In a Jewish family, the man was definitely the head of the house. He was responsible not only for providing for his family, but for their protection and their religious upbringing. This man did it all, without complaint and without receiving any glory, other than an almost casual mention. He evidently died young and never even saw the promise come to pass, even after a lifetime of bearing ridicule or shame, depending upon who was talking about him, in order to help it happen.
Like another Joseph before him he was the son of Jacob (Matt 1:16). He thought he had chosen well, a young lady--very young by our standards--from a good family, also in the lineage of David. The kiddushin had begun, the year of betrothal, and suddenly his world turned upside down. His wife, for so his betrothed one was called though they as yet were not married, had turned up pregnant, at least three months by the time he found out. Now what?
He was a kind man who would not shame her, so he was ready to seek a quiet divorce (1:19), the only way to end a betrothal. But God sent the angel Gabriel to reassure him. Mary was not lying, she was not hallucinating. She really was pregnant, but not by another man. She had not been unfaithful to him. God was the father of this unborn child, and he was putting that child’s safety and well-being into the hands of Joseph.
So Joseph was faced with this horrible shame for the rest of his life. Either people would think he had no self-control, that he and Mary had committed fornication as many were still saying thirty-three years later (John 8:41), or they would think he was a cuckold, too weak to put her away. Joseph could have been consumed with pride in either case and simply said no, but he didn’t. He took Mary as his wife.
Almost immediately he found himself in danger of King Herod, a cruel and ruthless man who had no problem killing his own sons, much less someone else’s. Joseph found himself fleeing to a land several hundred miles distant to save the life of a child that not only delayed his marriage but put his own life in danger, a child that was not even his. Yet he fulfilled his duty to protect and provide, finally returning to his home town Nazareth, where all the gossips lived, and working his whole life to provide food, clothing, and shelter, and teaching this child a trade, just as if he were his own. Somehow he managed to overlook the problems this woman had caused him, and raised a large family with her, at least four more sons and uncounted daughters (Mark 6:3).
They tell women that men have fragile egos, that we should be careful of the things we say and do, things that might make him feel less a man. No one watched out for Joseph’s ego. He took it all, evidently without a word, simply because he was a righteous man who lived by faith. He fulfilled his duty, never expecting and never receiving any glory in this life. He took care of a child who changed the world. He kept him safe, and helped raise him to be able to fulfill his own duty, one even harder than Joseph’s.
We often point out the great humility of Jesus. Seems to me he “got it honest” as we so often say. He had a great example in his “father.” What kind of example are you leaving your children—that of someone who needs praise in order to feel manly, or someone who simply fulfills the obligations God has laid on his shoulders, regardless the inconvenience and pain, and whether anyone else notices or not?
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned, Rom 12:3.