Dear Brothers and Sisters,
When I think of June, I think of Father’s Day. Perhaps because I’m a father myself, or because I have fond memories of celebrating my own dad, Joseph Tkach Senior. Father’s Day is a wonderful reminder to celebrate the influence of those who have filled a paternal role in our lives – even those who might not be blood relatives. This holiday is about much more than neckties, barbeque equipment, and “#1 Dad” mugs!
You may not know that Father’s Day was a Christian tradition before it was a national holiday. As far back as the Middle Ages in Europe, fathers were celebrated on a day set aside to commemorate another father figure: Joseph, the husband of Mary, mother of Jesus. We as Christians hold that Jesus is the fully human, fully divine Son of God the Father. We believe what the Bible says, that Mary miraculously conceived Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. Although Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, his served an important – and often overlooked – role as adoptive father of Jesus. And Joseph has some things to teach us about fatherhood.
We don’t know much about Joseph from Scripture, but what we do know says volumes about his character. When he found out that his fiancée Mary was pregnant, he decided to quietly break off the engagement. Matthew says Joseph was “faithful to the law” but also that “he did not want to expose [Mary] to public disgrace” (Matt. 1:19). This was a very different choice than the custom of the time would dictate, which gave him the right to publically shame and even prosecute an unfaithful future spouse. But Joseph didn’t want to hurt Mary, even when he thought she had broken faith with him. He chose to do the right thing, even when he had every reason to believe he had been wronged. When an angel came to him, and told him that the miraculous conception of Jesus was “from the Holy Spirit” and that “he will save the people from their sins” (Matt 1:20-21), Joseph immediately believed. Matthew tells us that Joseph was the one who named the baby Jesus, also at the direction of an angel, calling him “the Lord saves.”
Because Joseph isn’t mentioned later in Jesus’ life, many scholars think he died before Jesus started his ministry. But we still see how important he was in the young life of our Savior. Joseph was warned by the angel of the Lord to escape into Egypt and flee Herod’s jealous anger that led him to kill innocent children. Joseph immediately obeyed the Lord’s direction to go to Egypt. He also obeyed the Lord’s call to return from Egypt after Herod’s death, and to finally settle in Galilee (Matt. 2:13-15, 19-23). Matthew tells us that each of these choices fulfilled prophecies about Jesus. It’s likely that Joseph didn’t always understand the part he played in the bigger picture of God’s plan, but he obeyed at every turn. He followed God’s will in caring for his adopted son.
Joseph was a carpenter, or builder, and, according to Jewish tradition, would have taught this trade to Jesus at the age of 12. We don’t know much about Jesus’ life before his ministry began, but it’s likely that he followed in his adopted father’s footsteps and worked with his hands. It was by this trade that Joseph provided for his family. He may even have influenced Jesus’ many parables about building on a firm foundation, about the stone the builders rejected, and about his heavenly Father’s house having many rooms.
Matthew affirms a meaningful connection between Jesus and Joseph in the way he begins his gospel: by tracing Joseph’s lineage back to Abraham (Matt. 1:1-17). Although this lineage was not biological, Joseph’s fatherly role in Jesus’ life is shown to be part of a powerful legacy: the relationship of one generation to the next, maintaining a tradition of faith and family all the way back to the first patriarch chosen by God to be the father of God’s people.
The parenthood we celebrate on Father’s Day is much more than a genetic connection. Like Joseph, a good father obeys God’s call in caring for his family. He protects, provides, and cares for children, passing on his wisdom. He also pays forward a meaningful legacy of faith received from those who came before. Not everyone gets a chance to know their biological fathers, and not all fathers are good ones or ones who believe. But father-figures like Joseph serve another important purpose as well: they remind us of the character of our true Father in heaven.
Thanks to our heavenly Father, we are able share in this meaningful heritage of faith that continues from the time of Joseph and Jesus into today. Through our belief in Jesus, we are adopted into God’s family. That family legacy includes the history of faithful believers throughout time, and is one that we get to participate in, too. When we invest in the faith of younger believers, we forge another link in the long chain of the family of God.
I’m grateful for my own father, and for the model of adoptive fatherhood we see in Joseph – my father’s and my namesake! He’s a powerful reminder of how God has adopted and cared for each of us as his own. Here at GCI, we work to spread the good news of Jesus, and of our perfect Father in heaven – a Father who never tires, never disappoints, and never turns away. When you support GCI, you join in the work of making sure that even more of God’s children get to hear the good news of their loving Father and of helping believers grow and mature in their faith. Thank you for being a part of this Christian legacy.
Grateful for all faithful fathers, and especially for our Father in heaven,
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