I think my favorite line in the movie The Nativity was when Joseph looked at the baby Jesus and then to Mary and asked, “I wonder if I will be able to teach him anything.” I think most of us fathers have felt that same concern at some point. But of all dads ever born, Joseph ranks first in having justified fear. Imagine becoming the dad of a boy whose father was God Himself.
We might worry about teaching a son how to ride a bike, throw a curveball, or solve math problems. Joseph could have wondered about how he could possibly teach Jesus how to live a godly life. Should Jesus do something needing correction or discipline, how should he administer it to God’s Son? For that matter, would Jesus ever do anything wrong? Isaiah wrote “a child shall lead them.” Was that written specifically for him and Mary? Would Jesus correct them in godliness?
Luke recorded that when Jesus was twelve years old, he accompanied his parents to the temple for Passover as was their custom. On that trip, he stayed behind instead of returning with his parents and the caravan. When Joseph and Mary found him three days later, he was still in the temple teaching the scholars. In response to Mary’s rebuke for causing them concern and anxiety, he asked if they didn’t know he would be about his Father’s business. Then we are told he submitted to Joseph and Mary, returning to Nazareth with them. Based on how Luke summed up the years that followed, Joseph must have overcome his qualms and served his role well. Luke added that Jesus grew in stature and favor with God and men.
Cultural norms and a few comments made during Jesus’ ministry make it safe to assume part of his submission and growing included learning the trade of Joseph. Between the temple experience and the beginning of his ministry approximately eighteen years passed. Also, during that time, most believe Joseph died. Some believe Joseph didn’t live a long time after Jesus was born. I think he might have lived until shortly before Jesus began his ministry. Jesus’ reputation was tied to Joseph in Nazareth evidenced by the comment, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” (See Matthew 13:55).
After those eighteen years of information blackout, Jesus went to the river and was baptized by his cousin John. The Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove and then led him into the wilderness for forty days of fasting, prayer, and testing. Out of that, his ministry began.
Jesus claimed he said nothing but what the Father gave him. Many times during his ministry, Jesus separated himself from his disciples or rose early in the morning to pray. The Father’s presence came to him at his baptism, and he maintained that presence by seeking time with his Father.
Then, before he went to the garden where he would be arrested, Jesus prayed a special prayer. It has one of the most shocking concepts in it and is one of my favorite quotes from Jesus. “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:20-23 NKJV).
I believe Jesus gets everything he asks for. I believe it when he said he spoke nothing but what the Father had given him. Therefore, I believe this prayer was spoken as if the Father told His Son to pour out his heart for the disciples to hear that they would know they could seek and have His presence in their lives just like Jesus did. And I believe it when Jesus said having the Father’s presence in such a way was to reach down through the ages to even me. And he did so for the world to know that the Father sent the Son out of his love for all who believe, a love equal to his love for his Son and manifested to remove all doubt. To pray and expect such a presence and oneness is not being presumptuous or precocious because the Father prayed it first. It’s praying according to his will.