Summary: Looking at Joseph’s response to the news Mary is pregnant
Matthew 1.18-25 “The Characters of Christmas:
1. [Read text]
2. Luke doesn’t tell us the rest of the story or at least the part of the story from Joseph’s viewpoint. For Luke, Joseph becomes a dutiful husband who allows Mary to have this child and who seems to be alright with everything as it is.
3. But I have to tell you that I think Matthew paints a much better picture of what Joseph was really like. Whether it happened exactly like it was in “The Nativity Story”, I don’t know. But the scene with Mary coming back from Elizabeth, already showing the pregnancy that Joseph knows isn’t his, is a powerful image and very likely as true as anything else any of us can conjecture. What Matthew tells us is that Mary was found with child. I think we can understand this to mean that Mary was showing a pregnancy. And Joseph, knows only himself. He knows that he and Mary have not been together that way. And that the baby she is carrying is not his. And the only thing that makes sense to him is that this woman has been unfaithful to him. She cheated on him while visiting her cousin Elizabeth with someone else. She is carrying the child of another man. And while even Matthew doesn’t show the full scope of feelings that Joseph has, it’s certain that Joseph went through all of the same sorts of feelings that you and I would have. Anger, feelings of betrayal, disappointment, sadness, and a whole mix of other emotions and responses. I can imagine Joseph and his buddies sitting around talking and the discussion of Mary getting pregnant comes up. And these guys who are his friends, begin to give him advice. But they don’t understand what God is doing. They don’t get why this has happened. They only have one perspective, Mary has been unfaithful to Joseph. He ought to get rid of her. He ought to disgrace her publicly. Yet in spite of how badly Joseph feels, and the advice of his buddies, Joseph believes he must remain true to this woman he is engaged to. Even without her faithfulness, he must remain faithful to her. But with all of these emotions, and with all of these words of advice from friends, he doesn’t know what to do. He knows what he could do, he knows that he could send her away. He knows he could use her as an example. He knows he could disgrace her publicly.
4. But Matthew tells us that Joseph decided to put her away quietly. To not bring any public charges against her or to do anything that would allow her to experience more disgrace than she already experienced. However, Joseph had determined to move on with his life. No more Mary for him. He would find someone else. It was the most fair for him and considering the circumstances, the most fair for her.
5. And while Joseph was making his plans to dust her off his feet, God intersected his life. And by doing so, God gave Joseph a bigger understanding. This wasn’t just a moment of weakness for Mary. Her pregnancy wasn’t caused by an impulsive and poor decision. Rather, what God reveals to Joseph is that Mary’s surprise pregnancy is not just a surprise to Joseph but also to Mary. And that the baby she carries is not that of another man, but it is the very Son of God. And God tells Joseph that Mary doesn’t need him to leave, but that rather, that she needs him to stay, marry her, and help her to raise this very special child.