Joseph the Carpenter

By Pastor Teck Uy

There are people in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ that are seldom mentioned when we celebrate Christmas. While we know them by name, their roles are not as known and some even belittle them. This was the case when Jesus went back to Nazareth, his hometown, to preach in the synagogue. After witnessing what Jesus had done, the people said, “‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’ And they took offense at him” (Matt. 13:55-57). In saying these, the people were implying that Jesus cannot be who he claimed to be because he belonged to a family that was not well to do. They may have had a different perception of Jesus if he happened to be the son of a lawyer, doctor or a rabbi.

One of the people close to Jesus that is seldom acknowledged is Joseph, his foster father. In Matthew 1:19, Joseph was described as a righteous man. God certainly would not have chosen him if he was not, since God always looks for righteous men and women as vehicles to accomplish his plans. In fact, Joseph demonstrated this righteousness when he had in mind to quietly divorce Mary for being pregna”

nt. Not fully convinced in the beginning of what actually happened, Joseph did not want to have anything to do with wickedness. However, when God spoke to him in a dream saying that the child conceived by Mary was from the Holy Spit and that he shall name him Jesus, his righteousness prevailed and he took Mary home, in obedience to the Lord.

Joseph was a very considerate man. When he came to know that Mary was pregnant, he could have chosen to quickly drive her out and expose such immorality. Had he done so, Mary would have been stoned to death for sexual immorality. However, Joseph chose to shield her through a divorce.  By being a divorced woman, people would consider the baby to be Joseph’s and not a result of immorality. Although initially shocked by the revelation that Mary was pregnant and thus ruining all their good plans for marriage, he willingly submitted to the will of God and acted as the foster father of Jesus.

As a father, Joseph was a good provider. He was known in the community as a carpenter. He passed on such skills to the Lord Jesus Christ because he (Jesus) too was known as a carpenter (Mark 6:3). By the way that Jesus acted as a young boy, Joseph was known also to have imparted his faith in Judaism. Jesus grew up in the Law and became so conversant that he handily used it to confront the devil when tempted in the wilderness. He would say, “It is written…..” Also, in his sermons, he would quote the Scriptures. When Jesus was twelve years old, he was found in the temple listening to the teachers of the Law and asking them questions and they were amazed at his understanding and answers (Luke 2:46-47).

Jesus was indeed very much acquainted with the Law since he was born in a Jewish family. The apostle Paul made this clear when he said, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). In fact, God chose Joseph as the foster father of Jesus because he was a Jew. It was said from the beginning that the Messiah will come from the tribe of Judah and will be known as the Son of David. Jesus himself said that he is the Root and Offspring of David (Rev. 22:16).

Joseph was also the protector of the family. While Jesus would eventually become the Saviour, he still needed someone to shield and protect him from harm when he was a baby. Young as he was, his life was in danger in the hands of King Herod who plotted to kill him. But in a dream, God instructed Joseph to flee to Egypt and take temporary shelter there. Joseph was constantly guarding Jesus so that even after returning from Egypt and seeing that Jesus was not fully secure in the hands of the son of King Herod, he withdrew to Nazareth as instructed by the Lord in a dream (Matt. 2:13-23). This shows how caring a father Joseph became to Jesus.

By the way that he lived his life, Joseph is a model of righteousness. He also modelled how we can attend to both the spiritual and physical needs of our family. He provided for and protected his family, even to the extent of exposing his own life to danger and discomfort when he was on the run because of the threat to Jesus’ life. The ultimate result of his love and labour was that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men” (Luke 2:52). May we all learn from Joseph’s life how to bring up godly and upright children. Glory to God!