"THE FATHER'S CHOICE OF A FATHER!"
TEXT: Matt. 1:18-25; 2:13-15,19-23 Lk. 2:22-24,39-52
INTRO: Mary, the mother of Jesus has commanded a great deal of attention down through time, her extraordinary commitment to God and Jesus is well documented. She has often been the subject of Mother's Day messages ... but how many times have you heard a Father's day message on Joseph, Jesus' earthly father?
While we know little about Joseph we do know that he was a godly man ... the Bible calls him a "righteous man" (Matt. 1:19), he obeyed God's Word without hesitation. Yet, while being careful to obey the law precisely he also demonstrated he could go beyond the strict codes out of love. He was willing to quietly put Mary away rather than have her stoned to death as the law would have required when he found out about her pregnancy. He demonstrated a life dedicated to obeying God and putting others ahead of himself. He was a hard working carpenter, satisfied with a meager income. He was a man who deeply impressed others with a wonderful balance between law and grace ... is it any wonder that God's chose him to be Jesus' earthly dad?
Think about this! God chose an imperfect earthly Dad to bring up His perfect only begotten son, the Messiah! What was God looking for in a man? These are still the qualities God looks for in fathers today ... He searched for a man who would trust in Him no matter what, and found this man named Joseph.
ILLUS:During World War II a father who was holding his son by the arm was seen running from a building that had just been bombed. In the front yard was a huge hole where a bomb had already exploded. Seeking shelter the father jumped into the hole and called for his son to jump down into his arms. The boy however, standing at the rim, could not see into the hole because of the dust and darkness, but the father could easily see the silhouette of his son against the sky above him. The boy hesitated and said, "But I can't see you dad" and the father responded, "That's o.k. son, I can see you and I won't let you fall, just jump!"
In those times when we can't see the Father we must learn to trust Him to be there anyway, prior experience with the Father will make it easier to jump when we need to.
It is ironic that Jesus' earthly father Joseph taught Him how to use wood and nails and these were the implements later that would be used to take Jesus' life. We can safely say that Joseph died somewhere between Jesus' 12th birthday and his 30th when He began His ministry. Tradition tell us that Joseph died when Jesus was 18 years old, at the age of 110 to 111. Whatever is true, Joseph was there for Jesus during his formative years, and the stamp of Joseph's life on Jesus must not be ignored, God trusted His only begotten son to this earthly dad ... could He trust you?
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us by Joseph's example that a godly father is a gift from God. We have little to nothing of what Joseph said, but a pretty good look at what he did ... proving that a godly father is not just talk, but lots of action!
I. THE PERSON Matt. 1:18-25
A. Righteous Matt. 1:18-19
1. Joseph, like Mary, had no idea of what God's plans were for them.
a. They had fallen in love and were engaged.
b. They had plans to get married like any couple in love.
c. They had maintained the purity of their relationship, trusting in God's morality to bring blessing to their lives together, the text clearly states that they had not had sex prior to their marriage ... it can be done!
2. God however had picked them BOTH to be Jesus' earthly parents.
a. Mary to be the mother of Jesus ... and so she becomes pregnant supernaturally.
b. Joseph to be the earthly father of Jesus ... he is a righteous man.
3. The first thing that is obvious here is that Joseph was not legalistic about God's laws ... by right he could have disgraced Mary or even had her stoned to death when he found out she was pregnant, but it says clearly that is NOT what he wanted to do.
a. Instead of the literal law, the law of love brought him to a different plan, to quietly put her away so she would not have to face public disgrace, he would simply quietly divorce himself from her.
b. He found a different way to deal with the situation besides the legalistic way.
c. This shows that his righteousness was not built on legalistic observance of laws, but on the spirit of the law -- love, which sprang from God's own heart ... no wonder God chose Joseph!
4. God in picking Joseph makes a powerful statement about legalism, about those who are always so concerned about being RIGHT that their hearts are hardened, Joseph stands as a fresh breath of air against the backdrop of Pharisaical legalism.
5. By picking Joseph God sent a message to mankind ... Joseph's character demonstrated the same character Jesus later showed ... an important message to all mankind!
ILLUS:I've always tried to be aware of what I say in my films because all of us who make motion pictures are teachers, teachers with very loud voices. -- George Lucas, accepting a lifetime achievement award at the Academy Award ceremonies, March 1992 (quoted by Edwin A. Roberts, Jr., in the Tampa Tribune, April 5, 1992). Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 8.
B. Reachable 1:20-25
1. It is interesting to note that Joseph did not find it strange to hear from God ... righteous dads expect to hear from God!
a. When God appears to Joseph in a dream he is not afraid nor doubts it, he was a man use to hearing from God.
b. Dad, do you routinely hear from God, would you recognize His voice if He spoke to you today?
