Merciful, Obedient, Loving…..
There are many adjectives we can use when describing the character of Joseph, husband of Mary and foster Father to Jesus.
Just consider the way in which he decided not to accuse Mary, his betrothed of adultery, when he discovered her pregnant before their marriage.
Under the Mosaic law, Joseph had every right to accuse Mary of adultery, and she would have been stoned to death, but instead of publicly accusing her, and humiliating her family, Joseph decided to quietly send her away. His heart must have been breaking right about then.
He discovered the beautiful young woman he loved and was preparing to spend his life with, who had just returned from an extended visit of three months with her Cousin Elizabeth, was pregnant. He knew he could not be the father of her child – scripture tells us that Mary exclaimed to the Angel Gabriel “how can this be as I have not known a man”. Imagine the gossip around the village, the angst and humiliation he must have been feeling.
God Chose well when he called Joseph to be the guardian of Jesus.
I remember reading many years ago an article about the annunciation (when the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was to be the Mother of Messiah …..). The author conjured up a wonderful image of the entire universe, holding its breath whilst awaiting Mary’s response to the news that she had ‘found favour with God and was to bear a Son’. see Luke 1: 30-33
When Mary heard this startling news, she must have been very confused. She had to ask the Angelic visitor how this could possibly happen as she was a virgin and had known no man. But the Angel had come prepared with an answer to that most daunting of questions.
Verse 35 tells us: The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’
This is where the universe held its breath. Eternal life and the future of humanity was at this very moment, held in the balance, awaiting acceptance or rejection from a very young and immature, yet truly devout Jewish maiden. One wonders if the Angel had been sent to any other young girls previously – who had said ‘no way’ (there is no mention of this in scripture…….) So what would this maiden’s answer be?
Verse 38 tells us: ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left her.
Can you feel the sigh and the release of pent up tension as the heavenly host collectively released its breath? Mary had said YES, Salvation could now enter into the world. The eternal plan could go ahead, the Messiah would enter the human race and open the way to everlasting life.
Now Joseph had to be persuaded to accept Mary and her child under his earthly care and protection.
Matthew tells us (1:18-25) ‘an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’
‘ When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.’
What a dream that must have been. I suppose Joseph must have been going over things in his own mind. He was probably very hurt to have discovered that Mary was pregnant. He was a man, probably older that Mary, one might say he was more worldly wise. He knew that it takes ‘two’ a man and a woman to make a baby, so he could even have been lying there, in his bed trying to figure out just who got Mary pregnant.
He finally falls into a disturbed sleep, maybe even tossing and turning, moaning and groaning. Then whammo! His dreams are interrupted by an angelic visitor, who tells him that Mary hasn’t been unfaithful at all, she has conceived thru the Holy Spirit, he is to take her as his wife, and when she bears her Son, he is to give him the name, Jesus.
The scripture tells us that Joseph was obedient and did as the Angel had told him. That must have been yet another of those ‘hold your breath’ moments. What if Joseph had said ‘NO WAY’. Mary and Jesus would have had no earthly protector and provider.
We should be eternally grateful that these two unassuming people, accepted their roles, and opened heaven’s doorway to our salvation.
Joseph was fully convinced and accepted tasks God laid before him.
He faithfully and obediently took Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:24).
He honored Mary’s virginity until after the birth (Matthew 1:25).
After the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, Joseph took the child according to Mosaic law to the temple in Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord (Luke 1:21-27).
Joseph received another visit from an angel and obeyed the warning, fleeing to Egypt. This was an escape from Herod’s decree to kill all the males under the age of two (In hopes of destroying the young Messiah. (Matthew 2:13-14). After Herod’s death, the Lord instructed Joseph to return to Israel where Jesus grew into an amazing and wise young boy beyond his years (Luke 2:39-40).
Joseph was a loving man who obediently took care and charge of the infant and his mother in every way a natural father would have. He protected them, provided for them, and raised his son in the ways according to the Hebrew faith. He sought and obeyed God in every way to care for the baby who would become known as Jesus Christ.
The one other amazing thing we need to remember at this precious time of the year, is that both Mary and Joseph, being ordinary human beings, had the God given gift of free will. Just try to imagine if you can where we would be now in history, if either had replied in the negative, which they were at liberty to do. I find it almost impossible to imagine, don’t you?
We need to remember this, and thank God for the obedience of both Mary and Joseph, who unknowingly took part in the wonderful opening in human history, to our salvation. Would we be so obedient? Are we obedient?
Merry Christmas! Yes be merry, we have much to be merry/happy about. Christ has come. Emmanuel, God with us.