Summary: What was it about Joseph that caused God to choose him to be the father of the Messiah?
There’s Something About Joseph
Christmas Eve, Evening Service
December 24, 2006 @ 6:00 p.m.
This morning we talked about Mary and the characteristics that set her apart as a person God could trust with His most precious gift of all…His Son. There was “Something About Mary” that set her apart from every other young Jewish girl that God could have chosen.
We said that she had the characteristics of …
But there was also “Something About Joseph” that set him apart from the average Jewish male. It was his “RIGHTEOUSNESS” Matthew 1:18–19 tells us: "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly."
Now, because we live on this side of Christmas, we want to rush to the end of the story where everything turns out okay. But if we do that, we’ll miss out on the anxiety in a young woman’s announcement, "I’m pregnant". We’ll also miss out on the tension of a young man torn between loving his fiancé, and keeping his reputation in the community. You might even be tempted to think Joseph was slow spiritually and should have figured out what was going on a lot sooner. But if you do that, you miss the whole point of what Joseph is learning, (and of what we can learn from him)—that there’s some amazing stuff going on around Christmas besides how Jesus got here. You miss out on how God is already beginning to redefine what true righteousness is.
Joseph, Scripture says, was a ‘righteous man’. If we’re not careful, we’ll skip right over that word, but if we pause for a minute, we’ll find that there’s a rich history behind the whole idea of ‘righteousness’.
The Hebrew word for a righteous man is tsaddîyq. Joseph was a tsaddîyq. That means he was known for his uncompromising obedience to the Torah, the law of Moses.
• Joseph didn’t eat unclean food.
• He didn’t mix with the wrong kinds of people.
• He didn’t keep his carpentry shop open on the Sabbath to make a few extra drachmas.
He was a tsaddîyq; that was his identity. Everybody knew this about him. Nobody invited Joseph over to have ham sandwiches with tax collectors and prostitutes! He was what people wanted to be. Like a businessman in our day wants to be a CEO, or an athlete wants to be an all-star…an Israelite wanted to be a tsaddîyq. Becoming one meant you were admired…looked up to. Then you were somebody. And that was Joseph. But now he’s a tsaddîyq with a problem. The girl he promised to marry is going to have a baby! He doesn’t know who the father is, but Joseph is darn sure it’s not him! Now, Nazareth is a small town, and as a general rule, word gets around in a small town. (anyone here raised in a small town? Then you know! Rudonna… Dacoma, OK., I from Sedona AZ. !!!) So, anyway, here we have a tsaddîyq and a pregnant fiancée in a small village where, everybody knows everybody’s business.
Now the Torah has some very clear instructions about what to do with somebody in Mary’s condition. A section in Deuteronomy 22 covers marriage violation. If a woman ‘pledged to be married’ is unfaithful, it says: "She shall be brought to the door of her father’s house, and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge this evil from among you." The Torah was clear. Joseph’s reputation as a tsaddîyq was on the line. His fellow tsaddîyqim would have told him this sin must be publicly exposed and punished.
But Joseph couldn’t bring himself to do that. He loved Mary too much, and besides, she’d never acted crazy, or lied about anything before this! It was out of character for her!
Being a righteous man, Joseph must have agonized over this day after day. When the angel comes to him, He already knows Mary is pregnant. How did he find out? Mary would have told him. Put yourself in his place. Your fiancée comes to you and says, "I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is I’m pregnant even though we’re not married yet. The good news is I haven’t been with anybody else. An angel came to me and said, ’Hail Mary, full of grace.’ I’m going to have a miracle baby, and all generations will call me blessed. I know it’s never happened before, but it’s going to happen."