2. Note what the response from Joseph is as soon as he awakens from sleep and this dream, "When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son..." 1:24-25
a. There is no hesitation, he was a man use to doing what God asks of him.
b. Obeying God was normal ... not abnormal for this man, how about you dad?
3. The testimony of all the great men and women of faith is that they simply obeyed God, they took delight in their heavenly father and this no doubt equipped him to be a delightful earthly father!
ILLUS:As much as I enjoy talking, laughing, shopping or playing thought-provoking games with my two teens, I have to admit that sometimes I miss when they were babies. As infants, they would display sheer joy whenever I walked into the room. They simply wanted to be with me--and found comfort in being carried or held on my lap.
I wonder if God sometimes feels that way about me. Now that I've "grown up," do I still express excitement about simply being in his presence? Does God miss me lifting up my arms for him to hold me? -- Lynette Kittle, Spring Hill, FL. Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart."
4. Our children need to see us as fathers delight ourselves in the Lord if we ever hope for them to see this relationship with God as a positive thing and not just as a duty!
5. In every way Joseph was a great role model for any child to have ... and God finds in him the right balance of law and grace, an understanding of love for both God and man not found in many of Joseph's day.
II. THE PROTECTOR - PROVIDER Matt. 2:13-15,19-23
A. Responsible 2:13-15
1. Joseph was a father to Jesus in every way ... when the life of Jesus was threatened God spoke to Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt.
a. Joseph protected his family, a responsibility of every father.
b. Joseph doesn't argue with God when told to go to Egypt with Jesus and Mary, though it certainly would cost him his business connections and income.
c. Perhaps this is why God had the Magi bring Jesus gold, it provided for them while in Egypt since Joseph temporarily had given up his job.
2. Joseph put his family above his business, and God took care of their needs!
a. Joseph had his priorities correct: God first, family second, job third.
b. What would you do for your family?
3. Jesus could feel safe growing up with a father like this, no wonder it was easy to trust His heavenly father when He had already seen something of God in His earthly father!
4. A child that grows up in a home with a father who can sacrifice himself for their needs will never feel afraid, and they will understand love.
ILLUS:I remember watching a father play with his little boy, repeatedly throwing him in the air and catching him just before he hit the ground. The child is relaxed and having a great time saying, "Do it again! Do it again!" I thought, If that was me, I 'd be stiff as a board. "Can you explain why he's so relaxed, even when he's out of control?" I asked the father. "It's very simple," he said. "We have a history together. We've played this game before, and I've never dropped him." -- Rod Cooper, "Worship or Worry?" Preaching Today, Tape No. 108.
5. Dad, build a history with your child that shows them that you would never drop them, Joseph gave up everything to protect Jesus and Mary.
B. Reliable 2:19-23
1. Notice with each new development Joseph has no problem hearing from God or obeying God's will.
a. He is a consistent ... the real need for kids today!
b. Is it any wonder with the breakup of homes and families today that so many kids have resorted to despair and crazy acts ... they don't see in the world any constants!
2. Dad, the way for children to grow up and be reliable is to live with a father and mother who are reliable.
a. No doubt God took this into consideration for his choices of earthly father and mother for His son Jesus, He wanted people who were reliable.
b. This is actually part of the very character of God ... He is immutable which is just a fancy word for reliable, unchangeable, or constant.
3. Children need and desire a predictable atmosphere in order to feel safe, this allows them an atmosphere where they can grow. They need this constant in their life.
4. When we are reliable as earthly fathers our children learn much more quickly that God can be trusted because He is also a father, albeit a Heavenly one!
ILLUS:Several months ago our family went to a swimming pool. I was down in the deep end by the diving board swimming around, and my four-year-old, Savannah, came tottering into the shallow end of the pool. She can't swim yet, but she wears these big orange "floaties." She can't sink with these huge orange floaties on. Savannah came down the steps, and as soon as she got out there in the water, she said "Daddy, I'm scared. I want to come where you are." I chuckled at her naivete and said, "Savannah, it's a lot deeper down here." She said, "I don't care. I want to be where you are." "Okay, come on," I said. She began dog-paddling across the pool ... three-foot ... six-foot ... nine-foot ... 12-foot-deep water. When she came up to me she grabbed my neck, and her look of panic gave way to relief. Next to her father she felt secure, and it made very little difference how deep or how dangerous the water was. -- Dave Stone, "Keep the Dust Off the Highchair," Preaching Today, Tape No. 143.
