Author: Bible Society, 20 June 2020
It's Father's Day on Sunday, and this week Bible Society is focusing on some biblical fathers. Some of them get it right, some don't – but they all tell us something about the challenges of fatherhood today.
Joseph, Jesus' earthly father, has what looks like a walk-on part at the very beginning of the Gospel story, then he disappears. Matthew 12.46 tells us that Jesus' 'mother and brothers' arrived to fetch him; presumably Joseph has died. He has lived long enough for more children to be born to the couple, though, and we can assume that Jesus knew him and worked with him.
We might not have many stories about him, but without Joseph the story of Jesus would have been very different. He was 'a man who always did what was right' (Matthew 1.19) – code for someone who had the respect of his community and was a pillar of the community. Discovering Mary to be pregnant must have been crushingly disappointing for him, but instead of vengefully exposing her he tries to minimise the harm to her. However, in a small community these things would have been impossible to hush up. When he takes her for his wife after the angel has spoken to him in a dream, he is picking up a heavy burden. No one would believe his dream; either she is pregnant by someone else, or by him. Either way, his reputation is gone.
What was Joseph like as a father to Jesus? We can read between the lines: he had integrity, strength of character, kindness and faith. He taught his son to love God with all his heart, and to love his neighbour as himself. Joseph was probably not a perfect father – no father is – but fathers today could do a lot worse than model themselves on him.