Today in church was our Christmas program and I was asked to share a “testimony of Joseph” (husband of Mary, mother of Jesus). It was ambiguous to me whether that meant saying what I knew to be true about Joseph, or if it meant saying what I thought Joseph would say he knew was true about Jesus. I ended up kinda doing the latter, plus adding in some lessons I got from Joseph’s experiences as contained in the Bible.
Anyways, here’s what I said…
Often life seems like a mess, but looking back on it we see God’s hand directing it.
Joseph’s idea for what getting married life and starting a family was probably similar to mine.
Overjoyed. Excitement. Probably infatuated. Nervous. Worried. Pretty clueless. But Didn’t realize just how clueless.
Then he learns his fiancée is with child, indicating she’s been unfaithful (to be clear, that wasn’t my experience, but I can imagine it). So now he’s feeling betrayed, the topic of neighborhood gossip, a fool with poor judgement, and his nascent ideas for how life would go have been flipped upside down.
Of course, in marriage you need to make concessions and be forgiving, and he probably wanted to believe Mary’s story about an angel, but it probably wasn’t the first time a young person made up a story in order to get out of something. He decided to not punish her though, just be obedient to the law and put her away privately, without making a big show of it. But it was such a mess and it haunted his dreams.
He dreams an angel appears to him, and confirms Mary’s impossible-but-hoped-for-story. He’s convinced and resolves immediately to proceed with their marriage. Huge relief. God was directing things after all.
Then what? Among other things, he had to pay taxes. He departs on an ill-timed journey and finds himself in middle of nowhere with a wife in labour (I bet his mother-in-law wasn’t impressed when she heard of this). Human accommodations aren’t available. Forget about a dulah, midwife, nurses and doctors. His wife’s first child gets some barn animals. And then grubby shepherds show up. But they report an angel told them to come. God was directing things after all.
Things are looking up. Rich foreigners come bringing gifts. Then those dreams again! An angel tells him to leave Nazareth, even leave Israel entirely, and go to live in heathen Egypt. Even though it’s crazy, he acts immediately and they leave.
After a few years, they’re probably accustomed to Egypt. Another dream takes them off again because the evil king (from whom he was told to flee) is dead. But Joseph hears the new king isn’t much better, so instead returns to Nazareth.
What a mess life has been! But actually, what a miracle. He has a family. He has somehow found a way. He has seen angels. And he’s been entrusted to protect and raise the Son of God.
Joseph stumbled his way through (including doubting his wife’s fidelity, taking her on an long journey when due to give birth, and forgetting Jesus in Jerusalem) but he was successful in doing what God required of him.
There is no mention of Joseph once Jesus starts his ministry, so most likely he died befits then. Still, I doubt he had any doubt as to Jesus’ divinity. He had three (maybe four) angelic visitations. His wife’s angelic visitation. Complete strangers (shepherds, wise men, Simeón and Ana at the temple) came to worship him. And I would think that as he saw Jesus grow “from grace to grace, and in favour with God and man” he would have felt his own testimony confirmed that Jesus wasn’t his son at all, but the son of God.
Witnesses that Christ was God’s son: 4 dreams with angels, shepherds, wise men, strangers at the temple,