In the face of circumstances where a man of lesser character might have reacted very differently, Joseph graciously assumed the role of Jesus' father. He is well remembered in Christian tradition for the love he showed to the boy Jesus, and for his tender affection and care for Mary, during the twelve years and more that he was their protector.
Joseph was a pious Jew, a descendant of David, and a carpenter by trade. (The Gospels use the Greek word TEKTON, which means "builder," as in "architect." It has been suggested that he may have been a mason or a metalworker, or a building contractor. In favor of the traditional translation, we have a remark in the writings of Justin Martyr, who was born in Palestine, probably around 100, and who tells us that he has seen plows and ox-yokes still in use which were said to have been made in the carpenter-shop at Nazareth. We may not believe that the particular claims were all accurate, but they are testimony to what the Christians of Palestine in the early second century believed that Joseph's occupation had been, and this may be an idea continuously handed down in the community there since the early first century.) Because of the silence of the Gospels, and because Jesus entrusted Mary to the care of John, it is generally believed that Joseph died a natural death after the visit to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve (Luke 2:41-51), but before the Baptism of Jesus when He was thirty. Joseph's influence during those early years must have been tremendous. When Jesus spoke of God as being like a loving Father, He was using a word that he had first learned as a child to apply to Joseph. Joseph stands as a testimony to the value of simple everyday human things, and especially that human thing called "fatherhood."