God was His Father, But Joseph Was His Dad

June 17, 2012

(Video for Luke I am your father)
“I am your father”  probably one of the greatest scenes in movie
history. For most of us we know who our dad is, or at least we assume we
do.  My father used to tell me that I
belonged to the Milk man in Chatham NB, he said that he became suspicious when
we moved 300 kms away and had the same milk man.  But if you have ever met Burton Guptill you
would have no doubt at all that he sired me.  
The funny thing is that a number of years ago an elderly lady at the
Berkeley looked and me kind of thoughtfully and that then said “You remind me
of a milk man I used to know.” 
Luke thought he knew who his
father was, but obviously he was wrong. 
That is if Darth Vader could be trusted. 
Come on, the guy had just hacked off his own kid’s hand. 
Most of you
are familiar with the story that was just read from the book of Luke.  The majority of the commentators agree that this was a pivotal point in Jesus’ life.  It was here that God interrupted his son’s
childhood and said “Jesus, I am your father.” 
And  it was at this point that he
became aware of who he was and the task that lay before him.  There are all kinds of stories, legends and
tales of Jesus as a child but this is the only biblical account of Jesus’
childhood.   Up to this account the sum
total of what we know about the Jesus as a child is summed up in these words in
Luke
2:39-40
When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the
Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. There the child grew up
healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favour was on him.
We don’t know all of the intricacies and mechanics
that went into God becoming man but somehow I doubt if he had a full awareness
of who he was before this stage.  If he
was to truly experience what it was to be fully human what do you do that with awareness
that you are God at the age of three? 
Seriously, most three year olds already think they are god, for them the
shock would be discovering they weren’t God.
And it is in
the book of Luke that we find the only accounts of Jesus as a child and in one
of those short snippets we read about the time Mary and Joseph lost their
oldest kid.  I’m sure that Mary and
Joseph told the story of their trip to Jerusalem on many occasions, recounting
the horror of that day.  With the passing
of time it may have become something they could laugh at, but at the time it
was no laughing matter. 
The story
starts in Luke
2:41-42
Every year
Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was
twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual.
Culturally
we are told that it was required by Jewish law that every adult male who lived
within 20 kms of Jerusalem should go to the temple in the capital city for the
Passover celebration.  It was also
decreed that under Jewish law that at 13 a boy became a man.  So this was a very special occasion for
Jesus.  We know that this wasn’t the
first time that Jesus had been in Jerusalem for the Passover, but it would be
the last time he would celebrate the feast as a child and I’m sure he was
looking forward to next year. 
The Passover
celebration lasted for several days and culminated in the Passover Feast; it
was the biggest holiday in the Jewish faith and was a major celebration.  Mary and Joseph and their family would have
been there with friends and extended family from Nazareth and we are told that
they weren’t traveling alone but with a group. 
Those in the
know tell us that in all probability the women and children would have
travelled as a group and the men would have travelled as a group.  You only have to go to a social function
today to realize that things haven’t changed much.  We are also told that the women and children
would have left earlier in the morning and travelled slower while the men would
have left later but travelled faster, and everyone would have ended up at the
destination around the same time.
Because of
Jesus’ age he could have travelled with either group, he was really neither
fish nor fowl.  Young enough to still
travel with the women and children if he wished but old enough to tag along
with the men.  And that is where the
trouble began, because it would appear that when Joseph got ready to head out
with the men he assumed that Jesus was with his mother, while Mary had assumed
that Jesus would follow with the men and older boys.  One Sunday when we were pastoring in Truro I
was getting ready to lock up the church and go home when I realized that I had
an extra toddler.  Her folks had come in
two vehicles and the both assumed that the other one had Keely.   And
you know what happens when we assume right? 
That’s right sometimes we are
wrong.
Luke 2:43-45 After the celebration was
over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His
parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other
travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him
among their relatives and friends. When they couldn’t find him, they went back
to Jerusalem to search for him there.   Can
you imagine the panic?  The finger
pointing?  The fear?  Mary and Joseph would have split up and began
canvasing all of the other groups.  Who
had seen Jesus?  Where and when?  By the time they had finished it was very
apparent that no one had seen Jesus at all through that day.  When they couldn’t find him we are told they
left the group and headed back to Jerusalem on their own.  But how would they find him?  They came from the little town of Nazareth
and Jerusalem was the largest city in the country.  Perhaps not Toronto size but certainly the
task before them was daunting.
