Every good father comes to realize along the way that his own love for his children, however well intentioned, isn’t enough. Every child needs more than even highly motivated parents can offer. They need others—teachers, mentors, and friends outside the tighter family orbit—to influence and guide them. The older our children grow, the more apt for us is the prayer, “Lord, bring good people into their lives!”
It’s striking that even God himself entrusted the only Son of God to an earthly father and mother. God of course didn’t need Mary and Joseph’s help. But God did choose them to be integral to the incarnational events whereby Jesus became truly and fully human, and later, integral to everyday events whereby, as Luke’s Gospel tells us, he continued “to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom, and in favor with God and man.”
This happened, not away at some well-heeled and high-powered boarding school for up-and-coming leaders, but in and out-of-the-way Galilean hamlet in his father’s carpentry shop. Nor did it happen by accident. We can imagine Joseph patiently, skillfully, and methodically teaching Jesus to choose good materials, then to “measure twice and cut once.”
We also can well imagine this training embedded in the back of our Lord’s mind when he said,
Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
From days at his father’s side designing and fashioning them, Jesus knew yokes, and that his would always be the best fit for us.
We don’t know much about Joseph from Scripture’s witness. Only Mary is mentioned later in Jesus’ days of ministry, and his dying concern on the cross was her continued care after he was gone. We can only surmise that Joseph had died at some earlier time. Yet it would be more than mere conjecture to imagine Joseph—during Jesus’ formative years—faithfully doing all he could to shoulder the unique and tremendous task placed upon him.
When Jesus later told his disciples, “I and the Father are one,” one wonders if, in the back of his mind, the depth of this heavenly reality might have quietly resonated with the memory of love which his earthly father also had shown him.