Christ Among "The Royal House of David" through St. Joseph's Descendants
"And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ" (Matthew 1:16).
The righteous St. Joseph was the Lord Jesus Christ's father in the flesh. St. Joseph had been betrothed to the virgin St. Mary before the Lord's glorious Nativity. The Holy Bible refers to engaged couples such as St. Joseph and St. Mary as husband and wife. Through St. Joseph's lineage, legal paternity to the Lord Jesus Christ has been confirmed, although He is born unto the ever-virgin St. Mary.
According to Jewish tradition hereditary rights could be confirmed on adopted as well as biological sons. The Lord Jesus Christ is born out of neither legal, traditional, nor customary binding marriage bonds.
The Holy Gospels of both St. Matthew and St. Luke confirm and emphasize that the Lord Jesus Christ was counted among the House of David at His birth. St. Mark and St. John, in their Holy Gospels, refer to the Lord as the "son of Joseph". Therefore, St. Joseph is a divinely determined and central figure in the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ perhaps primarily for his ancestry and his mercifulness.
The House of David typified the royal nature of the Glorious Nativity. King David received the authority of kingship to lead Israel, from God through his anointing by the prophet Samuel and through his kingship preserved the covenant of God. King David was a repentant sinner and consequentially had a kingdom which could be destroyed.
The Lord Jesus Christ, though King David's descendant, would become known as a more exalted King, a Divine Person of no sin whose Kingdom (Heaven) could not be destroyed. The Lord Jesus Christ would be the King not of an earthly country and earthly riches but the royal and exalted King of the Church. Within one of the most quoted of King David's Psalms it is written:
"Your people shall be volunteers in the day of Your power; In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth" (Psalm 110:3).
Not only was the Lord Jesus Christ born into the House of David, He was also born six miles south of the "City of David" in Bethlehem, one of the famous places found around the region of Jerusalem which was not only referred to as a specific capital city carrying the name of a previously famous king, but the City of David was also referred to within many prophecies. It was here Tertullian (c.212), an early church scholar, wrote concerning the City of David and these prophecies:
"...This will be (after the resurrection for a thousand years) in the divinely-built City of Jerusalem, which is 'let down from Heaven.' The apostle also calls it 'our mother from above.' And, by declaring that our citizenship is in Heaven, he indicates that it is really a city in Heaven. Ezekiel had knowledge of this, and the Apostle John beheld it."
St. Joseph also played an active, merciful role immediately prior to the Glorious Nativity. He gave the Glorious Birth much dignity when he thought to quietly put St. Mary away upon discovering she was with a child which he had known was not of his seed.
"Then St. Joseph her husband, not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly" (Matthew 1:19).
St. Joseph was mandated by Jewish Law to report St. Mary's presumed conduct and supposed sin; yet, he decided to not make her behavior public; but to put her away privately. This righteousness becomes known as St. Joseph's righteousness of mercy.
Most probably through his righteous nature, St. Joseph had been visited by an angel not once but four times recorded in the Holy Bible. He heard and heeded to the angel's message during each visit. The first message concerning the revelation the Lord Jesus Christ's birth:
"Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 1:20).
By Divine intervention St. Joseph was considered important enough to have an angel deliver a Divine message unto him, not just a mere message; but an announcement, that of the Incarnation. To no other besides St. Mary would be delivered the announcement of the Incarnation by an angel of the Lord. St. Joseph did not doubt nor question neither the angel nor the logic of the revelation. Nor in reflection did he become angry or jealous upon discovering St. Mary was with child; but designed a simple plan to quietly put her away.
St. Joseph's character must have been impeccable as derived from what little in Holy Scripture is written about him. His demeanor of thoughtfulness and kindness when he had mistakenly thought he had been wronged by his wife was without reproach. His righteous mercy must have also added to his "justness" and earned him the term "a just man".
Fair, even-tempered, intuitive, and reflective in deeds describes the carpenter by trade, St. Joseph. Certainly the Lord Jesus encompassed all these traits in his childhood; and all the more so it can be confirmed that He was the earthly "son of Joseph" who displayed these same characteristics.
As many Biblical scholars believe, St. Joseph was an older man at the time of betrothal. Coptic scholars too concur that he indeed could have been a widow with older children including sons, which left home to start families of their own by the time of husband selection at the Temple for St. Mary.
The Coptic Synaxarium, Volume IV on the twenty-sixth day of the blessed month of Epep, addressing the "Departure of the Upright Joseph the Carpenter," states:
"All the years of his life (St. Joseph) were one hundred eleven years; forty years before his marriage, fifty two years married, and nineteen years a widow."
As we firmly believe and hold true, St. Mary would bear no more children. What earthy infant could possibly follow the Incarnated Divine birth of the Lord Jesus Christ? It is not believed that the Lord Jesus Christ had biological brothers or sisters. The Lord Jesus Christ would be her first born and St. Mary's only child following the Incarnated birth. Therefore St. Mary is often referred to as the "ever-virgin."
It could be assumed that perhaps St. Joseph had sons with his prior wife, (as many historians purport and previously written in this article), and then adopted St. Mary's. It can be surmised that St. Joseph would then have no urgent need for sons to carry on his name. Certainly the Lord Jesus Christ would be the premiere ending to St. Joseph's heirs.
The last Biblical mention of St. Joseph is during the Passover trip to the City of David, Jerusalem, when the Lord was 12 years of age. Following this reference there is no further mention of St. Joseph's life. He is not alluded to as furthering the Lord Jesus Christ's ministry, assisting it, or even as being supportive of His earthly ministry. Neither was St. Joseph at the foot of his earthly adopted Son's Holy Cross grieving with St. Mary.
The Coptic Synaxarium concluded the life and history of the Upright St. Joseph by solemnly documenting,
"...he departed in peace. When the time came for him to depart from this world, to the world of the living, the Lord Christ was present at his departure, and laid His Hand upon his eyes. He extended His arms and delivered up his soul, and was buried in the tomb of his father Jacob" (Volume IV, pg. 585).
May we all learn from St. Joseph's example of mercifulness, righteousness, and justness. May the prayers of St. Joseph from "the Heavenly Jerusalem" be with us all,
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States