Summary: God tells us that Joseph was a "just man" because he was "unwilling to put (Mary) to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly." What does that mean? And what does difference can it make to our faith?
OPEN: (We began the service with a clip from the movie "The Star" that showed Mary and Joseph at their wedding party just before Mary is going to tell Joseph that she's pregnant with the Christ Child)
There’s a true story about a grade school class that was putting on a Christmas which included the story of Mary and Joseph coming to the inn. In that class was one little boy who wanted so very much to be Joseph, but when the parts were handed out, his biggest rival was given that part, and he was assigned to be the inn keeper instead. He was really bitter about this. So during all the rehearsals he kept plotting in his mind what he might do the night of performance to get even with his rival who was Joseph.
Finally, the night of the performance, Mary and Joseph came walking across the stage. They knocked on the door of the inn, and the inn-keeper opened the door and asked them gruffly what they wanted. Joseph answered, “We’d like to have a room for the night.” Suddenly the inn-keeper threw the door open wide and said, "Great, come on in and I’ll give you the best room in the house."
Joseph and Mary were stunned. This wasn’t the line they’d been expecting and suddenly the rest of the play was in jeopardy. For a few seconds poor little Joseph didn’t know what to do. There was a long silence but then, Joseph looked in the door past the inn-keeper and dramatically looked to the left and right, and then stepped back and said "No wife of mine is going to stay in dump like this. Come on, Mary, let’s go to the barn." (John Simmons)
In the movie clip we saw today, from the movie “THE STAR”, Joseph plays a major part. In fact, throughout the movie the Joseph we’re introduced to is a strong character, a just man, a good husband, and a fairly humorous and gentle person. But in the Bible we don’t get to see that much of him. In fact, nowhere in Scripture does he even get to say anything.
One preacher noted: “Joseph, in many ways, is the forgotten man of Christmas. We don’t sing his story in Christmas carols. There are no cards or poems written about him. He’s not even the most well-known Joseph in the Bible” - THAT Joseph was in Genesis." (Daniel Darling)
But in spite of the fact that THIS Joseph didn’t get a speaking part in the play, he IS central to the whole story of the birth of Jesus. Three of the times he’s mentioned in Scripture he’s doing something important.
“When Joseph woke from sleep, HE DID as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” Matthew 1:24-25
“… an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ And HE ROSE AND TOOK the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt.” Matthew 2:13-14
“an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.’ And HE ROSE AND TOOK the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. Matthew 2:19-21
Notice, in each of those verses Joseph is a very obedient man. God just says “Do this” or “Do that” and that’s what he does. No questions, no arguments… simply straightforward obedience.
But perhaps the most telling statement about Joseph is how GOD describes him in Matthew 1:18-19 - “the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a JUST MAN and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” Matthew 1:18-19
ILLUS: Now, at this point, I think it would be helpful to know a little bit about Jewish marriages. According to one source I read: Ordinarily parents would draw up a legal marriage contract, and when the contract was signed, boy and girl would be legally married, but (at that point) they still couldn’t live together for at least a year. That one year waiting period was a time to test their commitment and faithfulness. It was also a time for the families to get more acquainted. If Joseph died during that one year waiting period, Mary would have been considered a widow. One more thing: during this 1 year waiting period the only way out of their marriage would have been for them to get a divorce. (Daniel Darling)