When Mary, who would become Jesus’ mother, learned she would conceive and give birth to God’s Son, she was engaged to a carpenter from Nazareth named Joseph (see Matt. 13:53-55; Luke 1:26-33). After hearing that Mary was pregnant, Joseph understandably experienced a wide range of emotions—and faced a dilemma regarding their relationship. He was a righteous but also a caring man who didn’t want to humiliate Mary. When he decided to break off the relationship quietly, the Lord intervened, sending an angel to assure Joseph that Mary’s pregnancy was of God. Joseph obeyed the Lord and married Mary, but he did not have marital relations with her until after Jesus had been born (see Matt. 1:18-25). Therefore Joseph was Jesus’ earthly (though not biological) father.
Joseph could trace his lineage back to King David (see vv. 1:1-16; Luke 2:4). Many scholars believe that Luke 3:23-38 is Mary’s lineage, reflecting that her line also went back to David. Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem to be counted in the Roman census, and there Mary gave birth (see 2:4-7). Joseph was present at Jesus’ dedication at the temple eight days later (see vv. 21-24,33).
We frequently see Joseph in accounts of subsequent events that took place during Jesus’ early life. He provided godly leadership for his family that often also meant protection for his adopted Son. Occurring after the wise men’s visit, the family’s flight into Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath (see Matt. 2:13-18) provides a great example of Joseph’s leadership and care. Joseph brought his family to live in Nazareth only after God had further warned him of potential dangers to Jesus because Herod’s son was ruling over Judea (see vv. 19-23).
Later, when Jesus was 12, Mary and Joseph took Him to the Passover Festival, as had been their annual practice. This time, however, they could not find Jesus after they’d already started back home. He was at the temple, in His “Father’s house” (Luke 2:49), and all who heard Him were amazed (see vv. 41-50) . Joseph appears no more in the Gospels, so it is logical to assume he died before Jesus began His three-year ministry.
Copyright © 2015 B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.