A Sunday School Lesson: Joseph, the step-father


Whatever happened to Joseph after Jesus’ childhood? For this Sunday School Lesson, take your Bible and let’s read Luke 2:40-42.

Joseph is conspicuously absent from the four Gospel records after the trip to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12-years-old. Although the Bible does not specifically say what happened to him, the records imply he died sometime between this trip to Jerusalem at Passover and the wedding at Cana just prior to the opening of Jesus’ ministry. (John 2:1, 2).

According to Eastern custom, after the death of the father, the responsibility of the family fell to the eldest son—in this case, Jesus. This would explain his attendance and his part in providing the wine at the wedding feast in Cana. (John 2:1-11). If Jesus were the head of the family at this time, then socially his presence would have been required. Since his public ministry had not yet started, he could afford the time to go. However, after the opening of his public ministry, such social obligations would have to be put aside.

It seems to have become really obvious to Jesus’ family that he had abandoned his responsibility as head of his family in order to go teach the Word. (Mark 3:31-35). And who were the people that comprised his family? Beginning with his mother Mary, it is crystal clear from Matt 13:55 NIV, that Jesus had four half-brothers [James, Joseph, Simon and Judas] and from Matt 13:56; Mark 6:3, at least three half-sisters. [If Matt 13:56 had read “his sister” it would have meant one sister. If it had read “both his sisters” it would have meant two sisters. But “all” his sisters means more than two. In conclusion, Jesus had one mother, four half-brothers, and at least three half-sisters. Two points burst out from these three verses: 1; No doubt Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus; however, when that was followed by seven more pregnancies, I don’t think her virginity was perpetual. 2; Jesus, who shared his birth mother with seven half-siblings, is the “Son of God” and not “God the Son.” (John 3:16)]. To say that Jesus Christ is not God in my mind does not degrade the importance and significance of Jesus in any way. It simply elevates God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to His unique, exalted and unparalleled position. He alone is God.

One would think that the siblings of Jesus would have been super proud and blessed to have an itinerant prophet, a spokesman for God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, in the family. But not only were they not happy about it, they were offended and thus gave him no honor. (Matt 13:57; Mark 6:3, 4).

We know, however, from John 19:25-27 that Jesus was very much aware of his responsibility for his family, especially his mother. Even when he was in agony on the tree, he was taking care of his mother. One of his final acts as eldest son was to see that she would be taken care of by another. Culture would dictate that he must do that if the father were dead. Thus, even at the end of his life he was diligent in his care for his earthly family, although his primary commitment was to his heavenly Father.

If someone were to ask me for an educated guess of the age of Joseph when he died, I would answer that he was almost 48. Here is my thesis. For the sake of argument, let’s say Mary was 16 and Joseph was 18 when they became proud parents of Jesus. And let’s say Joseph’s eight children were all two years apart. Therefore, Mary had a baby when Joseph was 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30 and 32. Going by these calculations, age 32 would have been his youngest age to die.

On the other end of the scale, we know that Jesus was about the age of 30 when he attended the wedding at Cana. Since Joseph was 18 years older than Jesus, he could not have lived past age 48. If Joseph died at age 48 and he was 32 when his youngest child was born, that child would have been 16 when Joseph died. It must have blessed Joseph’s heart to see that all eight of his children reach the age of maturity. Amen.

Sidney Terhune

P. O. Box 6 Wash. Ct. Hs., OH

By Sidney Terhune

Religion Columnist

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