Summary: Part 4 of our advent series looks at the much often forgotten character of Joseph who was called to raise the Christ Child as his earthly father. Joseph was an example of how to live an obedient and surrendered life.
Jesus. What Child is This?
Part 3- Some Surrender: Joseph’s Obedience
Matthew 1:16, 18-25 In the 7 years I have been a pastor I have noticed a very consistent trend that happens during Christmas time. As the story is being told about Christ and sermons are being preached and songs are being sung you hear a lot about Mary, a lot about Jesus, a lot about Herod, wise men, the stable and animals. You hear about the star and the angels, the shepherds and the innkeeper. But one thing I have noticed is that you don’t hear that much about Jesus’ earthly father Joseph.
He always seems to be the one left out of the story. Maybe that’s because scripture doesn’t have a whole lot to say about this man. But what we need to understand is that Joseph, just like Mary, was called by God. He may not have been the one to give birth to the Savior but God trusted him and believed that Joseph was worthy enough to raise the Savior. AND God knew that Joseph had the faith, character and integrity to trust that the baby Mary was carrying was in fact a miracle birth and not believe that Mary had had an affair. Joseph was by all accounts a good man full of faith and a willingness to surrender everything for God and this coming miracle. Let’s read the story of Jesus birth found in Matthew 1:16, 18-25. VERSES 16, 18-19.
In verse 16 we see that Mary was Jesus’ mother, but Joseph was not his father. Now in our day and age that almost seems to be common place. Advancement in medical technology makes it possible for a woman to be pregnant without ever having to have sex through artificial insemination. But we know it wasn’t medical advancements that caused Mary to be pregnant. It was the Holy Spirit. The real issue was how Mary was going to convince her family and more importantly her fiancée that this was a miracle and that she did not have an affair. (think about it, engaged, never been intimate but somehow your fiancée gets pregnant.) In 18 and 19 it says that Joseph was a good man. Although in his mind he has to be thinking he has been cheated on, his heart had to be breaking he had to be going through a roller coaster of emotions during this time. Hate, anger, frustration, sadness, depression. Even though in his mind she is the one who caused the offense he doesn’t do what he has every right to do. Instead scripture says that because he was good, his character was godly he instead decides to think of her instead of himself and divorce her quietly. That too me is just so powerful. If you don’t stop and take the time to really understand what Joseph is doing here then you are going to miss out on something incredible.
Really if you don’t understand the culture of the time and how courting and marriage worked you’ll miss just how loving and how godly Joseph is being towards Mary. I want you to understand how awesome Joseph is being here so let me explain to you really quick how courting and marriage worked in Joseph and Mary’s time. First what would happen is that Joseph and Mary’s families would agree to the union and they would negotiate the betrothal, including a price for the bride that would be paid to the bride’s father. Next, a public announcement would be made. At this point, the couple was “pledged.” This is similar to engagement today, except that it was much more binding. Once a couple was “pledged” they were already considered husband and wife. The only difference is that they could still not have sex because they weren’t considered married.
Joseph and Mary had to remain pledged for one year before they would have their wedding. During that time, the couple would live separately, with their parents. This waiting time would demonstrate the bride’s complete purity. If she became pregnant during this time, then the man could divorce his wife. So when Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant he had the right to divorce her according to Jewish civil law. The divorce alone would have brought public shame and humiliation not only on Mary but her entire family. Not only that but Joseph, who would have been following the Mosaic laws as a Jewish man, had every right to have Mary put to death by having her stoned. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 says very clearly, “Suppose a man meets a young woman, a virgin who is engaged to be married, and he has sexual intercourse with her. If this happens within a town, you must take both of them to the gates of that town and stone them to death. The woman is guilty because she did not scream for help. The man must die because he violated another man’s wife. In this way, you will purge this evil from among you.”