What Happened to Joseph?

One of the mysteries I’ve often heard is what ever happened to Jesus’ earthly father Joseph. I have heard conjecture that he must have died before Jesus began preaching but I don’t think so. We know from Scripture that Joseph is still alive when Jesus is twelve.

Luke 2:42-43 (King James Version)
And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.

Then we hear about him again when Jesus returns to preach in Galilee.

John 6:42 (King James Version)
And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

Why would they say they know his father if his father was dead? If his father had recently died wouldn’t they mention it or if he was long dead they would likely only mention that they know his mother, but they say “whose father…we know”. To me this says that Joseph was still alive and known in the area.

So what happened to him, why is he not mentioned? I believe he was probably at home tending to the shop. We know he was a carpenter and he wasn’t rich so it isn’t likely that he could just stop working and follow his strange son around, he had to make a living. In the parable of the prodigal son the father does not chase after the son and I imagine that Joseph probably thought of Jesus as a runaway. We know that from time to time Jesus’ mother Mary goes to see Jesus and that she is present when Jesus dies and that Jesus tells John to take care of her.

John 19:26-27 (King James Version)
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

If this was the only point of reference it would be easy to conclude that Joseph had already died and Mary was now homeless but I don’t think that is correct. I think John took Mary back to his home to comfort her in the hours and days immediately following Jesus’ death until his return. We know that Jesus had younger brothers who could have taken care of their mother so it doesn’t make to think that she now had no family left and Jesus was concerned about her becoming homeless.

Of course this is mostly conjecture and Joseph’s role was already complete at this point or there would be more about Joseph in the Scriptures.

Heavenly Father,
We give thanks that the Bible is your word and contains all we need to know. Our curiosity makes us guilty of straying from the truth that you have set plainly before us. You sent your son to Earth to be the perfect sacrifice and we crucified him with our sin, but you raised him in your glory and he reigns over all creation, for Jesus’ sake we pray.
Amen

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