Sunday, December 20, 2015

Joseph and the Boy

by: Barta IV from flicker 'Jesus Joseph Mary Color'

Every so often you hear stories and accounts of major events in the bible and you begin to think to yourself, “Self, what was it like for those people who lived through those days?”  Today I would like to explore that question with you.  I would like you to put on your “sanctified imagination” and explore the life of Joseph.  The man who took the savior child, Jesus, to raise as his own son. 

What was it like for Joseph at Jesus birth?  What would happen if we asked Joseph this at the end of his life?  What would his answer be?  After Jesus is found in the temple, in Luke 3, Joseph, the adopted father of Jesus, is no longer seen in the scriptures.  Maybe he died just as Jesus Ministry began.  Maybe we came to him just after the wedding at Cana (where Jesus turned water into wine).  Maybe we asked him about his story. Imagine we had the opportunity to talk to Joseph, just before he died, about Jesus. What would he say? I imagine his story sounding something like this:

Joseph and the Boy:
People often ask me about that night.  You know the one.  The one that my first son was born.  Well I guess you probably know the rumors.  Yes, I was not the biological father.  But I will tell you about later.  I suppose you are asking me this question because you were at the wedding in Cana.  Yes, the boy did do a miraculous thing.  I guess Jesus isn’t much of a boy any more.  As he grew strong I grew weak.  I suppose you want to know.  I will use some of my precious last breaths to tell you the story.

No sense in hiding it, the child wasn’t mine, not in the typical sense.  But I loved him as if he were.  I praise God that I did.  You see, I wasn't going to take him.  I was going to split the scene when I found out. 

I was engaged to be married to Mary; where I come from that is as legal as being married.  The only difference is we had yet to, well, you know, consummate.  I had not known her in "that" way.  And here she goes, to her relative, Elizabeth’s, and comes back quite plump with child.  I saw this, and to be honest, I was quite angry.  I know that Zachariah, Elizabeth’s husband, worked at the temple, and Mary is fooling around under a man of God’s roof.  She's fooling around when she is my wife to be.  (But she was faithful to me, and to God.  She is a great woman)

Even though I was angry, I could not be brutal.  I had the right to make a public spectacle and destroy her for the rest of her life.  I had the right to divorce her publicly and get my revenge on her infidelity.  But despite this I cared for her, and her father’s household.  So I was going to save her the public scorn and quietly end the marriage engagement.  I was already making the legal arrangements.  When something happened. 

What happened you ask? I took a nap.  On the day I was going to have the final papers drawn up I took a nap.  My eyes became unnaturally heavy. I am not usually sleepy prior to the first watch of the night.  But this afternoon I was taken with fatigue, and I fell into a deep sleep.  I had a dream.  You know those dreams that are so powerful you cannot tell if the dream is real, and being awake the dream?  It was one of those dreams. 

In the dream I was taking the last documents of divorce to the rabbi in town to finalize the whole process.  I cut a corner between two buildings, you would call it an ally. And as I entered the ally a large man stood in my path.  He was hooded and wearing a cloak.  I don’t know if this is universally known, but when you see a cloaked man coming at you in a dark ally you either fight or run.  I sized him up and realized that he outweighs me by like four stone, and it was all muscle. I opted for the run option! 

So I turned to run.  Well I tried.  My feet became tree roots.  I was done for.  This man was bearing down on me with speed.  He terrified me because he didn't even bounce when he walked, he glided.  When he was within sword distance of me he threw his cloak to the side and I fell to my knees.  This man changed from a dark hooded figure to a man dressed entirely in radiant white light. 

Now, I was more afraid then when he was a mugger.  When you encounter someone in a dark alley you pray to the Lord and he will protect you.  But what do you do when someone sent, by the Lord, comes after you in a bright ally.  There is no one higher to pray to.  Instead of reaching for his sword this man delivered a message. 

“Joseph,” he said “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

As soon as he said that I was bolt upright awake, standing in my room, with papers in hand.  I tore them up.  What would you do if an angel from God told you to do something?  I did the only thing I could do.  I took Mary, the virgin, as my wife.  

Now as you may remember, there was census about 30 years back.  The one where Augusts was Caesar.  I took Mary down the Patristic Highway.  We went through the mountain pass from Galilee to Bethlehem south of Jerusalem.  A small town to be sure.  And we camped by a place near the Jordan river. 

Life has a funny way of weaving events together.  I found out recently that in the same place we camped, near the Jordan River, Jesus met John his cousin.  It happened a few months back.  John baptized Jesus.  John objected saying, “You should baptize me Jesus!”  When all was said and done Jesus went under the water.

