This is the second in a series of reflections on Matthew 1:16-25.
…and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. – Matthew 1:16 (NRSV)
Joseph lived in a time when men were defined by a kinship society. The household (bet ‘ab: house of the father) was the social and economical foundation of the kinship society. The oldest living male in the family headed the bet ‘ab. Sons of the oldest male (and their wives) were part of the bet ‘ab as were the oldest male’s wife (wives). Unmarried daughters would also be members, but married daughters would leave and go to the bet ‘ab of their husband. All property was held in common until the oldest male died – at which time it was split up among the sons (oldest son getting a double share).
The bet ‘ab was comprised of (at least) three generations (still true in some Palestinian homes in Israel today). Joseph would have lived in his father’s household with Mary and Jesus. The family was defined by the man who headed the bet ‘ab.
But not so for Joseph.
Joseph is first mentioned as “the husband of Mary.” Even when Joseph is described in Matthew 1:19, he is defined by his relationship with Mary before we find out he is a righteous man. Luke takes it even further by placing Joseph in Jesus’ genealogy as “People supposed that [Jesus] was the son of Joseph” (Luke 3:23, CEB).
Mary had her Magnificat, but Joseph doesn’t even speak in Scripture!
I don’t know that we think about Joseph very much. I once did a children’s message about family. I put pictures and objects into the manger to represent how big our family is in Christ. I asked the kids to pick something out of the manger for us to talk about. No one picked Joseph. He was left there all by himself. If Joseph hadn’t agreed to take Mary as his wife and be Jesus’ foster dad, we wouldn’t even know his name. It was in a quiet way, Joseph said “yes” and created a home for our Lord.
During Advent, I wonder a lot about Joseph. Was the dream from the angel of the Lord enough to make Jesus a “wanted” child to Joseph? Did Joseph ever hold Jesus in his arms and see him as his son? Did the shame of bringing an adulterous wife and another “man’s” son into the bet ‘ab ever go away?
Joseph is not given the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” before God’s plan begins to unfold – but he is just as faithful and obedient as Mary. But more about Joseph tomorrow.
Take time this week to observe those who are overlooked in our society (do you even look at the person in the drive thru that hands you your food or coffee). Pray for them and give thanks for their quiet role in your life.