to go on, so it’s all speculation.

 

 

There is an old Catholic tradition that says Joseph died before Jesus was taken, tortured and crucified because if Joseph had been alive he never would have allowed them to kill Jesus, and he would have fought to protect and preserve his son until the very end. But that’s just tradition. Obviously, in the providence of God, Joseph didn’t have to witness the death of the life of the son he so faithfully protected and preserved during his lifetime. His mission and calling in life having been completed, he died and was taken into heaven by God, and probably heard the words, “Well done thy good and faithful servant, enter now into thy rest.” But as to the details of Joseph’s death, we don’t know. We know that Joseph is mentioned at the time Jesus was consecrated in the Temple of Jerusalem, which usually takes place at age twelve. But what happened between that time and the death of Jesus on the cross, we don’t know anything about Joseph. But we have to remember, the gospels are mostly and mainly about Jesus the Christ, the Savior of the world, not about other people. We know about Mary more than we know about Joseph, probably because she played a more direct role in the life of Jesus. But we don’t know, for example, about the deaths of the disciples, who in their own right were pretty important persons in the Christian church. So there is no sense of balance and proportion given to the different characters in the gospels and in the New Testament as far as historical biography. As important a person as the Apostle Paul was, still we know nothing of his death either, except from tradition and speculation. And at the same time, we do know how a lesser-known follower of Jesus, Stephen, died – he was stoned to death. So again, for whatever reasons God does not give us a complete or even partial biographical history of important persons in the early church. I guess the only thing we can say is that we are given what we need to know, not what we might want to know. We are mostly given the information about the life of Jesus Christ, which is really what we want and need to know. So we need to thank God that we know what we know about Jesus, because it’s him that we go to for salvation and everything else most important in life. We need to thank God this Christmas for what we do know, not feel bad about what we don’t know. In the divine providence of God we aren’t given a lot of information about Joseph. There’s a reason for that, but we aren’t privy to it. What we do know is what we are responsible for acting on – we are presented with the Savior Jesus who invites us to place faith in him. Have you done so? Have you forsaken your sins and turned to Jesus by faith? If not, today is the day of salvation; take the step of faith and trust him. Or, if you already committed yourself to Jesus, is there any area of your life that you need to recommit? Why not do that today?

 

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