As we remember Joseph today and consider the role he played in the Holy Family, we think about our own families. Our devotion comes from Courageous Fathers of the Bible.
2 Samuel 7:4–16
Matthew 2:13–15, 19–23
The tone in Joseph’s family was one of consistent piety. By example, Joseph taught his family the importance of worship and careful observance of God’s festival of grace. The piety of Joseph is also revealed in the fact that Jesus’ circumcision and Mary’s purification both happened by the book, right on schedule (Luke 2:21–24). That Joseph was ready to divorce his mysteriously pregnant betrothed also further indicates the importance he attached to following the law of God, which forbid a man to marry an adulterous woman. Joseph wanted to do things the right way, God’s way.
The claim that Joseph is good is also supported by his regular practice of immediate and unhesitating obedience. The morning after his first dream encounter with God’s angel, “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Matthew 1:24). He didn’t need to think it over. He didn’t need to consult with friends or trusted confidants. He did what he was told to do. The next time an angel interrupted Joseph’s dreams, it was urgent. Herod was out to kill the child. Joseph didn’t wait for the sun. While it was still night, he packed up his family and left for Egypt, what must have seemed to Joseph a strange country on the other side of the world (Matthew 2:14). Again, Joseph obeyed without objection or question. It was just the way Joseph was. He did what God wanted him to do.
Joseph, it seems, did not have much to say. Quiet humility that issued in action—that was the way of Joseph. He knew he was a stand-in, temporary father. It is not hard to create a fanciful scenario of Joseph in a crisis of identity, questioning his personal significance after Jesus’ declaration that He must be in His “Father’s house.” But it is more likely that Joseph handled this with typical aplomb. Luke records that “they did not understand the saying that He spoke to them” (Luke 2:50). Given the ordinary way that Jesus was growing up, this is not surprising. Neither Joseph nor Mary could possibly have grasped the full import of the incredible reality in which they were living. Joseph did not need to understand (how could he?). In humility he simply busied himself with what he did understand: protecting and providing for his family.
Joseph’s was a special family, holy indeed. But the holiness was not from Joseph—no matter how faithful he was as a father. And the holiness was not from Mary—though her favored stature is celebrated even in Scripture. No, the Holy Family was holy for only one reason: Jesus was there. Our holiness comes the way that Joseph’s came. It comes by contact with Jesus. When Christ dwells in us through His Word and Sacraments, we are holy. When Christ dwells in our families in Word and action, when families are founded on the work of Christ, when they are families of forgiveness and incubators of grace, then they are holy.
Dear Abba Father, thank You for our dads here on earth and for being our perfect Father in heaven. Help us . . . glorify You with our words, actions, and faith. In the name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.
Devotional reading is adapted from Courageous Fathers of the Bible, pages 83–86 © 2011 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Prayer is from Family Faith Walks, page 118 © 2002 Kelly J. Haack. Published by Concordia Publishing House.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.