Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Most Important Father in the Bible?

For those of you who didn't make it to worship this past Sunday (Father's Day), I gave my thoughts on who is the most important father in the Bible. Here's the Reader's Digest version:

I would put forward the claim to you that Joseph is the most important father in the Bible, because he is the father of Jesus. I would nominate him for “Father of the Year” – even “Father of the Millennium”!

And get this; Joseph is not even Jesus’ biological father!

And yet ... he is STILL the most important father in the Bible … you see, men, being a dad isn’t about biology ... there’s that idiot in Kentucky that has impregnated a number of women and he has 30 children by these different women, but I would not call him a father; he’s a sperm donor (how do I say that tactfully? I guess I just did – I could say a lot worse!). Joseph is an example of fatherhood that is needed today - he does what fathers do - he's the real deal!

That should be encouraging to many of you who are being dads in blended families, or with adopted kids - or if you're wondering if you have what it takes because your dad wasn't always there, or didn't always get it right. The fact is, guys, being a real dad takes more than biology – it takes a commitment to be there and do the job! Remember that saying - "half the battle is just showing up"? It's true!

Let's learn more as we look at how Joseph acts as the father of Jesus.

Joseph is described by Matthew as “a righteous man” – what does that mean? To find out we have to look at what Joseph does.

“Righteous” is a lost word today - by that I mean we seldom use it, and we're not sure what it means. But it’s a good word – Jesus himself uses it when he asks John the Baptist to baptize him. He says for John to do it so that they can “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Based on Jesus' use of the word here, I would suggest that it means "to do the will of God."

One side note: we always think of Matthew 1:18-25 as "the Christmas story" … but the early church didn’t celebrate Christmas as we do today, so this text would have meant something different for them. Matthew has a reason for including this information here beyond giving us a reason for a big winter holiday. I would suggest to you that Matthew writes about Joseph as an example of "righteousness" - faithful discipleship.

So even before the birth of Jesus, we have an example of a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ ... by Jesus' own earthly father, no less!

Men, this is what we are called to be as disciples of our Lord.

Joseph listens to God and he does what God says to do—to the letter. When the angel of the Lord tells Joseph in a dream to take Mary as his wife, and to name the child Jesus, he does it. (Mt. 1:20-21, 24-25). Later, when the angel tells Joseph to take Mary and the child to Egypt to protect them from Herod, again, he does it (Mt. 2:13-15). Then, when the angel of the Lord again tells Joseph it is safe to return home, he takes Mary and the child back to Israel, and upon further instructions from the angel, they go to the out-of-the-way town of Nazareth to live (Mt. 2:19-23).

Here's the main point Matthew is making:

Joseph—and other righteous men (like the Magi)—do what God says to do. And they do it:
Ø      even though it’s embarrassing - think of Joseph's reputation with his friends!
Ø      even though it’s dangerous – Magi disobey Herod, putting themselves in danger (Mt. 2:12);
Ø      even though it’s costly – traveling to Egypt and living there indefinitely;
Ø      even though it sometimes results in “downward mobility” – moving to Nazareth, which was considered "the other side of the tracks."

Joseph keeps his family safe from Herod (Mt. 2:13-18). Again, this is costly, both in financial terms, and in social terms, for Joseph personally.

Dad, we’re called to protect our families. Even though it may cost us a great deal.

It's what real men do - they sacrifice.

Men, you're never more manly or masculine than when you sacrifice for others. Jesus was the most masculine man who ever lived, because he sacrificed himself on the cross for you and me ... he didn't hold anything back.

I wonder where he learned that? Maybe from his earthly father, Joseph, who sacrificed so much to give Jesus everything he needed when he was growing up?

Definitely - like father, like son.

What kind of example are you setting for the next generation, Dad?

Stay connected,

Pastor Mike