~by Louis Templeman
Part 5: Man of Questioning Faith
In more than one ancient work of sacred art we find Joseph off by himself looking bewildered in a depiction of the nativity. In Rublev’s icon we find the artist has captured a very real moment of Joseph questioning his predicament as well as his faith (bottom left of image).
The nativity was probably a difficult, maybe embarrassing time for him. He provided poorly for his family in time of crisis. He may have doubted God, thinking he surely could have helped a little more. Did he have to leave us here in the dirt? And in the midst of this confusion and personal trial God sends a choir of angels to a band of shepherds and sends Joseph an audience. He is now a pitied spectacle before a group of rough, uncouth men.
“. . . the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go . . . .” So, they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in a manger . . . they made known to them the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.” ~Luke 2: 15.
As Joseph stood by his family protecting them, caring for them in a most unseemly surrounding he is surprised by visitors, shepherds who were fearful and excited by a recent appearance of angels. They approached him cautiously yet full of wonder. Is he the father of the child the angels spoke of? Is the child whom the choir of angels spoke of here? What angels? What choir?
Joseph was confused by this. He’d been berating himself and sorrowing over his inability to secure better accommodations. He was tempted to doubt God over his strange and peculiar plight. He had been reduced to allowing his wife to deliver her son in a grotto where animals defecate. He could not have been comfortable in his situation. An angel’s message from God Almighty led him to this moment. He was perplexed and near despair. And, now, lowly shepherds, who except for the fact that they were healthy and employed, were at the bottom of the food chain in terms of polite society, had come to adore the Christ child and announce all the angels had told them. They had all seen the angels. All of them had the same vision. And, these shepherds were not discrete. They told everyone. “All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.” Joseph was out-ed. Now everyone knew his child was born in a barn.
Part 6: The Observant Jew
As soon as opportunity permitted, Joseph found better accommodations and removed Mary and her child from the grotto. As the days passed he had the holy child circumcised according to the dictates of the covenant God made with Israel. About a month later he brought the child and Mary to the Temple for the rite of purification. Joseph was a good son, a good husband and a good father. He was quick and consistent in his obedience to God. He was doing God’s will. Nevertheless, he found things did not always go smoothly. He faced perplexities and sorrows. He had occasions to doubt he was performing well. But, he was a good man. Consistent. Steady. Obedient. When the shepherds came, they had no access to the mother and child outside Joseph’s permission and watchfulness. Later when the Magi came they would visit the mother and child only under the watchful eye of Joseph. When Jesus was circumcised and later presented in the Temple Joseph was there. He did not neglect his duty. He knew his job, his calling, and he did it as best as he was able.
Luke 2: 22, “. . . they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord . . . a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons.” At the proper time, when Jesus was forty days old Joseph took Mary and Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to perform the rite of purification for her and to present Jesus, a first born male, to the Lord. They presented to the priests the poor person’s sacrifice. This obviously occurred prior to the magi’s visit when the gifts would have made him temporarily a man of means. How strange this must have seemed to Joseph that the prophesied Messiah/King of Israel would be presented to the Lord with a poor person’s sacrifice. Whatever consternation he may have felt over that was quickly overwhelmed by the appearance and prophetic words of Simeon and Anna. Anna was 84 years old. For about sixty years or so she had established herself as a fixture in the Temple in Jerusalem. With fasting and prayers she served the Lord. God honored her devotion by allowing her to see the Messiah and be one of the first to announce his appearance. Her exact words are not given but it is clear she immediately became Christ’s first evangelist and spoke to everyone who looked for God’s redemption.
Simeon is not clearly defined in the Scripture record. It may be assumed he was a priest, a Spirit-led man and a prophet. Luke 2: 25, “Simeon . . . came in the Spirit . . . when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law . . . The child’s mother and father were amazed at what was said about him and Simeon blessed them . . . .”
What amazed Joseph was Simeon held the child like he was the greatest treasure of which earth could boast. He then looked up in prayer and told God that he was now ready to die. His life was fulfilled. It could not get any better than this. He held the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel in his arms. His long life of service to God and his people had now reached its apex.
Joseph walked through this period of testing, consternation and doubts with steady faithfulness. As he adhered to the laws and customs God used simple shepherds seeing angels and Temple prophets to providing the blazing that he needed to affirm he was on the right path.
Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.
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