God’s Purpose for Parent Child Relationships
BIBLE STUDY SERIES ON THE GOSPEL This is the first session in a Banking Blessings Ministry bible study series focused on the gospel. In the series, we study the life and teachings of Jesus as recorded in the gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The objective is to use information from his life and teaching to improve our understanding of God’s purpose for human interactions and relationships.
STUDY SESSION ON BIRTH OF JESUS In this session of the series, we examine God’s interactions with Mary and Joseph regarding the birth of Jesus to learn his purpose for parent-child relationships. Through the study, we learn that parenthood is an appointment from God. He may choose to convey the appointment through biological or non-biological means, but the choice does not affect the nature or significance of the parent-child relationships. For example, God assigned fatherhood of Jesus to Joseph, a descendant of Abraham through David, and through the appointment fulfilled his promise to Abraham that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” [Genesis 12:3]. Also, we learn that when God presents an opportunity, he allows the recipient freedom to accept or decline the opportunity.
Naming John the Baptist
COUNCIL OF RELATIVES We begin the study by examining interactions at the naming ceremony of John the Baptist, because the interactions help establish that naming a child was reserved for the father in that Jewish community at that time. On the eighth day after his birth, the council of relatives convened to circumcise and name him. The child’s father Zechariah initially was silent, being deaf and dumb from his encounter with the angel. The relatives wanted to name the child after his father, but his mother Elizabeth objected, and said he should be named John. They disputed her choice on the basis that none of their relatives has that name. The council of relatives asked Zechariah through informal sign language to provide a name for the child. He requested a writing tablet, and “to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, ‘His name is John’” [Luke 1:63].
RESERVED RESPONSIBILITY We learn from this interaction that naming a child was a reserved responsibility of the child’s father in that society at that time. The mother could deputize under supervision of the council of relatives if the father was not available or unable for some reason. The relatives exercised their authority to supervise by disputing what they thought was an unusual name from the mother. The father’s authority or reserved responsibility in the matter was demonstrated by the relatives consulting him “against all odds” and accepting the same name from him without question. Demonstrating the father’s responsibility here is important because it helps us understand God’s interaction with Joseph regarding the birth of Jesus.
Mary’s Conception with Jesus
OFFER OF MOTHERHOOD An angel, Gabriel, approached Mary, a virgin engaged to be married to Joseph, and informed her that she will conceive and bear a son to be called Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” [Luke 1:32]. Mary did not understand the offer outright. She wondered what it all meant, asked several questions of the angel, and eventually understood that this was a divine encounter with an offer from God. The offer was not easy for her. She was to become inexplicably pregnant in a society that would not tolerate any appearance of infidelity. However, recognizing this was an offer from God, she accepted. “I am the Lord’s servant,” she said. “May your word to me be fulfilled” [Luke 1:38].
OFFER OF FATHERHOOD When Joseph realized his fiancée was pregnant without his participation, he wanted to obey the law that required him to divorce her. However, he did not want to disgrace her. Therefore, “he had in mind to divorce her quietly” [Matthew 1:19]. As he pondered the predicament, an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take Mary home as his wife, because her conception was of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the angel told him that Mary will give birth to a son and “you are to give him the name Jesus” [Matthew 1:21]. The angel presented a two-component offer to Joseph through the message. The first is he should get married to Mary. The second component is an offer of authority to name the child: “She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus…” [Matthew 1:21]. Therefore, through the encounter with the angel, God offered fatherhood of Jesus to Joseph, because naming a child was customarily reserved for the father in that society at that time. He will become the father of Jesus by virtue of his marriage to the child’s mother. Joseph accepted the offer by taking Mary home as his wife [Matthew 1:24].
Significance of Joseph’s Fatherhood of Jesus
GOD’S PROMISE TO ABRAHAM FULFILLED Jesus is a descendant of Abraham by virtue of being the son of Joseph, because Joseph is a descendant of Abraham through David [Matthew 1:16]. Therefore, God’s promise to Abraham was fulfilled in Jesus. Recall that God promised to send blessing to all humankind through a descendant of Abraham: “…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” [Genesis 12:3]. He repeated the promise to Jacob at Bethel: “…All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” [Genesis 28:14]. Therefore, the appointment of Joseph as father of Jesus has an important spiritual significance.
PARENTHOOD AN APPOINTMENT FROM GOD Furthermore, Mary and Joseph being the parents of Jesus illustrate an important principle that parenthood is an appointment from God. The appointment could be conveyed through biological or non-biological means as he chooses. Mary’s appointment was both biological and non-biological because her conception was non-biological but she carried the pregnancy through normal gestation. Joseph’s appointment was purely non-biological. Although the routine means to parenthood is biological, other non-biological means, such as marriage to someone that is already a mother or father, also lead to parenthood. Furthermore, the nature of the appointment process, whether biological or non-biological, has no effect on parent-child or child-parent responsibilities. For example, the implications of Jesus being a descendant of Abraham are not affected by the fact that Joseph became his father through non-biological appointment.
Freedom of Choice in Opportunities
FREEDOM TO ACCEPT OR DECLINE An additional lesson from this bible study session is that God presents opportunities to a person with the freedom to accept or decline the opportunity. For example, angel Gabriel presented the proposal to Mary, explained it to her, and waited quietly for Mary to decide. Once Mary accepted, the angel left [Luke 1:38]. In the case of Joseph, the angel presented him with the offer and left. He decided to accept after he woke up. Opportunities that God presents to us may not be as clearly defined as in the cases of Mary and Joseph. Furthermore, as we discussed in a previous bible study at This_Link, a person often has to complete certain tasks through human effort in order to be ready to accept an opportunity from God. Whatever the case, God allows freedom of choice to the recipient of an opportunity: to accept or decline the offer.