Summary: The announcement to Joseph of the Source of Mary's pregnancy changed everything for Joseph and for us.
December 22, 2019 Matthew 1:18-25
18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered 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 home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 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.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Jesus Changes Everything
When someone is contemplating marriage, they ought to make sure that they know the person they are marrying. Imagine, for instance, that a man married a woman who didn’t tell him that she had a child from a previous relationship. Or imagine if the spouse pretended that he was financially well off, when he really wasn’t. Such things are deceitful. They call into question the whole marriage when vows are made on false or deceptive pretenses.
There’s a story in the Old Testament about Ruth and Boaz. A field came up for sale, but the only way it could be bought according to Old Testament law was if the person who bought it also married Ruth. They were up front with the deal as they should have been. So when one guy was offered the field and found out he had to marry Ruth he said, “No thanks.”
But sometimes life throws curveballs after the deal that are in no way a product of deception. Someone could come down with cancer. Someone could lose a job. These weren’t planned. They just happened. It’s a part of life, but it’s all baked into the cake of marriage, and you’re called on to stick with it, not just give up.
Just look at what happened with Joseph. When we was engaged to Mary I’m sure he didn’t think that it was going to include a flight to Egypt under the dead of night or being the provider and protector to God’s Son: the Messiah of the world. There were plenty of curveballs. He didn’t know marriage would bring these things, but he had no choice in the matter but to deal with it.
But PRIOR to the public vow, Joseph wanted out of the engagement. When Mary came back from visiting Elizabeth she would have been about three or more months pregnant. Joseph must have noticed. He must have thought to himself that Mary had been unfaithful with Joseph while she was visiting Elizabeth. The Bible doesn’t say that he even spoke with Mary about this. I can’t imagine the look on Joseph’s face. Was it anger? Sadness? Disappointment? Did he walk out of the house and slam the door? The Bible doesn’t say. I find it interesting that the LORD let him go through this disappointment and anger. He gave him time to fester on it and convince himself to divorce her quietly, so as not to make a big scene of it.
Perhaps Joseph, then, would have even seemed the villain in the public eye for seemingly leaving her on her own after she was already pregnant. It seems that the Jewish culture back in Jesus’ day seemed to think they could just hand a woman a paper of divorce for all kinds of reasons. It wouldn’t have been as shameful on Mary, even though, in Joseph’s mind, she would have deserved it. Maybe Mary could have stayed at home with her parents, but that wouldn’t have been an easy situation for her either. Here’s the bottom line. Joseph wasn’t filled with vengeance. He didn’t want to publicly shame her. He loved her. But he also decided that he just couldn’t stay with her if she was unfaithful even before they had been married. That was a deal breaker.
It reminds me of decisions that people have to make with marriage today more than ever. People have baggage that comes with them. Sometimes they have children from other relationships. Sometimes they have a troubled family background. It’s no small thing for someone to say, “I do” to the point of death. That makes the decision all the more difficult, because they know the sacrifice that will be involved.