My grandfather was a carpenter. He was short, but his hands were big and strong. His back and shoulders were equally strong. I watched him pick up large objects over and over again. Sadly, he passed away years ago, but the images of his strength will always be with me.
His strength wasn’t the only thing I remember though. He was self-sacrificing, loving, and good natured.
My grandfather wasn’t the only carpenter I’ve known; there are others and almost all of them have an amazing amount of strength and an eye for detail. Like my grandfather, they also have strength of character. Maybe there’s something in carpenters’ blood that causes them to be this way. Carpenters obviously have to be physically strong, but I’m not sure where the strength of character comes from. Maybe it has to do with the way they must carefully look across a board and make sure it is straight and without blemishes. Maybe it is because they must be precise and patient to build something properly. Maybe it is because they understand the importance of supporting a piece of lumber in order to build upon it. A good carpenter must understand structure.
If those things about carpenters are true, then it should be no surprise why God entrusted his son to be raised by a carpenter.
We often talk during the Christmas season about Mary, and rightfully so. Too often, though, we overlook the man who walked beside her. One reason we overlook Joseph is because we don’t really know that much about him. The last time Joseph is mentioned doing something in the Bible is in Luke 2:41-51. In this story, Jesus had left his parents side and they could not find him. They later caught up with him in the temple and Mary said to him, “Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” The Bible does not speak of Jesus’ life between this moment and the time he begins his ministry. Most Biblical scholars believe that Joseph died during this time.
Since there is not a lot of extensive material on Joseph, we must look at his actions early on in the Nativity story to know him.
Joseph is engaged to Mary when she informs him that she is pregnant. This is where we first get an idea to the kind of man Joseph is. It is Joseph’s right to publicly shame Mary, and it was even biblically permissible to have her put to death. But as Mathew 1:19 states, “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.” Joseph chose to treat Mary with compassion instead of harshness. Here we see Joseph to be compassionate and kind.
We also read in Matthew that on 3 separate occasions, an Angel appeared to Joseph to relay a message. The first was to inform him that what Mary said was true and that the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Mathew 1:20-24). The second was to tell Joseph to flee Jerusalem to escape from Herod (Mathew 2:13), and the third was to inform Joseph that it is safe to return home (Mathew 2:19). The Bible is filled with people that heard God’s message, but refused to obey and did their own thing. Joseph listened and acted in accordance.
Joseph accompanied his pregnant wife, who was carrying a son that was not his own, on a long and difficult journey to Bethlehem. Any man that has cared for a pregnant wife can only imagine how challenging this must have been. He followed through. He easily could have ditched her in Nazareth and let her come to the scrutiny of the people, but he took her with him. He stood side by side with her and helped welcome the birth of a child that he would raise as his own, even thought that wasn’t the case.
The Bible refers to Joseph as Jesus’ father. We all talk about Jesus’ Heavenly Father, but his earthly father also has something to teach us. Like how to be a good husband and a good father – how to be the kind of man that God wants. Joseph shows himself to be compassionate, loving, self-sacrificing, and caring, and he’s a man of action and conviction who listens to God.
Just imagine what would happen if all of us fathers and husbands modeled these traits to our wives and children.