And so they
hunted, they went back to their accommodations and Jesus wasn’t there, they
went to where they had eaten and Jesus wasn’t there, they looked up the new
friends they had made during the days they had been celebrating and no
Jesus. 
We aren’t
told but we have to assume they went to the authorities with no results and
checked whatever served for emergency health care to see if a twelve year old
boy had been brought in, but to no avail. 
We don’t know if Mary and Joseph had brought their other children back
to Jerusalem with them, or if they had sent them ahead with family members but
when it seemed that all the avenues had been exhausted we read this Luke 2:46 Three days later they finally
discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening
to them and asking questions.
We don’t
know what took them to the temple, if they were looking for Jesus or if in
desperation they returned to the centre of their spiritual lives to pray for
their son and to seek comfort from their God. 
Whatever it was that took them to the temple took them to their
son.  Isn’t it always the way, you find
what you are looking for in the last place you look.  Which is one of the dumbest things people
say.   Just once wouldn’t it be nice to
hear someone say “Yep I found it in the third from the last place I looked.  I had a list of places I needed to look so
even after I found it I just kept right on looking.”
In this case
it kind of makes you wonder what would have happened if they had of gone to the
temple to ask for prayer before they looked all over Jerusalem.   But Mary and Joseph were like most of us, we
try to do it on our own first and only after it becomes apparent that we can’t
do it do we ask God for help.
I wonder
about the range of emotions that Mary and Joseph must have felt when they saw
Jesus there right as rain in a conversation with the teachers of religious
law?  From “I can’t believe you are all
right we were so worried about you.” To “What were you thinking, your father
and I were worried sick.” To “You are going to get the spanking of your life
when you get home young man.”
It appears
it was somewhere in the middle, you understand that we are just getting
snippets of the conversation, we are hearing the high points not all the
minutia that actually makes up a conversation, so we hear Luke 2:47-48 All who heard him were amazed
at his understanding and his answers. His parents didn’t know what to think.
“Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I
have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”  That’s a good motherly response, lead
with guilt.   And we can read it any
number of ways because we don’t know the tone of voice that Mary used, the
volume of her words, the look on her face or whether she was hugging Jesus or
shaking him. 
And he
responds by saying Luke 2:49 “But why did you need to
search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”    Based on the fact that he was going on 13 he
probably rolled his eyes, it might be blasphemy, and you might want to stand
back in case the lighting strikes, but reading that I think I would have
reached out and slapped the kid. 
Arrrggghhh.  And I have never hit
either of my kids in anger, although there have been times. 
And so it was here that in whatever fashion for whatever reason the
switch was tripped and Jesus became aware of his destiny.  Had Mary and Joseph forgot the wonder of his
birth, maybe the everyday had caused them to lose sight of the eternal and
suddenly Mary and Joseph were reminded of who their son truly was, not the son
of Joseph creator of tables and chairs but the son of God, creator and master of
the universe.
I wonder if for Joseph he suddenly remembered “That’s right I’m not his
father.”  And I wonder if his mind rushed
back to that day more than 12 years before when his fiancé told him that she
was pregnant, and the child was not his. 
If he remembered the visit from the angel who confirmed Mary’s story, of
the wonders of the birth in the stable, of the visiting shepherds with their
story of celestial choirs and the wise men bearing gifts and their story of the
star in the sky. 
Could it be that 12 years of the ordinary had crowded out and eclipsed
the wonder of Jesus birth?  If the
mundane had caused Joseph to forget the miraculous? 
At some point in time at the temple God had looked down and said “Jesus,
I am your father.”  And throughout the
gospels Jesus refers to God as “My Father in Heaven”. 
There was no doubt in Jesus’ mind that his father was God, but I think
in every practical way his Dad was Joseph. 
If there had been a Father’s Day 2000 years ago it would have been
Joseph who got the card  
Joseph Trusted God  We are looking at the story from this end
and there are still people who call the virgin birth into question.  I mean there are so called Christians and
even so called Christian Churches who say the Virgin birth didn’t really
happen, that it isn’t really important that we believe it.  What a crock, I don’t know if that’s a
correct theological term or not, but if can’t believe that Jesus was born of a
virgin what can you believe about Him? 
But they say, “that’s impossible!”  Of course it’s impossible, that’s the entire
point.  If you’re going to believe that
Jesus was divine then you’d better believe that he had a divine beginning. 
