An article in Time, Monday December 12th set me to thinking about Joseph the adoptive father of Jesus. It is an insightful article and gets the juices running concerning what the Bible says about this near forgotten hero of the Christmas story. It recommends some mostly fanciful literature concerning him, but it does force a new look at what the Bible does say about him.
From the scripture we know that Joseph was a spiritual man who responded positively to angelic messages, that he was of a merciful bent because when Mary was found to be with child prior to their coming together in the act marital consummation, Joseph chose a private 'putting away' rather than broadcasting her supposed infidelity to the known world. That alone says more about the gigantic character of the man than anything else. Mercy and grace in human relations has always been in short supply, even in our enlightened time.
The Time article, 'Father & Child' by David van Biema sets forth from non-biblical material that Joseph and Mary represent the prototype for the earthly family and sets forth the ancient idea that Joseph and Mary now rule in affectionate glory in heaven. The Gospel of Thomas on the Infancy of Jesus is quoted as are thoughts from the Apocrypha and Coptic history. Coptic history carries the story of the death of Joseph at the 111, his funeral attended by Jesus and Mary, Jesus being 18 at the time.
In my opinion Joseph, from a biblical perspective is a great model for earthly fathers in that he was mature enough as a much older person than Mary, perhaps a widower, to successfully live in the shadow of a much blessed wife and child. I doubt there would have been any arguments over the success of Jesus or that of Mary. Many men really struggle at the truth of a superior wife, attempting to keep her in her place and 'stifled' children in America by tyrannical fathers is legendary. A friend with whom I grew up married a girl with 17 times as much talent as he and to say he ruined her is understatement, in many ways the girl was murdered though her body still breathes.
As before stated the bible actually says little about Joseph and of course that is by design. I wonder how many families are totally shipwrecked due to the father, who should be a spiritual solid rock, spends most of the tender years of the children trying to 'find' himself? Joseph knew who he was in the Lord and provided the gentle leadership every family needs. He also knew that a wife is a good gift from the Lord and he acted in concert with this truth trusting in the will of God. The knowledge that he, Joseph, was the step father of Immanuel did not impact him negatively.
Joseph understood that the best place for a father of a gifted child is often in the background with little or no notice that you even exist. The modern struggle for supremacy between husband and wife and fathers and children did not exist in this Earthly Trinity as the Holy Family is sometimes called.
Howard Edington wrote a book titled, "The Forgotten Man of Christmas: Joseph's Story." His closing statement says, "Joseph took God's son into his heart, thus discovering a purpose for his own life within the greater purposes of God. My prayer is that you will do the same."