21st Day of Advent
19But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.
39And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
It has often been remarked that we know precious little about the early life of Jesus. The birth narratives give us a few bare-bones facts about his family background and the circumstances of his conception and birth. We are told of the flight to Egypt and of the eventual return of the family to Nazareth. We are told of the trip to Jerusalem at about the time of his bar mitzvah. Beyond that, we know nothing until Jesus is a young man about thirty years of age. At this point Joseph drops out of the story, leading us to assume that he died during Jesus’ later childhood or early manhood. We assume that Jesus was trained by Joseph to follow in his footsteps as a carpenter, though in fact no mention is ever made of Jesus actually practicing that craft.
We can only speculate about how Joseph’s apparent death would have impacted Jesus. A lot would depend upon the precise timing. The death would have had a far greater effect if it happened before Jesus reached adulthood. Given his position as the firstborn, after Joseph’s death the burden of caring for Mary and any minor siblings would have fallen heavily on Jesus’ shoulders.
There are a couple things that we know for certain. We know that those early years of family life developed a strong, wise, sinless man. And we know that his heavenly father did not hesitate to take extraordinary measure to enable his son to fulfill his calling. The favor of God was upon Jesus as Jesus faithfully fulfilled his purpose on earth.
Questions to Ponder
- Scripture says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a right understanding of God and submission to God leads to right (wise) living. When others look at your life, would they characterize it as wise?
- Ultimately, God’s hand is over all and his timing is always perfect. As you reflect on your own life, have you seen evidence of God’s hand directing your path?