Last week we visited Nazareth, the hometown of Mary, where she learned she would have a child. Today we turn to Joseph’s story and how he found out Mary would give birth to the Messiah. A careful reading of the Gospels leads many scholars to believe that Joseph’s hometown was Bethlehem and that his engagement to Mary was a long-distance relationship.
Joseph is mentioned only a handful of times in the Gospels and never outside of them. But if we’re paying attention, even that handful of verses tells us a lot about this man.
Joseph was a tekton, a builder. Now, here’s the thing to note: a tekton would not have a 401K or large tracts of land. He didn’t have herds of sheep. Everything he owned of value could fit into a toolbox. A tekton was a simple, hardworking person. We can easily imagine what Joseph was like, even though he doesn’t have a single spoken line in the New Testament. Joseph was humble. He was merciful. He was obedient. And I think it was for these reasons that God chose him to be the earthly father of Jesus.
Just outside Bethlehem was Herodium, a monument to a very different kind of man, with a royal palace at the top. The man was King Herod, and his life stood in stark contrast to Joseph’s.
Herod called himself great and built massive palaces to prove it. Joseph wouldn’t have dares to call himself great, but he demonstrated true greatness by living a life of mercy, obedience, and humility. How do you define greatness?
Joseph, living and working in the shadow of Herodium, modeled how to serve without expecting a reward. He had the most important job ever given to a man up to that point: raising Jesus and teaching him how to be a man. He did that job without recognition, without the praise of others, solely because God had called him in a dream to care for God’s Son.
Allow me to ask you the question I’ve asked myself many times: Who will you choose to be? Will you be Herod, who spent his life seeking to win the praise of others; who pursued wealth, power, and material possessions; who seemed to say through his actions, “Here I am, notice me”? Or will you be Joseph, who was a humble servant of God, who never sought the limelight, who was willing to say, “Here I am, God, use me”?
God favors the humble rather than the proud. God’s greatest work through us may be difficult and challenging, and we may never receive recognition or the praise of others, but we are called to serve anyway, seeking nothing more than God’s satisfaction and glory. This often requires seeing with eyes of faith, trusting that the one who calls us is faithful to complete his work in us. See with eyes of faith this week as you walk further down the road to Bethlehem.