What Was Jesus’s Relationship with Joseph Like?

by Roger Barrier

Dear Roger,

 My wife and I were discussing Jesus and his earthly father. Joseph did a tremendous job of parenting Jesus during his most formative years. What do you think?




Dear Bud,

I agree! We can learn a great deal about parenting from the relationship between Jesus and Joseph. I’ve selected several important things that a father (or mother) can do that will help children become emotionally and spiritually healthy adults.

1. Learn the Wonder of “With.”

In Mark 3:14, tells us that “Jesus appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be WITH him and that he might send them out to preach.” Notice that Jesus did not send His disciples out to preach until the final few months of His ministry. They spent 2½ years just being WITH Him, getting to know His heart, observing His ways, absorbing His teaching, developing a close relationship.

Unfortunately, in our culture, we have lost the wonder of with. We are constantly wanting to go out and do! And anything less than frantic busyness is simply not normal.

Imagine what people asked the disciples during the first 2½ years. “What work is Jesus having you do?”

“Well, none.”

“Yeah, but what do you do?”

“Nothing. We just we just hang around with him.”

The only one who held a job during those 2½ years was who? Judas. I would imagine that Judas never embraced the wonder of WITH.

Studies show that the average dad spends 14 minutes per day with their child. Christians do much better. We spend 17 minutes.

We are raising a nation of children whose concept of a father is “someone who doesn’t know me but enters occasionally into my life to discipline me.” The Bible says, “Provoke not children to wrath” (Ephesians 6:4). One of the quickest ways to provoke a child to wrath is to discipline a child that we don’t even know.

Let me describe the tragedy that often happens in families. The Bible says that children are gifts from the Lord. God gives us children like beautiful packages with a bow on top. Too often, God comes back six months or six years or ten years later, and those packages are still sitting there unwrapped.

In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul wrote: “Don’t receive the gifts of God in vain.”

2. Develop a Godly Home Life.

How often do you stop to consider that Jesus grew up in an adopted family?

Joseph was not his biological father. The Bible teaches that Jesus grew up with four brothers and at least two sisters. Can you imagine what it must have been like to sit around the dinner table with Jesus while all the brothers and sisters were yelling and screaming? How did Jesus fit in with the others?

In Luke 2:52, we read that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with both God and man.” At the age of twelve, he was already involved in deep discussions with the religious leaders of Israel! It’s clear that Jesus came out of that blended family well-adjusted. Mary and Joseph did a great job.

Note that the last mention of Joseph in the Bible was when Jesus was twelve years old in the temple. Jesus began His ministry when He turned water into wine at Cana when He was about thirty years old. Joseph died sometime during the eighteen silent years of Jesus’ life from twelve to thirty.

Birth to twelve is the time to pour spiritual values into a child. By age twelve, our personality is basically set—only slight modifications are made later on. Joseph had a direct, integral impact on the most critical growing-up years of Jesus.

You are blessed if you had father like Joseph—caring and involved in your life. If you didn’t, I am so sorry. You might pray for Jesus to act as your earthly father.

Perhaps you didn’t get much appreciation, encouragement, acceptance, affection, or support from your dad. Don’t be too harsh on your dad. It’s likely that he didn’t receive those things either. It’s hard to pass on something that you have never experienced.

My father often said to my brother and me, “Find a hole and fill it.” Children have lots of “holes.” When you see one, fill it up. Go on; meet that need. They will be forever changed by your attention, approval, encouragement, and respect.

God intended for children to grow up in a well-adjusted, secure, stable and loving home environment where they are secure in the knowledge that mom and dad fellow the biblical instructions for how to live as a Christian.

3. Help Your Child Discover God’s Calling.

Children come with sealed orders from God. One of the basic responsibilities of parenting is to help open the envelope from God and help our children understand their calling in life.

Jesus did not come out like superman, a little baby lifting refrigerators. He did not say from the manger, “2+2=4.” His first miracle occurred at Cana when He was 30 years old.

When did Jesus figure out that He was here to die on the cross? At birth? At age three? I doubt it.  At twelve? Perhaps. His calling came into focus over a period of time.

Mary and Joseph taught Jesus Isaiah 53; “You are the Lamb who will bear the sin of the world.”

They told Him, Psalm 22 is about You. It prophesied the last words that Jesus would ever speak. Jesus went back to His childhood to find those last words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

God has a plan for all of us. Good parenting is helping your children find it.

I’ve heard some parents say, “I don’t want to teach my child about religion. I’ll just wait until they are old enough, and they can make their own decisions.”

If we wait until they are “old enough,” we will have already taught them. We will have taught them by our silence that spiritual things are not important.

Our culture has secularized the school setting and society as a whole. Mom and Dad have to teach Christian values, or they won’t be taught.

By the age of 12, Jesus was well on His way to learning His father’s trade. He was a “teknon” (Mark 6:3); a master craftsman. He could build a boat or table or chairs. This tells us that Joseph invested a lot of time with Jesus. He poured his life and soul into His child.

Will you?

4. Teach the Art of Submission.

Submission means instant obedience. One afternoon, we were walking our dog, Becky, as a car swerved into our pathway. Becky reacted by preparing to cross the street to reach us on the other side. Danger! I yelled “Becky, stop!” She immediately stopped.

No counting to three. No decision making. No questioning glance.

There was no difficulty in her mind knowing what to do. When I say “stop,” she stops.

Parents need to teach obedience so as their children grow older, they understand how and why to be instantaneously obedient to God. It’s also critical to teach children how to respond in a consistent way. When certain things occur in their lives, they know exactly how to respond.

Both of these require parents to build into their children a heart of submission, and not rebellion.

Christ learned submission early, so when He was in the garden, He said, “Not my will but thine be done.”

Why did He choose to submit? He was well-trained. Hebrews 5:8 says, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.”

Let’s call this “discipline.” If Jesus needed suffering (discipline) to learn obedience, what must our need be?

5. Bless Your Children.

Remember Jesus’ Baptism at the age of thirty?

This was the first public day of Christ’s ministry. It was His first day on the job. A voice shouted from heaven: “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21, 23).

Think about it. Jesus’ Father blessed a Son who hadn’t done anything yet!

We miss the point if we think God said that for the crowd. Instead, this was a loving Father affirming His Son. That affirmation empowered Jesus’ ministry.

Parents, try that. Stop your child as he or she is crossing the room, look them in the eye and say, “I love you, I’m so proud of you. I’m so glad you are my son/daughter.”

Leave them standing there in awe! “What did I do?” Nothing! That’s what grace looks like; that is what affirmation sounds like. That’s a picture of God’s unconditional love.

I’ve noticed over the years that most children grow up having never received a blessing from their parents. If that’s you, I am so sorry.

The good news is, while you may never have received acceptance from your parents, if you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will receive acceptance from your Heavenly Father.

Two pictures describe how we get into God’s family.

First, through birth: “You must be born again” (John 3:3).

Second, through adoption: “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the pleasure of his will” (Ephesians 1:5-6).

Every believer is accepted by the Father on the basis of the work of Christ on the cross: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

Imagine in your mind that God is putting His arms around you. He says, “I love you. I accept you for who you are. There is nothing more you have to do.”


Well, Bud,

I hope you find this helpful.

Love, Roger

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