Summary: We often overlook the life of Joseph in the birth story of Jesus and in doing so miss valuable life lessons
Believing the Best in Others
Each year we hear the Christmas story, how Jesus was born of a virgin, in a stable, in Bethlehem during the time of a Roman census. In the midst of our celebration we have images of Mary and baby Jesus while we push to the back Mary’s husband Joseph. Not much is said of him in Scripture. We know he was there for the birth, when they fled to Egypt and returned, and then when Jesus turned up lost, then found in the Temple in his childhood years. Other than that, the Bible tells us no more. What it does say contains deep, life-changing truth we could well apply to our own lives today.
Lets read the Matthew passage, 1:18-25 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place under these circumstances: When His mother Mary had been promised in marriage to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be pregnant [through the power] of the Holy Spirit. And her [promised] husband Joseph, being a just and upright man and not willing to expose her publicly and shame and disgrace her, decided to repudiate and dismiss (divorce) her quietly and secretly.
But as he was thinking it over, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary [as] your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of (from, out of) the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus [in Hebrew means Savior], for He will save His people from their sins [that is, prevent their failing and missing the true end and scope of life, which is God].
All this took place that it might be fulfilled which the Lord had spoken through the prophet, Behold, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which when translated means, God with us.
Then Joseph being aroused from his sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him; he took [her to his side as] his wife, But he had no union with her as her husband until she had borne her first-born Son, and he called his name Jesus.
Joseph is faced with some interesting choices. You ever have someone tell you a story you thought was a whopper only to find out it was true? Imagine guys being presented with a story like this from the gal you were engaged. “I just want to let you know, I’m pregnant, your not the father, its from God.” That was the story Mary told Joseph, and the laws were a lot stricter in dealing with situations such as this than they are today.
Mary and Joseph was in the midst of a Jewish marriage which involved three parts…
1. Engagement. A contract is made out between the families. That’s right, arranged marriages were the norm of the day. Families would meet, sometimes with a matchmaker, to determine if the couple would be suited for each other, arrangements made usually when the prospective couple were children, and they usually never saw each other until the engagement was announced. The next step of the marriage, probably the step Mary and Joseph were at is…
2. Betrothal. This is the public ratification of the marriage. This step is similar to the engagement though more narrow in its termination. While in the engagement stage either party could buy out of the arrangement, in the betrothal, the only way to exit the marriage was through divorce. For all legal purposes, the couple was considered husband and wife except they did not live together as husband and wife. This second stage of marriage lasted for about a year. The final stage was…
3. Marriage Proper. Here a celebration was held, the couple came together as man and wife and consummated their marriage with the bride moving in with her husband.
What is Joseph to do? How should he feel? What would you do, how would you feel when the moment you had awaited for, that night you had anticipated, had been violated because another had robbed you of that moment as his child’s heart beat in the womb of his bride.
The law was quite helpful; it had considered such an event as possible and prescribed a remedy, justice. The full impact of the law was public stoning, though it was rarely carried out in that time period, much like law violators in our day seldom receive the maximum sentence, though some do.
The thought ran through his head as he considered the options. “How could she?” he must have thought. “How could she sleep with another man, become pregnant, and then say it was God’s plan because it was God’s child.”