Father’s Day is coming up. Father relationships can be wonderful. They can be complicated, but they can be great. You can know them in a way that is relational to you as a daughter or son. You can know the relationship as a wife watching your own husband be a father. You may have even had a father-figure who stepped in and loved you well even though he didn’t have genetic ties as a father directly to you like an adoptive father, an uncle, a big brother, a teacher.
The common thread among the best men who we lovingly see as influential father figures, though, is usually strength of heart and character; a strong sense of protection and provision for those they love. Oftentimes we see wisdom and authority…and many times a tender heart specific to each one of their beloved.
The same is often said of Jesus’s father. I’m not even referring at this time to God, but His earthly, legal father, Joseph.
This man, a meager but upstanding carpenter who was much older than the wife he was told to take on in a dream, had faithfulness and courage enough to take on the task. He knew what people were saying. He knew the difficulties his family would entail as they traveled with a newborn son for the census. He knew the there was a lot of explaining to do that he couldn’t do.
But he focused on his job of loving and providing for his family. I want you to imagine Joseph for a moment at a time when his story as Jesus’s father overlaps with God’s story as Jesus’s Father.
Joseph had taken Mary and the young 12-year-old (or so) Jesus to Jerusalem for the annual festival of Passover—already showing Joseph’s dedication and faithfulness. After the festival was over, though, Joseph and Mary set out to return home among the caravan of friends and family they had travelled with to get there. Now, there are a lot of people here, walking, riding, looking out for each other, sharing stories of the time they had just spent celebrating…then, after a day of travel, Mary and Joseph re-convened and realized that neither one had Jesus!
Anyone who has been tasked with caring for something and losing it can understand this terrifying, gut-wrenching fear. I don’t care if your watching someone’s plants or babysitting, or if you are a parent yourself in a department store losing sight of your child through racks of clothes…it is a feeling like no other…and Mary and Jospeh had already been traveling away from Jerusalem for a whole day!!!
Imagine, for a moment, the look shared between Mary and Joseph; the fear in Mary’s eyes and the immediate panic Joseph must have had while trying to formulate a plan to find Jesus again and protect his family.
Love for someone like that makes your heart stop. A father’s love is so deep that, while the child doesn’t grow inside of him like a mother, the father-figure’s heartstrings become tethered so tightly that he would do almost anything to protect, grow, guide, and love a child.
Joseph and Mary returned to Jerusalem and searched for another 3 days around the city…and most of us know the story of them finally coming upon Jesus in the temple. They had to be relieved but also, being the mother of boys about that age, I can imagine they were ready to give Jesus quite the lecture. In Luke’s version of the story, it is said that Mary asked Jesus how He could’ve treated them like that. As per usual, Joseph isn’t mentioned very much. If I imagine my own father’s reaction to that sort of thing, I would guess he was probably breathing deeply through gritted teeth and maybe even counting to ten to regain some self-control.
But, for whatever reason Joseph isn’t mentioned as having said anything, it gave Jesus enough time to answer “why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I was in my Father’s house?”
What must Mary and Joseph have thought or said? In my best imagination of this, I like to think that Joseph had little glimpses throughout his life that illuminated why he was visited by an angel in a dream at the beginning of his journey as Jesus’s earthly father…maybe this was one of those times. Maybe this was a time at which Joseph, a good and faithful servant of God, just got it…he just knew that God, HIS Father was taking care of both of them…all of them.
Focus some time in these days surrounding Father’s Day and thank God for the protection and provisions He lavishes us with as the most loving Father.
In Matthew chapter 6 we hear Jesus say “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
How in tune is someone who not only knows us that intimately, but also loves us enough to provide all we need before we even ask?
John writes to the people of God and to us still today encouraging us to recognize joyfully our Father’s love for us when he says:
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God!”
Happy Father’s Day to all father figures out there and Happy Father’s Day, Lord.