Fully Adopting Jesus

You knew that Jesus was adopted, right?
Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary ... Adopted by a guy named Joseph.

Somehow, this third clause never made it into any of the ancient creeds. 

But maybe it belongs.

Conceived by the Holy Spirit: Jesus is linked to God.
Born of the Virgin Mary: Jesus is linked to humanity.
Adopted by a guy named Joseph: what does this show us?

Over my years of campus ministry, I've heard painful and beautiful stories of adoption.

One of my friends, through tears, shared that his adoptive son started asking questions about his birth parents.  The son felt confused, unwanted.  And his adoptive father ... his father ... well, his tears came because he remembered the season before the adoption.  He remembered the longing, the prayer, the saving up and selling stuff and sacrifice ... all so he and his wife could welcome this child into their family. 

The son was wanted.

And perhaps this is a hint to Joseph's place. 

An adoptive parent does a wonderful, mysterious thing.  An adoptive parent shoulders a burden that doesn't naturally (literally, by nature) belong to them.  An adoptive parent includes the child into a new family story.  An adoptive parent says "Even though you weren't born into my family, you are my family." 

Through Joseph, Jesus is linked to the large and wild biblical narrative.  Jesus is adopted into a family with kings and prostitutes, liars and warriors, people of faith and doubt and perseverance.

Now, you might think, like me, that Jesus being born of the Virgin Mary (who was a Jewish teenager) would already link him this wild biblical narrative.  But in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke, Jesus' ancestry is traced through Joseph, the adoptive father.

We could dig into why the gospels trace the genealogy through Joseph and not Mary, parsing theology and revisiting the church fathers.  But I notice another facet of the story here.

Look at how completely Jesus was adopted!

Jesus may have been conceived without Joseph, born without Joseph ... but his story can't be told without Joseph.  His adoptive father was fully a father to him.

And by being adopted, Jesus becomes truly like us. 

As we stand before God, as his children, we are all adopted.  We are all wanted and chosen and included in our Father's story.  And though we may not know how to live in this new family, as adopted children, we have a Savior who knows what it means to be adopted.  Perhaps he can help us.

Why does it matter that Jesus was adopted?

"St. Joseph and the Christ Child" by El Greco, courtesy of WikiPaintings


  1. hey Steve, love the blog. I appreciated especially your comments on taking notes. Great insights. Do you find the arguments not compelling for Luke's genealogy being Mary's line? You're a Joseph-Joseph guy? :).

  2. I'm more of a Joseph-Joseph guy, as it's the reading on the face.

    What do you find are the most compelling arguments for Luke's genealogy being Marian? I don't think I've ever heard the really solid ones.

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  4. I have not done extensive study on the history of it, but from my basic understanding it is due to a different name being mentioned after Joseph than the genealogy in Matthew (which is also explainable in other ways), or the highlighting of the words "or so it was thought" possibly shifting the focus to his natural parent - Mary.

    It's also interesting that while Matthew focuses almost exclusively on Joseph, Luke focuses almost exclusively on Mary.

    I am not sold on either way, but I have to admit that I am intrigued by the thought of it being Mary's genealogy.

    The kicker, if I remember right, is that John Hannah thinks it's Mary's, or at least did as of 2001. I am guessing you know John. :).

  5. You had me at John Hannah.