Much has been said about Jesus’ relationship with his mother, and for good reason... Mary was an incomparable mom on just about every front! But I often wonder about the subtle ways Jesus’ relationship with his dad played out in his formative years.
Were Joseph and Jesus particularly close? Did they talk a lot, or was Joseph a quieter type of dad who simply enjoyed spending time building things with his son? And how old was Jesus when Joseph passed away?
“We don’t know exactly how or when Joseph died, but according to tradition, Joseph died in the arms of Mary and Jesus before Jesus started his public ministry. The specifics may vary, but most biblical scholars agree with that assessment because Joseph’s absence is so glaring in the gospel accounts after Jesus becomes an adult." (Jesus Journey, p.47)
Perhaps I’m particularly curious about all this given that I, like Jesus, lost my father before I feel like I really entered “adulthood.” I was 14 years old when cancer took my dad’s life, and I suppose it goes without saying that I deeply felt the absence of his presence in the years that followed.
I remember one particularly dreary evening a month or so after Dad died, when I was wrestling through my grief, which had recently taken a turn toward raw anger. I ran down the road from my house crying and yelling at God through the winter night, ignoring the falling snow on my face and asking indignantly: Why? Why would he take my dad from me? Why would he leave me so alone in such a formative period of my life, when I so desperately needed a father?
I beat the air with closed fists, and unexpectedly, a picture suddenly emerged in my mind’s eye: I was hitting God’s chest as hard as I could, sobbing and screaming at Him. He stood with his arms outstretched at his sides, exposing his heart and taking my beating... and He was crying.
God was crying with me.
When I became too exhausted and emotionally overcome that I could hit Him no more, I collapsed into His chest, His arms closing around me.
I don’t know how long it was before our tears subsided and I emerged from His embrace, but as I made the slow, chilling walk back home, I knew that a new trust had been forged between me and my Heavenly Father. He had offered no answer, but somehow knowing that he shared in my sadness was enough.
I wonder if Jesus had a similar moment when Joseph died. Did he run down a dusty road, tears rolling down his sweaty face, pouring out his heartache to God and questioning what it was all about? Was that one of the moments that Jesus realized, like me, that He actually had another Father who was there to share in His grief?
I’ve had many moments of missing my Dad since adjusting to life without him. The day I was married, the day my first son was born, the day we moved overseas... but I can’t imagine the depths of how Jesus must have felt on the cross as he suffered through a sluggish death and cried out, “Father, why? Why have You forsaken me?”
Was his loneliness especially potent because of the loneliness he had felt so long ago? Was his mind flashing back to the moment when his earthly dad died and he had found solace in his heavenly one?
I’m a dad of two young boys now, and I still try to take cues from the vague memories I continue to carry from my dad when I was a child. One of the primary lessons I will try to implement, all the more as my kids’ questions grow alongside their age, is how to loudly display my love and present-ness without always offering an answer.
Jesus demonstrated this artful balance when he wept with his friends over the death of Lazarus instead of immediately explaining himself, although surely he could have done so.
I like to think Jesus had learned this way of living from his dad(s).
Today's guest post is by Nathan Chud (aka "Beirut-Chud" in the book acknowledgements)—you can learn all about Chud and hear some of his amazing, original music at nathanchud.com, which is where this awesome bio comes from too: "My last name is Chud, which coincidentally rhymes with 'stud.' I'm an educator and artist who writes about things that fill me with wonder (which happen to be a lot). I grew up in Alaska, where I naturally acquired that ability at a young age. I live in Beirut, Lebanon with my super-human wife (Marisa) and two young Chudlings (Lincoln & Owen). We're here plotting about how to offer similar wonder-filled opportunities to children from war-torn countries."
Photo credits: "boy and plant"—Edgar Buenas / "looking through" & "solo path"—Chelsea Hudson