Summary: When we talk about the Christmas story we typically focus on Jesus, Mary, the Magi or the shepherds, but what about Joseph? His words may not be in the bible but his deeds are; and they speak volumes. What can we learn from the man who raised Jesus?
WHAT ABOUT JOSEPH?
INTRODUCTION: When we talk about the Christmas story we typically focus on Jesus, Mary, the Magi or the shepherds, but what about Joseph? It’s like he’s just part of the supporting cast; one of the lesser roles in the events of Christ’s birth. In fact, there is not one recorded word of Joseph in the scriptures. His words may not have been recorded but his deeds were; and they speak volumes. So, although it may be easy to not pay any attention to Joseph we should because we can learn a lot from the man who was chosen by God to help raise his Son. Let’s see what we can learn from Joseph-Jesus’ stepfather.
1) Joseph was a loving man (Matthew 1:18-19). Joseph was hurt. He had just found out the woman he was going to marry was pregnant. By law he was within his rights to have her publicly disgraced and stoned to death. To the Jews an engagement was legally binding. You couldn’t just break off an engagement; you needed to get a divorce. So, although the wedding ceremony hadn’t happened yet they were, for all intents and purposes, married, and therefore infidelity was adultery. In fact, Mary could’ve incurred two charges. With Mary claiming her pregnancy was due to the Holy Spirit, she would’ve also been charged with blasphemy-speaking of God in such a disgraceful manner. So, Joseph could’ve had his wife handed over to the authorities. And who could blame him if he had? This was the most disgraceful betrayal and it deserved to be punished. “How could she do this to me? I’ll never forgive her for this.” This could have been his attitude but instead we see a loving reaction to the news. Perhaps some thought Joseph should have handed her over but he chose to act not on what was allowable but rather on what was noble. For us, there might be something we have the right to do but does that mean we should? If someone wrongs us it may be well within our rights to bring the authorities into it but does that mean we should? What would it say about us if we handled the matter in a more loving way? Not tolerating their behavior but not maximizing the consequences either. Joseph wasn’t going to dismiss the offense; he was still going to divorce her but he chose not to bring any further pain and suffering for Mary. Joseph’s reaction to the situation showed his love for Mary. Where most other men would not care to be very loving toward the woman who betrayed them, Joseph showed himself to be different. His love for Mary didn’t vanish even after he thought she had cheated on him. Even though it appeared that she had disgraced him, he wasn’t willing that she would be disgraced. He didn’t demand justice; he didn’t have a desire to get even. One of the attributes of love in 1st Cor. 13 is “love is not self-seeking”. We see that truth displayed in the actions of Joseph toward Mary. He was a righteous man and it showed in how he treated Mary. Our righteousness will be exposed in our treatment of others. How we love others is a great indicator of how much we love God.
2) Joseph was an obedient man (Matthew 1:20-25). Joseph expected to live a quiet, unassuming life with his wife Mary. Joseph didn’t expect to hear what the angel told him. Joseph has his expectations dashed; he was given a divine disruption. And how did he react to this divine disruption? “He did as the angel said and took Mary home to be his wife.” This would take an incredible amount of faith to believe, act upon and stay true to. There would be ridicule and he would be tempted to not follow through with it. But, since Joseph was a righteous man he was a faithful and obedient man. Let’s look at another incident where Joseph had a divine disruption. Matthew 2:13-15. Out of nowhere Joseph is told to grab his wife and baby and escape all the way to Egypt and stay there. Joseph had an established residence and an established business as a carpenter but he was asked to leave that behind and go to this foreign land. Here again we see Joseph’s willingness to be obedient in an uncomfortable situation. How about us? How do we react when God gets in the way of our expectations? How do we respond when he “interrupts” our lives? How would we respond if in order to be obedient to God we would be thought of as a fool? How would we respond if we were asked to leave everything behind and uproot our family to a foreign land? Because Joseph was a righteous man Joseph was an obedient man. And he wasn’t just obedient; he was obedient when it was completely uncomfortable to do so. Joseph represents the level of obedience that we should all be striving for as Christians.