Joseph and Mary, and Zechariah and Elizabeth must have been remarkable people. We know they weren’t perfect, we know they weren’t sinless, for they, as we, were children of Adam. We don’t know a lot about them for the Gospel is about Jesus Christ and not them, and we do them an injustice when we engage in speculation that is not tethered to the Scripture. Of these four people, only Mary is with us at the Crucifixion, only Mary is with us in the Upper Room. Since Zechariah and Elizabeth were advanced in years when their son John was born they likely died before he began his ministry of heralding the Messiah. And Joseph?
In John 6:42, well into the ministry of Jesus we read that it was said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” The people speaking these words may have known Joseph, but once we leave the Nativity accounts we can’t say that we know him, at least not directly from the text.
In Luke’s Nativity account Mary receives billing above Joseph. She is a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, Luke 1:27. Joseph takes Mary to Bethlehem to comply with the Roman census, Luke 2:4. The shepherds find Mary and Joseph and the baby, Luke 2:16. “His [Jesus’] father and mother marvel at what was said about Him,” [by Simeon in Jerusalem]. Yes, Joseph is in Luke’s account, but Mary is closer to center stage.
But in Matthew the genealogy concludes with, “…and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.” The genealogy is Joseph’s genealogy, a kingly genealogy; Joseph is descended from the King David, the Covenant King, the King to whom Yahweh bestowed eternal and Messianic promises. Royalty flows through the veins of the carpenter (see Matthew 13:55 for reference to Joseph being a carpenter). We ought not to mistake a man’s trade or vocation for his identity; many a king has had the nature of a swine, and many a carpenter has had the nature of a king. There are royal garbage collectors and there are garbage executives; God looks on the heart, a good thing to be reminded of during Advent.