December 10, 2017
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
The Christmas Characters
During this Advent season, I hope to focus in on a few special aspects of the story of the birth of Jesus. All this is, amazing as it is, from the birth of the Savior, to the star and the visiting astrologers from the east, are simply a prelude to the greatest story ever told: the passion, death and resurrection of our Messiah and Lord. The amazing love shown by God to lower Himself from his omnipotent position, to humble Himself and take on human flesh to reach down to fallen mankind, and make a way home, is the central focus of history. The world today chooses to look the other way. I pray when they do look, you and I will be standing in their field of view showing them the same love.
Matthew 1:19 – And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she shall bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” … 24 And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did has the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, 25 and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.
In these few passages, we have the bulk of what we know about Joseph, the Step-Father of Jesus, the husband of Mary. These passages may be few, but they speak volumes.
- “And Joseph her husband …” This speaks of the seriousness of the period of betrothal that Joseph and Mary had entered into by mutual consent. Joseph was considered Mary’s husband, even though they were not yet married. This period of betrothal was equivalent to marriage in very many ways. So similar if fact, that if Joseph had put Mary away, it would have required a divorce decree to break the betrothal. The divorce could also have placed the very life of Mary in jeopardy, since she had ‘obviously’ been unfaithful, she could have been stoned as an adulteress.
- “being a righteous man” Joseph had a good reputation, honest and dependable. And his heart was right before God. Of course, there is none righteous, no not one …, but Joseph’s heart was toward God. He needed the coming Messiah as much as anyone, and he knew it. Little could he have dreamed, that his young wife would bring the Promised One of Israel into the world.
- “not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly” This shows me how much he must have still cared for Mary, even when he felt that she had almost certainly been unfaithful to him. He was still protecting her, by not publicly humiliating her and placing her life in danger. Surely his father and mother would have been insisting that the marriage be ended. To put her away would be to hand her a divorce decree. His father probably would have approved of putting Mary away privately to spare his son, the girl and his family the terrible public spectacle and memory. Another mark of the maturity of Joseph.
- “But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him” Joseph is visited here by an angel of the Lord, who assured him that Mary had not been untrue to him. That she had not lied and that she did indeed carry the Messiah under her heart. There is no question recorded here. Zechariah and Mary both questioned the revelations they received, but not Joseph.
- “And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did has the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife” His obedience was complete and immediate. It sounds to me very much as if they ran off to a Rabbi or “Justice of the Peace” of the day, and were married. There may have been a slight delay, but I’m sure it happened as soon as it could have been arranged. Imagine his relief when he realized that Mary did love him as much as he thought she had. And he now knew her love was true, and his suspicions, though logical, were unfounded. I’m sure the first thing he did was apologize to her. Imagine Mary’s surprise, relief and excitement when the knock on the door in the middle of the night was Joseph, and that she had been exonerated in his eyes and heart.
- “ and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus” The consummation of the typical marriage, which Mary and Joseph had to forego, usually happened during the wedding feast, Socially, Mary had been spared by Joseph to a large degree. But the stigma of carrying an illegitimate child must have stuck to her like glue. Joseph was probably seen in a slightly better light for having sacrificed to help Mary. But his judgment and his obviously emotional decision would be called into question. But it was done. They were married and awaited they birth of a child. Joseph honored God by not consummating the marriage, foregoing his rights. In so doing, he could not, nor could anyone else, claim that Jesus was his son. The virgin birth of Christ had been foretold, and now could not be contested by Joseph. His obedience was complete to the last detail, in naming the child Jesus, or Savior, as he had been instructed.
There is wonderful, delightful irony in all of this. Joseph taught Jesus to be a carpenter. The Creator of the Universe being taught to cut and plane the boards He held together by the power of His will — otherwise, the atoms would simply fly apart. Joseph working hard to be a father to the Son of God who planned Joseph’s existence in eternity past. Joseph taking Jesus to Synagogue to learn the scriptures that Jesus had handed to Moses and others years before.
These are two remarkable young people. It was probably the secret dream of every young girl to be the one to bear the Messiah. They were probably around the ages of 14 to 16. They were thrown into a situation they could not explain logically, and where the truth made them appear as liars, or worse. What they said and believed flew in the face of common sense and many religious beliefs. The coming Messiah would be a King, and would free the nation from their oppressors. And in the middle of all of these things, Mary and Joseph had the typical trepidations of all expectant parents to deal with, too. Joseph was now working to feed two and soon three. During the period of betrothal, the husband would make a small addition to his father’s house for them. She would prepare many things for the home, and clothes, table cloths, making many of the things with her mother. The period of betrothal typically lasted about a year. All this had been cut short. Some precious things had to be sacrificed. Through it all, they stood with each other. Joseph certainly learned to lead his family quickly. Mary looked to his leadership. And both looked to God Who had honored and blessed them so greatly. Certainly they leaned on Him as they leaned on each other as they journeyed onward. Their sacrifices would not go unrewarded as they watched Jesus grow.
Lord Jesus, You selected Joseph so carefully. Thank you for his strong example, believing You when the whole world and all the logic he could muster were against him. Help we husbands to learn from his example of love and devotion to his young bride and to You. Build that kind of trusting heart into each of us. Amen.
Grace & Peace,