7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
13 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”
Dear God, I figured that, on Father’s Day, I would spend some time with you and my favorite father of the Bible. If you were to ask most Christians who their favorite father of the Bible is, it would probably be Joseph, Jesus’s earthly father. I mean, really, there isn’t much competition here. Frankly, it’s hard to think of another good one. You have to do some deep cuts and maybe consider Samson’s dad, Manoah. He was simple, but seemingly good. And it’s hard to find anything wrong with John the Baptist’s dad, Zechariah, but we don’t get to see him in action as much. But Joseph…well, Joseph is worth of his own book, in my opinion.
This story is just one of several we get of Joseph being obedient to you. But perhaps my favorite story about him is the first time we see him in Matthew 1:18-19.
18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
Since this isn’t a story about him being a father, I didn’t start here, but it’s remarkable. In the midst of pain, hurt, and betrayal–in the midst of having his reputation destroyed–he “did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.” Wow. That’s a special man.
But back to him as a father. This is a remarkable story because he believed the dream and didn’t wait until morning to act on it. I wonder if Mary protested. I wonder if Jesus fussed. I don’t know what kind of life he had built in Bethlehem at that point, but he threw it all away to keep this boy–God’s son–safe.
As I look at this picture by Tanja Butler, I notice that it is made completely of lines and shadows. Frankly, the lines make me think of straw (almost like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz). That makes me think of the manger in which Jesus was laid. The shadows give the impression that it’s dark and the white are the scant reflections of just enough light to give us the picture. Jesus is in Mary’s arms, sucking his thumb. Mary has her head against Joseph’s shoulder. Perhaps she’s resting. Perhaps he’s comforting her. Maybe both. I cannot tell if her eyes are open or not. The one line on her left eye makes me think they are closed. And Joseph is there. The design of his coat is almost a more modern look with lapels. Perhaps Butler is trying to make me think of his as a professional who has given up his business for this journey. Perhaps she is trying to communicate that the weather demands a coat. But Jesus appears to be barefoot, so maybe I’m wrong about all of that. The depiction of Joseph’s face actually makes him look a little like Abraham Lincoln to me. I wonder if that was intentional as well.
Looking at Bustard’s commentary on this piece, he says:
There is no violin-playing angel in this piece as in Caravaggio’s “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” or a gaggle of cherubic playmates as in “Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Instead in this piece there is only Joseph, Mary, and the young Jesus–just a poor family, afraid and huddled in the dark. Butler says that the peasant figures buddled against the cold [maybe I was right about the coat] recall the frantic flight of my father’s family across the European continent during the last months of the world war.” Christmas carols such as “Away in a Manger” and “The Little Drummer Boy” tend to romanticize the Nativity and gloss over the fear, danger, and isolation that the poor family experienced during the early years in the life of Jesus.
Father, I don’t know what is coming for my children. I don’t know what plans Satan has. I don’t know what plans he has for me. But I know that I love you, I worship you, and I want to be everything you need me to be for them regardless of what it costs me. Oh, help me to be the man my children need me to be.
In Jesus’s name I pray,