Lessons from a Quiet Carpenter
December 22, 2015
TEXT: Turn to Matthew 1:18-25 (TO BE READ LATER)
Christmas is always a special time of year. Families have their different traditions: decorating the Christmas tree, hanging stockings, traveling to visit family and friends, spending a lot of money! Many people enjoy driving around the local towns and villages in Germany or in neighborhoods in the U.S., looking at the twinkling lights used to beautifully decorate towns or people’s homes. In Germany at least, if you drive around, you’ll inevitably come across various nativity scenes displaying the birth of Jesus. Many churches throughout the land will tell the story of Jesus’ birth through dramas and children’s plays—reenacting those wondrous events.
The cast of characters associated with the story of Jesus’ birth is pretty interesting. We recognize them by their unique speaking parts.
• First are THE ANGELS who take center stage to announce the birth of the Savior.
They appear to Joseph to announce that the name of the child would be Jesus. The archangel Gabriel makes the unforgettable announcement to Mary. And an angelic army interrupts the shepherds, shouting, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14).
• Next on stage is MARY, whose selection by God humbles her, causing her to spontaneously break forth in a beautiful hymn of thanksgiving recorded in Luke 1:46-56 – The first two verses give us a sense of her heart-song: “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me 47 blessed.”
• Then THE WISE MEN come on stage, desperate in their search to find the newborn King and prepared to present Him with gifts of honor. – They ask, “Where is he who is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2).
• And of course, we can’t forget THE SHEPHERDS, who become the early evangelists.
In Luke 2, the shepherds hurry to find the baby the angels had told them about. Luke says, “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.” (Luke 2:17).
Now here’s the strange thing about the whole story: only Joseph has no speaking part. He’s the lone silent member of the cast and is often forgotten. ANGELS bring heavenly greetings; MARY sings a praiseful solo; WISE MEN speak to Herod and his advisors; and SHEPHERDS preach—but JOSEPH is silent. No lines are attributed to him—no sound bites, no quotes—only SILENCE.
But you know what?—Joseph is irreplaceable in the story of Jesus’ birth. He plays an important role.
Look with me at our text in Matthew 1:18-25, and pay special attention to the role that Joseph played to bring about the greatest gift of all time: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.”
It’s still astonishing to me that nowhere in these verses do we hear Joseph’s voice. In fact, as we search the Gospels, we discover that they don’t record even a single word from the mouth of Jesus’ earthly father, the humble carpenter of Nazereth. But, as people sometimes say, actions often speak louder than words! Through his silent actions in Matthew 1, Joseph teaches us three lessons:
I. THE FIRST IS A LESSON IN MERCY – Look again with me at verses 18-19 – “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example [literally to “put her to public shame”], was minded to put her away [that is, privately].”
We’re introduced to Joseph in the middle of a personal crisis. Having become engaged to a beautiful young girl, he has worked hard to establish an income to support his new bride and begin a family. He’s in love; he’s committed to Mary, who loves him too. Or at least he believed she loved him—until the news that his bride-to-be is pregnant.
Heart-broken and feeling betrayed, how should he respond? Should he publicly shame her? Should he turn her over to the authorities to be punished?
Her explanation of the pregnancy was unbelievable…even blasphemous. If Mary would not have been stoned on the charge of adultery, she could have been stoned on the charge of blasphemy.
Verse 19 describes Joseph as a “just” man which literally means “righteous” and tells us that Joseph was justified before God. That is, he was what the Bible calls “saved.”
So what does this righteous, saved man do in these circumstances? Joseph chooses the path of mercy. He was a righteous man and unwilling to put her to shame, so he resolved to show her mercy and put her away quietly.
Before even being told by the angel the explanation, Joseph had already chosen mercy. No malice is recorded—no explosion of jealousy or rage.
Certainly he could have asked a lot of questions here: “How could you do this to me? Who’s the father? How do you expect me to explain this to my family?”
But no words are recorded…only tenderness shown. He might be the talk of Nazareth and friends might make snide comments, but he would not hurt Mary, no matter what he thought she had done to him. When he could have demanded a bitter sentence, he chose a righteous mercy.
