Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Tale of Two Fathers

Has there ever been a father who didn’t swell with pride and hope while embracing sky-high aspirations for the newborn baby he held in his arms? After getting home from the hospital, away from all the excitement and holding that brand-new little baby, sleeping in peace – fathers tend to start looking way out into the future to imagine what is to come:
Maybe they see their son striking the familiar pose of the Heisman trophy as he leads his college football team to the national championship.
Perhaps they see their daughter in a lab coat winning the Nobel Prize for inventing the ultimate cure for cancer.
They may envision their child being the biggest box-office draw in Hollywood, or chairing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or writing the ‘great American novel’, or walking on Mars, or singing at the Grand Ol’ Opry. They have dreams – big dreams for the little miracle they hold in their hands.

Do you think it would have been any different for Joseph when he first held Jesus in his arms in the stillness and quietness of that Bethlehem night? Even though Joseph knew he wasn’t Jesus’ ‘biological’ father, I’m certain that he had the same feelings of pride in anticipation of what his ‘son’ would become.

Of course, Joseph had an added advantage of having been told by an angel: “[Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) And his wife had been told: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." Luke 1:32-33

So Joseph had more than just ‘fatherly pride’ to fuel his imagination of what the future would hold for Jesus – he had the angel’s prophecy to bank on. However, Joseph’s anticipation of Jesus “saving his people”, “being great”, being given the “throne”, and “reigning forever”, was probably much different from what actually took place.

As Jesus grew, I’m sure Joseph experienced the same things most fathers go through as the mundane, day-to-day aspects of life tend to crowd out those euphoric dreams and visions of what was going to be. It’s not that fathers ‘lose hope’ or ‘settle for something less’ for their children. Rather, most fathers learn that enjoying those daily experiences and accomplishments pushes those ‘future’ dreams out of focus. They learn to treasure the ‘here and now’ of their children rather than looking to the ‘maybe someday’. And as we participate in our children’s lives, we don’t lower our aim, our goals just morph toward what is most important to them.

Joseph surely cherished the time he had with Jesus as Jesus learned his father’s craft, was perfectly obedient to Mary and him, and assisted with the responsibilities of rearing his brothers and sisters. Joseph didn’t have to look to what he may have wanted or thought Jesus might become – he knew he was truly blessed to have him as his son.

What about Jesus’ ‘other’ Father? What do you think He may have felt as He cradled Jesus in His arms on that first night in that lowly stable?

Well, being eternally omniscient and not constrained by the limits of time as Joseph would have been, the Father would have had no unrealistic hopes or expectations for the life of that Child. While His expectations were impossibly high (the perfect salvation of man), they were certainly not unrealistic since He knew they would be totally fulfilled.

In that very moment the Father saw not only the ‘mundane’ day-to-day events His Son would experience over the next 33 years, He saw the extraordinary - and He knew the significance of each and every one. Yes, Jesus was pre-existent with the Father, but as the Father cradled this Baby, He saw the Baby:
● As an adolescent boy being perfectly obedient and submissive to the earthly parents to whom he was entrusted.
● As a young man with the same struggles as his peers but never violating a single commandment.
● As a missionary choosing to follow the Father’s plan wherever it led.
● As a rabbi teaching, healing, loving.
● As a Jew living the spirit of the Law rather than manipulating the letter of the Law.
● As a preacher offering hope and salvation.
● As a servant being betrayed by friends.
● As a prisoner being spat upon, beaten, mocked, and murdered.
● As a lamb taking on all of the most foul, repugnant, obscene, heinous sins ever committed in all time.
● As a victor defeating death and rising again.
● As a Savior bringing multitudes back to the Father.

The Father saw the ‘tragic’ from the perspective that turned it to the ‘glorious’. He knew what lay ahead and He knew His Son would do all that was necessary. Perfectly. The Father knew the pain, suffering, and separation His Son would endure. Flawlessly.

The Father knew He was truly blessed to have Jesus as His Son.

And He gave Him to us.

And we are blessed beyond imagination to have Him as a Savior.

A child has been born to us; God has given a son to us.
He will be responsible for leading the people.
His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God,
Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace.
Power and peace will be in his kingdom
and will continue to grow forever.
He will rule as king on David's throne
and over David's kingdom.
He will make it strong by ruling with justice and goodness
from now on and forever.
The LORD All-Powerful will do this
because of his strong love for his people.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NCV)

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