Wednesday, January 9, 2008

This Week's Sermon: The Obedience of Joseph

Joseph was the earthly father of Jesus. He was not the biological father, but he was given the task of being Daddy to the Son of God. As Jesus' Dad, Joseph gave him his name, just as the angel had told him to do. He met the shepherds, and the wise men. Joseph took Jesus to the temple and fulfilled the rituals of the law. He marveled with Mary at the words of Simeon and Anna. He fulfilled the role of protector in taking Jesus and Mary to Egypt. When Jesus was 12 and they traveled to Jerusalem for Passover, Jesus stayed behind and Mary and Joseph searched frantically for him for three days. Even though Jesus was not his biological child, Joseph searched, worried, and was relieved when he was found. Joseph passed on his trade of carpenter, and if he was still living when Jesus started his earthly ministry, he would have had to release Jesus to pursue ministry.

Joseph's life was marked by a loving obedience. Not a mundane obedience to the letter of the requirement, but out of a heart-driven obedience he sought to offer his best. When the angel came to him in a dream, Joseph got up and went to take Mary home as his wife. When the government called for a census, he went even though his wife was in her third trimester. When the angel warned that Herod was searching for Jesus, Joseph got up and took them that very night to Egypt. And when the angel told him it was safe to return, he brought them back. Joseph turned his life upside down in order to obey when God called. That kind of obedience only comes from complete devotion. Joseph was a quiet character, but his role in the life of Jesus was monumental. It is because of Joseph that Jesus was a carpenter. It was because of his loving obedience that Jesus grew up in an earthly family. And what a blessing it may have been for Joseph to hear people say "Isn't that the carpenter's son," "Isn't that Jesus, son of Joseph?" Scripture refers to Joseph ten times as Jesus' father or parent. We know he was not the physical father, but so did Joseph and for over 30 years he did such a great job in being Jesus' dad that no one even guessed that he was anything else.

When Joseph got to heaven, I am sure he heard those words we are all longing to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant." God is calling each of us to give our whole selves to him in service. Are our lives characterized by that same loving obedience, or are we simply seeking to give the bare minimum?

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