Today, there’s much we can learn from Joseph’s example of mercy. Maybe you’ve never been in a position quite like Joseph’s, but we’ve all been wronged by another person. We all know what it’s like to be hurt or injured or offended. How do you react when you’ve been wronged?
Illus. – Two friends were walking through the desert and got into an argument. One friend slapped the other on the face. He who had been slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, he wrote in the SAND: “Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”
They kept walking until they found an oasis. Thirsty, they stopped for water. The one who had been slapped got stuck in quicksand, and started to be sucked under, but his friend saved him. That night, he wrote on a STONE: “Today my best friend saved my life.”
The other friend said, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the SAND, and now you write on a STONE. Why?” He replied: “When someone HURTS US, we should write it in the sand where the winds of forgiveness can erase it way. But when someone does something GOOD for us, we must engrave it in stone where it will be long remembered.”
There’s a great truth in this little story. If we’re truly righteous, then we’ll do right to others—even when they’ve done wrong to us. One of Joseph’s other sons, James, would one day grow up to believe in his brother, Jesus as His Savior, and write these words: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, FULL OF MERCY and good fruits…” (James 3:17).
Joseph, this righteous carpenter would raise God’s Son to be a merciful Savior.
II. A SECOND LESSON THAT WE LEARN FROM JOSEPH IS ONE OF REDEMPTION – Look at verses 20-21 – “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
In Joseph’s dream, God gave Joseph a glimpse of the divine plan. Because Joseph was a descendant of David and a righteous man, God gave him the unique job of raising the Messiah.
Michael Card sang a song entitled Joseph’s Song, part of which goes like this:
How could it be this baby in my arms
Sleeping now, so peacefully.
The Son of God, the angel said.
How could it be?
Lord I know He’s not my own.
Not of my flesh, not of my bone.
Still Father, let this baby be
The Son of my love.
Father show me where I fit into this plan of Yours.
How can a man be father to the Son of God?
Lord, for all my life I’ve been a simple carpenter.
How can I raise a King?
How can I raise a King?
That gives you some idea of what must have been going through Joseph’s mind.
God told Joseph that Mary’s son would “save His people from their sins!”
In fact, the name “Jesus” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word “yeshua,” which means “the Lord is Salvation” or simply, “the Savior.”
From His name we learn Jesus’s mission: “to save His people from their sins!”
Jesus came to earth to REDEEM us; to SAVE us from the penalty of our sins.
To “redeem” means to “buy or purchase.”
But in order to redeem something, a price must be paid.
Illus. – Lou Johnson was a 1965 World Series hero for the Los Angeles Dodgers. After his baseball career, he fell on hard times, and made some bad decisions in life…but finally turned his life around.
Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol abuse cost him everything from that magical season, including his uniform, glove, and the bat he used to hit the winning home run in the deciding game, and worst of all, his championship ring.
He tried for 30 years to recover the championship ring he lost to drug dealers in 1971, but he didn’t have enough money to get it back. When the Dodgers president, Bob Graziano, learned that Johnson’s World Series ring was about to be auctioned on the Internet, he immediately wrote a check for $3,457.00 and bought the ring for him before bids were even posted.
He did for Johnson what the former Dodger outfielder had been unable to do for himself.
In the same way, God has done for us what we were unable to do for ourselves. He paid the price for our sins with the blood of His Son. He bought us back; He redeemed us. What an awesome gift!
Can you imagine Joseph’s anticipation, knowing that he would be responsible for the upbringing of the most important child ever born? God was asking Joseph to raise the Savior as his own son. Most people would never accept that kind of challenge.
Which leads us to a third lesson we learn from Joseph…
III. LASTLY, WE SEE A LESSON IN OBEDIENCE – Verses 24-25 – “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.”
With Joseph, there’s NO hesitation. He understood clearly what God expected of him, and was ready to obey! He would take Mary as his wife and suffer the cutting remarks about a child conceived out of wedlock. He would obey in spite of the fact that this child of divine promise would be born under a cloud of suspicion of adultery. And he called his adopted son “Jesus,” exactly as he had been told to do. Joseph believed God and obeyed Him.