But there are people today, who
even though they have the gospel account, even though they can read that Jesus
lived died and rose from the dead, can’t believe that he was born of a
virgin.  Think about poor Joseph.  The girl he planned on spending his entire
life with tells him “I’m going to be a mom, but you’re not going to be a
dad.”  What do you say?  I can’t say with a hundred percent certainty,
but I would suspect that I’d be close to 99.99 % certain that nobody here today
would have believed Mary’s story.  And if
you would, I have a lovely bridge I’m trying to sell, goes between Dartmouth and
Halifax.  And not only would you get a
nifty bridge but people would pay you to use it.
Mary would always know that she
had been a virgin.  She knew exactly what
she had done, and what she hadn’t done, she wasn’t naïve, when Gabriel told her
that she would have a son she responded in Luke 1:34 Mary
asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
But Joseph, all he had to rely on
was the word of Mary, and the word of an angel. 
And it would appear that the angel was the turning point.
I’m sure that Joseph must have
thought, “I don’t understand it, I can’t explain it, I’m not even sure that I’m
happy about it, but if it’s of God then count me in.”  Mary wasn’t the only one that had to put up
with the whispers and snickers about her situation.  Joseph was the one who would have gotten the blame.  What a heel couldn’t even wait ‘til they were
married.  The women would have looked
down their noses at him, and the guy’s would have joked about him.  And what would Joseph have said, “Look it’s
not like that at all, she’s still a virgin the child is the Holy Spirit’s.”
And you can just imagine the guys
“sure the Holy Spirit got Mary pregnant, nod nod, wink wink, now Joseph thinks
he’s God.”
And yet as far as we know once
Joseph was visited by the Angel he never doubted the parentage of Jesus. 
God Trusted Joseph  Think about it, just for a minute, put
yourself in God’s place.  You’re going to
come to the earth as a helpless child, you are going to be raised and fed and
nurtured by two humans, just plain ordinary peoples.  Who are you going to trust to do the job? I’ve
been a parent for twenty eight years and I’m not sure that I would trust me
with the responsibility.  It was Samuel Butler the English writer who wrote “Parents are the last people on earth who should have
children.”
One of the first indication of
the type of man Joseph is when Joseph first gets the news that his fiancé is
pregnant, the story is found in Matthew 1:19 Joseph,
her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he
decided to break the engagement quietly.
He could have had her killed, it
was certainly an option as laid down in the Old Testament, probably wouldn’t
have been the first time it happened, and probably wouldn’t have been the
last.  Even if it doesn’t happen today
the temptation is there, Loretta Lynn made this
statement “My attitude toward men who mess around is
simple: If you find ’em, kill ’em.”
Still happens in other countries,
sometimes hidden in the international news you will see that a woman in a Muslim
country has been executed for adultery.  Never
a man, only the women, perhaps men don’t commit adultery in those countries.
He could have done that, but he
didn’t.  He also could have made a public
spectacle out of Mary, he could have told everyone that he knew that she had
slept around on him, could have dragged her into the middle of town, humiliated
her and demanded that the engagement be called off.   No instead he decided to break the
engagement quietly and the thing that is most telling about his character are
the words so as not to disgrace her publicly.  Even at the lowest point in his life,
when Joseph thought he had been betrayed by the girl he loved he was still a
man of character, and he still put Mary first.
Joseph also brought his son up
in a Godly home.  Remember our
story?  Luke 2:41 Every
year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival.
.  It was the desire of every devout Jew
to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem,
but it wasn’t always easy, so most people didn’t make the trip.  But we are told that Mary and Joseph made the
trip every year.  If we were to pull up
the map again, here is Nazareth, where Jesus
lived with his parents, and here is Jerusalem,
that’s a distance of about seventy miles that’s further then from here to Truro.  And there wasn’t just Mary, Joseph and
Jesus.  We are told in the scriptures
that there were at least two brothers and at least two sisters, and they didn’t
have a magic wagon to go in, they were on foot. 
Most of us would find it
inconvenient if we had to drive to Truro for a Christmas Eve service, but
Joseph felt that it was important that he celebrate Passover in Jerusalem with
his family. 
Jesus life as a child is pretty
much a mystery to us except for the story about the Passover celebration in
Jerusalem, but we are told this in Luke 2:52 Jesus
grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.
A pretty good report.  And Joseph had to take at least some of the
credit.  Jesus may have been the son of
God but it was Joseph who raised him. 
And maybe Jesus would have said with Michael
Jordon “My
heroes are and were my parents. I can’t
see having anyone else as my heroes.” 
We all know that God was Jesus’
Father, but let’s not forget that Joseph was his Dad.  And just as God entrusted Joseph with his son,
he entrusts each parent here with the children you have been given.