St. Joseph: Part 1 Son of David & Part 2: A Righteous Man

~by Louis Templeman

Matthew 1: 16 “. . . Jacob, the father of Joseph, husband of Mary of her was born Jesus who was called the Messiah.”

Who was Joseph? His father was called Jacob, according to Matthew; however Luke does not mention Jacob. He calls Joseph the son of Heli. We can suppose that Jacob and Heli were themselves father and son with Joseph the grandson. Such is the way of ancient genealogies where certain fathers and grandfathers who are less significant in family history are left off the list.

The angel, we assume Gabriel, also referred to Joseph as a son. The angel mentioned not Jacob or Heli but rather promoted Joseph to something more appropriate for his involvement with the Messiah. The angel called him Son of David. This must have caught Joseph’s ear much the same way as the timid Gideon who while threshing his grain in secret for fear of Israel’s enemies was approached by an angel who called, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor.” Joseph heard his call, “Son of David”, as an honor and as a call to service, even as did Gideon. It would be difficult to overestimate the significance of the honor the angel gave to Joseph in calling him Son of David.

Luke also refers to Joseph as “father of Jesus (as was supposed)” because it doubtlessly was kept secret by Joseph and Mary that Jesus was conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit and therefore Jesus was actually his foster son.

Joseph is known by his relationship to others. Son of Heli. Son of Jacob. Son of David. Husband of Mary. Father of Jesus. And, we might also add chosen vessel of God for a lifetime of silent, steady service in a most significant ministry.

When we hear at funerals or read eulogies in magazines we note any achievements or honors that has been earned or awarded the deceased. Yet, it is the personal testimonies of the living who speak of the deceased’s value as a person in his relationships to other that we find most striking. On those relationships we mark his value as a human being. What we know of Joseph is he was a son of . . ., husband of…. and father of . . . . And we must assume, with certainty he was exceptional in all three roles.

We can know what kind of son he was by a brief statement in Matthew 1: 19 and by the angel’s exaltation of him, Son of David. This was both prophesy and a title of honor. King Solomon was Son of David. The Old Testament’s name for the Messiah was Son of David. The blind man Bartimaeus, whom Jesus healed, called the Lord, Son of David. The title Son of David is no small matter. Joseph was exalted into heavenly places by that sobering and awesome title. And, as previously stated, even as Gideon rose to the challenge of the angel’s call to him, so Joseph lived up to his new name.

Part 2: A Righteous Man

Matthew 1: 19, “. . . a righteous man.”

Saint Joseph was a devout observer of Mosaic Law. He discovered his betrothed was pregnant; probably when Mary returned from visiting her cousin Elizabeth. This was a gross violation of moral law. Therefore, he wished to dissolve his pledged union with Mary. Yet, he was merciful. Unwilling to expose her to shame. Deuteronomy 22: 21-23 required death by stoning. But as his son would later teach: mercy rejoices against judgment. I don’t know if such a form of capital punishment was observed in Joseph’s day but we do know that Joseph, for mercy’s sake was not interested in scandal or punishment. He, as a good son, would observe the law and still show mercy. He “decided to divorce her quietly.”

As he slept on his decision to get the pregnant Mary out of his life the angel of the Lord spoke to the son of David in a vision. He told him not to be afraid. “. . . do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” So the angel reminded Joseph of his lineage; honored by calling him Son of David; and pinpointed his problem as fear.

Joseph was afraid he’d been cuckolded before his marriage had been consummated. He had a fear of embracing immorality. Of entering into a lifelong commitment with Hosea’s wife. (Hosea the prophet married a loose woman whose child he called “Not Mine.”) The fear of gossip and rumor. The fear of raising a child not his. The fear of his own anger, regret and humiliation.

To calm those fears the angel gave him astonishing news. God is the father of Mary’s child, “For it is through the Holy Spirt that this child has been conceived in her.”

The angel foretells the child’s sex and his mission. Joseph was aware of the messianic prophesies. The sect of the Pharisees was largely a result of apocalyptic and messianic expectations that were embraced throughout Israel and the diaspora. The band of brothers that John the Baptist may have joined, the Essenes of the Dead Sea Scrolls fame, was a messianic sect of observant Jews. Messianic expectations loomed large among the 1st Century Jews.

“She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph would share in the honor of naming the child Jesus. Joseph was given the honor of naming his son, Jesus. For in the brief time that we see Joseph in the Scripture record the indication is he was a strong protective presence beside Jesus and Mary. And, that he was prompt to act upon the Holy Spirit’s commands. He was indeed a righteous man and a merciful Son of David.

NEXT WEEK: Part 3, A Chaste Man & Part 4, Obedient Pilgrim


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.

CLICK HERE to visit Louis’ Catholic Journeyman Archive

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