THOSE WHO REJECT the idea that all the best seats in church are reserved for men only have long pointed to the fact that its very message, the resurrection, was initially entrusted to women: remember that Mary Magdalene was the first disciple to see the risen Jesus (John 20:14).
But this Christmas season, I’m also reminded that when the whole redemption story began, it was a young woman, another Mary, who was at the center, with her man playing a supporting role. God birthed something through her, though he had an important part in seeing it all come about.
What might men today learn from the example of Joseph, perhaps when our wives come to us with something they say is from God that seems, well, maybe just a little bit crazy?
He was premeditative. He thought things through carefully. His initial response was to break things off with her, but he didn’t take knee-jerk action. He mulled it over, giving God room to speak. It was “as he considered these things” (Matt. 1:20) that God came to him in a dream and said, Yes, that’s me!
He was protective. Even while he was struggling to believe what Mary had told him, he didn’t throw her under the bus. He was more concerned about what others thought about her, than about him. “Being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, (he) resolved to divorce her quietly” (Matt. 1:19).
He was progressive. By which, I don’t mean he launched some kind of interfaith movement, but that he took things a step at a time. He didn’t know how it was all going to pan out, but he did the next right thing. He stuck with Mary, he took her to Bethlehem, he (presumably) found them accommodation.
He was participative. His may have been the supporting role in the drama of the incarnation, but he wasn’t a passive extra. He had an active, speaking part. It was he who, according to tradition, named the boy child Jesus after his birth (Matt. 1:25): he helped speak God’s plan into being.
He was proactive. He “owned” what God brought through Mary: Luke 2:33 describes Joseph as “his [Jesus’] father.” Having embraced all that God had intended through Mary’s pregnancy, he was given responsibility for helping ensure the plan worked out. After the visit of the Magi, God appeared to Joseph in a dream, not Mary, to warn him of Herod’s death plot, and direct the escape to Egypt. “And he rose and took the child and his mother by night” (Matt. 2:14).
He was productive. We don’t know much more about Joseph’s influence on Jesus as he grew. But his carpentry seems to have provided a stable (no pun intended), loving home for Jesus and his siblings; whether or not he taught Jesus himself, he created the classroom environment in which the young Savior “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).
What might the church look like with a few more quiet Josephs?
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