Later, God tells Joseph in a dream to take Mary and the infant Jesus to Egypt, and Joseph does so instantly, just as God had instructed literally in the middle of the night. And think about it: in doing so, he left behind an established carpenter’s trade and business. He left family and friends—all to obey God and go to Egypt. He did ALL that God commanded Him to do.
The Bible repeatedly pairs faith with obedience and obedience with faith. In other words, they’re two sides of the same coin. The Bible is clear that we’re saved by faith; but that our faith is demonstrated by obedience. It’s vital to BELIEVE in God, but the proof that your belief is genuine is obedience.
Illus. – The great 19th century evangelist, D.L. Moody, was conducting a series of meetings in Boston Massachusetts. Leading the congregation in song was Daniel B. Towner. One night a young man responded to the invitation and said, “I’m not quite sure, but I’m going to trust and I’m going to obey.”
That statement struck Mr. Towner, who jotted the sentence down, and sent it to J.H. Sammis, a Presbyterian minister. Together they gave birth to the famous hymn, “Trust and Obey.” A believer’s philosophy can be summed up in these three words: Trust and obey.
Illus. – The Bible uses some interesting figures to represent Christians and their relationship to God: Vine and branches; Sculptor and clay; Shepherd and sheep.
An African convert used another metaphor. He prayed: “O Lord, You are the needle and I am the thread.”
Having just visited a school where girls were learning to sew, he noticed a simple principle: wherever the needle went, the thread followed.
That, he decided, represented his relationship to God. If he would just stay close to the Lord—praying, reading His Word, depending entirely upon Him and following Him, he would successfully follow God. He was simply the thread following the needle.
Every year at Christmas, different thoughts come to our minds. “Vision of sugar plums dance in our heads.” You may drive through your local town or village and see an elaborate nativity display. Perhaps you’ll even attend a play, with children reenacting the precious events that brought our Lord and Savior into this world.
However, this Christmas, and throughout the rest of your life, I hope you’ll remember the lessons from a quiet carpenter given the greatest honor in history.
Let me wrap up with three questions to draw these lessons down to where we live:
• First, are you merciful?
If you’re truly one of God’s kids, you will show in your life the fruits of righteousness that God has put in your heart. Do you, like Joseph, show righteousness in your life by treating others with kindness, mercy, and forgiveness—even when you think you have been mistreated? It may be hard to do, but if you follow Christ as thread follows a needle, your life will be a living demonstration of kindness, mercy, and forgiveness.
• That leads me to my second question: Have you been “redeemed”?
That is, have all your sins been forgiven through an encounter with Jesus Christ? Have you comprehended the sacrifice that He made for you and me on the cross?
If not, please do NOT leave this room without turning to Christ for salvation.
Do not trust your good life or your religion, or baptism or confirmation. The Bible says that these things have ZERO to do with making us right with God or getting us to heaven. We’re saved from our sins by believing in His Son; that is by trusting in Him to save you instead of ANYTHING you could do.
Years ago we used to sing a chorus that went like this: “He paid a debt He did not owe / I owed a debt I could not pay / I needed someone to wash my sins away. / And now I sing a brand new song: / “Amazing Grace” the whole day long—Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.”
Here’s how Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
That Infant that Joseph cradled in his arms was the perfect, sinless Son of God who became sin for you that you might be made the righteousness of God in Christ. That means He bore your sin on the cross so you can have His perfect righteousness and thus be acceptable before God. It would be a tragic waste to turn from Jesus, who paid for your judgment at such great cost. Accept Him as your Savior today!
• My last question is this: If you ARE saved, are you living a life of obedience?
Are you willing to follow Jesus’ commands no matter what the cost? Are you, to the best of your ability, obeying the Lord in every area of your life? If not, resolve today to repent of your disobedience, and obey God, no matter what the cost or sacrifice.