You know what happened when John Baptized Jesus?  The Boy’s true Father showed up.  Yeah, I was just as surprised.  His true Father, the Heavenly father.  A light shown around Jesus and The Heavenly Father said, “this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” Then the Holy Spirit fell like a dove upon him.  Wild!  This is more than a Boy.  He is more than a man.  When God makes an effort to show up to your baptism, to call you Son, there is something special to you. 

Jesus knew his whole life that he was set apart.  I remember one time Mary, Jesus’ brothers, and I went to the temple, for the yearly sacrifice.  We were traveling back with the in-laws.  (And don’t say this hasn’t happen to you.)  We went for about a day.  When we did a head count we realized Jesus wasn’t there.  We searched everywhere for him.  We found him, four days later, in the temple.  He said to us, “Didn’t you know I would be in my Father’s house?”  Ok, even then I wondered about that.  We thought he was just speaking in overly religious tones, but his baptism proves that he was using more than religious sentiment.  He really is the, capitol “S” Son of God. 

Knowing now that Jesus is more, he is the Son of God, what was that night like? The night where he was born?  It was actually quite hectic.  We get to Bethlehem and there was no place to sleep.  Towns near Jerusalem aren’t safe after the sun goes down.  Fortunately, we were clearly not wealthy targets.  A pregnant wife and a rundown donkey.

We went to countless inns that night.  So when one inn keeper offered us his leftover space we were happy to lay down for the night.  His extra “room” was in the barn.  Barns all smell the same.  But Jacob, the innkeeper, kept his well-maintained, for which I was thankful.  The birth itself was mostly unremarkable.  The baby came he cried, Mary nursed him.  That was about it. 

That is until the second watch, about an hour after the baby was born, shepherds came.  They were wide eyed. None of them had flocks, they just came to marvel at an unremarkable sight: two wiry travelers and a new baby.  We were too poor for a room or a cradle just a feeding trough and some hay. 

The shepherds said in awed whispers and amazed shouts (and a lot of shushing), “An angel of the Lord stood before us, ‘and the glory of the Lord show around us and we were terrified.  But the angle said to us, ‘do not be afraid. For I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you He is the Anointed Lord.  This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’”  These shepherds were clearly shaken, but they were praising God even still.  Once again my only thought was, “Who is this baby?”

It gets stranger. At the temple, when we dedicated him and named him, with the name the angel gave, Jesus, an old man came and prophesied over him.  His name was Simeon.  And he prophesied that Jesus, our little Jesus, would be a light for the world.  That everyone would have the opportunity to be saved because of Jesus. 

Except he seemed to suggest that it would come at great cost and great pain.  This boy with humble birth, who was the son of The Most High God, adopted by me, a lowly carpenter, and had angels proclaiming his birth, was going to have a painful death.  I don’t understand it.  I suspect I will not see the end of his new ministry. I doubt I will live long enough to know what it all means.  Mary and I often spoke in secret about his future.  This is to wild for us to understand. 

The last time I saw the Boy, Jesus said to me, “Papa, (he always calls me papa) I am going to do something, I am going to give my life so that many will be saved.  Only I can do this.  People are going to believe in me so that they may know my true Father.” 

“Boy,” I told him (I always call him boy), “I believe that you are the son of God.”

“Papa, as you adopted me, and made me your true son, so my death will mean that many more will be adopted into the heavenly family.  Thank you for setting the perfect example of the heavenly family.”  And with that he left. 

You know? I will never forget these events.  I suspect that when Jesus is done the world will never be the same.  I just wish I could watch to the end, maybe he wouldn’t have to die.  I would try to save him if I could.

But who am I kidding, I am too weak to lift my own head.  I would not be able to save him, even though I wish I could.  No, I Suspect that he will save us all.  So as you get to watch what happens to Jesus I beg you, believe in him.  Listen to what he says, because he is more than just a boy, he is the Son of God.  He is seeking to expand his family.  So as I set the example of adopting the Son of God, please believe that you have the opportunity to be adopted into something knew.  Believe me this boy is the only hope for all mankind.  So follow him where ever he leads, through whatever dark valley, because he is going to lead you to the source of life.

With that the interview would end.  Joseph would be too week to continue on.  His attending physician suspected that he only had a few days left.  But you now must take the final words of Joseph, the adopted father of Jesus, and keep the message alive.  Jesus is the way to life.

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