5. Great parenting isn't always about having a great education, great wealth to give your children, great power ... it is about consistency of character ... great kids have been raised by uneducated people, by poor people, by commoners ... it is our character that counts more than our cash!
a. There is little doubt about Joseph's character even though there is little recorded about what he said ... we know what he did, and that is what God saw in Joseph, a man who DID the right things ... consistently!
b. It is not enough to bring your kids to Church so they can attend Sunday school, Christian education is much greater than this, their greatest Christian education comes from your example at home!
III. THE PARENT Lk. 2:22-24,39-52
A. Recognition Lk. 2:22-24
1. Joseph was careful to recognize God's ownership of Jesus ... as soon as He was 8 days old Jesus was brought to the temple to be dedicated.
a. This was more than just dedicating the baby, it was also accepting responsibility as a parent to recognize God's ownership of the child and as the parent to live for God as an example.
b. Baby dedications are not just cute ceremonies, and they are not just about the baby, it is as much about the commitment of the parents as it is about the baby being dedicated to God.
2. Joseph recognized God's role in Jesus' life and in his own life.
3. Ultimately dad it does not matter what others think about you as a father, there is only one opinion that counts, that is God's!
ILLUS:Like the famous story of Babe Ruth and the umpire Babe Pinelli who called him out on his 3rd strike ... Babe Ruth proceeded to argue with the umpire while the entire crowd of 40,000 people cheered him on, Babe Ruth stated, "There's 40,000 people here who know that the last one was a ball, you tomato head!" Pinelli replied with a measured stateliness, "Maybe so, but mine is the only opinion that counts ... you're outa here!" No matter what the world says, the only opinion that ultimately counts is God's!
4. There are a lot of voices today telling us how to be good parents, but nothing will improve on the qualities God calls us to.
a. Joseph's only concern was what God thought ... he certainly knew that there would be all kinds of rumors floating around with Mary giving birth only 6 months after their marriage ... he knew the ridicule and the loss of respect that others would now have, but he still worshiped God, still offered the proper sacrifice, still dedicated Jesus in spite of it all ... because for him there was really only one opinion that mattered!
b. God knew Jesus' earthly father would have to be a man who could swallow his pride, someone who considered the only important opinion to be that of God Himself, someone who would not let the world's opinions keep him from doing what was right ... this was Joseph!
5. Dad, Joseph recognize something very important here ... DO WHAT PLEASES GOD, the rest will come in time.
B. Relationship Lk. 2:41-52
1. As Jesus grew older he witnessed Joseph's relationship with God ... consistency!
a. Joseph every year went up to Jerusalem to worship, Jesus saw in His earthly dad consistent behavior about spiritual things.
b. No wonder Jesus Himself was so consistent to worship in the Temple as an adult, He learned this from His father ... rarely do "stay at home parents produce go to Church children!"
2. All of Jesus' childhood Joseph had taught Jesus the importance of His relationship to His heavenly Father, not just His relationship with him as an earthly father ....
a. In fact, this is probably what Jesus meant when they came and found him after his absence and they were all so upset over it, Jesus responded to their question of "why have you treated us like this?" by saying, "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"
b. Jesus did not mean this disrespectfully or sarcastically, he meant it as astonishment since that was exactly what they had taught Him to do ... and now that He had experienced Bar Mitzvah and was now considered an adult He was doing exactly what they had spent His entire childhood teaching Him to do .. make His relationship with His heavenly Father the priority of His life!
c. Jesus was amazed that they failed to see this!
3. Jesus was simply reflecting the example of his earthly dad!
ILLUS:On a wall near the entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas is a portrait of a Major James Bonham ... a man who did not himself fight at the Alamo, the picture is that of an uncle, whose nephew by the same name did fight in the Alamo. Below the picture is this explanation: "No picture of James Butler Bonham who fought in the Alamo exists, but this picture of his uncle is placed here because they looked alike, it is therefore placed here so that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom."
We have no picture of Joseph, Jesus' earthly father, but certainly the image of Jesus must contain some similarities to His earthly adopted Father as well as His heavenly Father.
4. Notice too that after this Jesus "went down to Nazareth with them and WAS OBEDIENT TO THEM." 2:51
a. Now that He was an official adult He was not required to obey them as before ... but He chooses to out of love and respect.
b. Joseph had done his job well, and because of it Jesus "grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." 2:52
c. It is not hard to see a good picture of the kind of man God looks for in a dad.
5. God help us to be the kind of men that God would choose to be fathers, literally the next generation's well being could be at stake!
6. The good news men is that it is never too late to be the man God wants you to be, and He promises to help those who call on His name and walk consistently with Him.
CONCLUSION: A godly father not only makes all the difference in the world, but in eternity too! God looked for an earthly father to raise His heavenly son, thus showing how important God takes the ministry of fatherhood. Dad, God is still looking for earthly fathers who will make a difference in this world, have you answered the call?