Summary: Joseph is an example of a man facing a difficult decision in momentous times. This sermon tells us how to respond in these times in our lives
Momentous Decisions in Troubling Times
December 4, 2016
TEXT: Turn to Matthew 1:18-25
Most people know about the major characters of the Christmas story. We all know about the appearance of the angel to Mary, a simple, godly young woman. We know about the shepherds in the fields. We know about the wise men following the star.
But there was one other character in the Christmas story who is also important. We mustn’t leave out Joseph. For some reason not much attention is paid to Joseph. Perhaps part of the reason is that Joseph was not physically related to Jesus. Mary was His physical mother, but Jesus had no physical father. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit. So Joseph was essentially Jesus’s stepfather.
And yet, Joseph was every bit as important and godly and commendable as Mary was. Today, I’d like us to look at Joseph’s part in the story of the birth of Jesus.
I. CONSIDER WITH ME FIRST OF ALL JOSEPH’S CHARACTER – Matthew 1:18-20 – “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 privately. 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.”
Who was this man Joseph? The Bible doesn’t tell us much, but from the Gospels we get a snapshot of who he was and what kind of man he was.
In our text we see an unfolding drama: Joseph falls in love with Mary and dreams of the future, as any young man would.
He’s “espoused,” or literally, “betrothed” to Mary, which is like being engaged today, except that the tie was stronger than our custom of engagement. Today, you can call of an engagement at any point, even up to the last minute before the wedding, like in the move, Runaway Bride. A betrothal, on the other hand, was a binding legal transaction. There had to be two witnesses to a betrothal; pledges were given to one another; and money or goods were given to the betrothed bride’s parents as a dowry. Though the marriage was not yet consummated sexually and they lived apart until the actual wedding, they were in all other respects considered married and were even called husband and wife.
In fact, betrothal was so binding that it could be annulled only in extreme cases, and you actually had to have a bill of divorce to do it.
Now Joseph had done everything right according to law, religion and custom: He had become betrothed to her; he had paid the dowry; he had remained sexually pure; he made the pledges, and meant to keep them; he had followed the rules. He was ready for marriage—planning and dreaming like any other young man.
And then suddenly, his whole world came crashing in! He was told that MARY WAS PREGNANT! What would he do? One thing he did know: HE certainly was not the father! He could justly take her before the authorities and have her prosecuted for adultery (which could lead to a death penalty).…or he could quietly put her away quietly and privately.
No matter what he did, there were no easy solutions and Joseph found himself in turmoil and emotional upheaval. Being merciful, he decided to put her away privately by asking for a bill of divorce to spare her possible prosecution, which could lead to death.
This shows us that he was a man of character and integrity because he sincerely wanted to do the right thing; and it shows that he was also a man of compassion because he wished Mary no harm, although, based on the evidence he had at the time, it appeared that she had done him a grave injustice. In all these events, we see no hint of anger or a desire for retaliation. Nothing like scratching the doors of her truck, carving his name in the seats or smashing the headlights type of thing as in the Carrie Underwood song.
This is perhaps the most remarkable thing about his character that we see. Joseph was not looking for a way for RETALIATION, but for a way for RESOLUTION of his problem in a right and just and compassionate manner.
II. NOTICE SECOND, THE MESSAGE TO JOSEPH – Matthew 1:20-21 – “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.”