Summary: Joseph, serving as Jesus’ earthly father figure, was an exemplary father. He was not only an excellent role model for his son, but within Joseph lies a certain character trait, which just happens to be Jesus’ strongest attribute.
The Christian singer Michael Card wrote a piece entitled Joseph’s Song. To begin this morning, I’m going to read a few lines from this song. Listen closely, and from what you know about Joseph from the Bible, think about whether or not these words could’ve come from Joseph’s own heart:
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?(1)
Matthew 1:19 says that Joseph was a “just” man. He was concerned about living a life of holiness before God. Now, it’s true that the lyrics of the song I just read are fictitious and not recorded in the Bible; however, they express Joseph’s concern for God’s will in his life, and I think Joseph was concerned about pleasing the Lord.
The reason why Michael Card wrote this song is that there’s not really much said concerning how Joseph felt about the birth of Jesus. In the book of Luke, there’s a great deal said about Mary’s feelings; but the only thing we see in Luke’s gospel about Joseph is that he marveled when Simeon said that Jesus was the Christ (Luke 2:25-33). In Matthew, all that’s mentioned is how Joseph was a “just” man; and we also read about his fear of Mary being accused of adultery.
In the account that we’ll examine this morning, we’ll see something significant to understanding a very crucial character trait of Joseph. Joseph, serving as Jesus’ earthly father figure, was an exemplary father. He was not only an excellent role model for his son, but he contains a certain character trait, which just happens to be Jesus’ strongest trait. “What is that trait?” you may ask. Well, let’s find out!
Fear of Adultery (vv. 18-20)
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”
Look at verse 18. We’re told here that Mary was betrothed to Joseph. Betrothal was a lot more formal than our engagement period is today. It was a kind of pre-marriage relationship. The rabbi would perform a ceremony for the betrothal. During this period, abstinence was to be maintained until after the official marriage ceremony, and the betrothal lasted about a year. During that period, if a woman became pregnant with child it was viewed as adultery. Under the strictest interpretation of the Old Testament law, it was punishable by death for both parties.(2)
In verse 19, we see that Joseph was a just man. He did not want to make Mary a public example. If it had been any other man who had been betrothed to a woman, and found his wife with child, there’s a high possibility that he would have had her made a public example and had her stoned to death. But Joseph didn’t do this to Mary. Right here, Joseph demonstrated his love for Mary. He had compassion on her, and decided to put her away, or break off the betrothal in secret.
Verse 20 begins by saying that Joseph “thought about these things.” He was considering how to put away his wife. While he was thinking, an angel came to him in a vision. “The angel addressed him as a ‘son of David.’ That suggests that he is of royal descent of the house of David. It also reminded him that he [was] a godly man . . . The only other person in the New Testament who is called a ‘son of David’ is the Lord Jesus himself, and yet that is how the angel addressed Joseph.”(3) This information about Joseph being addressed as a “son of David” should be kept in mind, for it’s important in understanding the message contained in this text.
The Name of Jesus (vv. 21-23)
21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”