Summary: As we consider all the things that must have been going through Joseph’s mind before the birth of Jesus, we ask ourselves: "What Would Joseph Do?" I. About a pregnant fiancee? II. About an angelic visit?
I have a confession to make. What I am about to tell you is not something that I’m proud of, but it is true, and I feel you should know about it. The fact of the matter is: I’ve watched the Jerry Springer Show a few times. There, I said it. It feels good to get that off my chest, though now I know you will never look at me the same way again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Jerry Springer junkie, I haven’t watched it in years, but the few times I have seen the show has given me a pretty good idea of how that program operates. You bring people onto the show with really messed up lives. They’ve made a lot of mistakes. And often times there is a person, a family member, who is innocent, and they have no idea what their spouse has been doing behind their back. And they get onto Jerry Springer’s show, and this innocent person gets this bomb dropped on them. We are left glued to our television sets asking ourselves, “what are they going to do about this shocking revelation?” And as we sit as we watch them squirm or break down in tears, I guess that must be quality American television.
We have the same thing happen right here in our Bible this morning. A man is about to be married. And as most grooms-to-be are, we imagine Joseph must have been pretty excited about his upcoming wedding. But then he gets the bomb dropped onto him: his fiancée is pregnant. And we are left staring at Joseph as if we are in the audience of the Jerry Springer show asking ourselves, “what is Joseph going to do about this?” You know those little WWJD bracelets that used to be very popular? This morning we are going to ask ourselves not “What Would Jesus Do?” but we will talk about Jesus’ stepfather and ask, “What Would Joseph Do?”
For a person given such an important task as being the guardian of the Savior, we know very little about Joseph. Much of what we know about this man is taken from the words of our text for this morning. So what does it say? In the first paragraph near the end, Joseph is called a “righteous man.” In other words, he was a believer. If Joseph was a member of Crown of Glory, he would be one of the leaders of our church. He would be faithful in worship. It would be obvious to all of us that Joseph was a person who studied the Word regularly. Joseph didn’t just talk about being a good faithful believer, but he lived like one. That’s why the Bible calls him a “righteous man.”
He was also a “son of David” (second paragraph). He could trace his ancestry 1,000 years all the way back to the great leader of the Israelites, King David. But Joseph was a son of David in another sense: he was David’s spiritual descendent as well. David is held up in the Bible as the greatest king Israel ever had. He was not without his sins and flaws. But what separated David from the wicked kings is that whenever David is confronted by his sins, he always repented of them. We never see David like King Saul, trying to explain away and justify his sins. We never see David like many of his wicked decedents, who simply ignored the prophets and even put God’s messengers to death. And while we don’t know a lot of Joseph’s personality, he was a “son of David” in that he shared the same faith as his ancestor.
While we don’t know his exact age, we do know that he was about to be married. And what happens between him and his pregnant fiancée really gives us the best insight into what Joseph was like. Engagement was a stronger thing in their culture than it is in ours. We get clues about that from our text. Near the end of the first paragraph, Joseph is called “her husband.” And when faced with this problem of a pregnant Mary, he doesn’t simply consider breaking off the engagement, but the text says that “he had in mind to divorce her.”
And this is where Joseph’s righteous heart really shines through. I don’t think we could fault Joseph for jumping to the wrong conclusion regarding Mary’s pregnancy. I mean, in every other pregnancy in human history, there is always a man involved. And Joseph knew that it wasn’t him…so the only possible conclusion was that Mary had been unfaithful to him. Put yourself in his shoes for a second, and imagine how hurt, how disappointed he was. Many would have sought some sort of revenge for being wounded so deeply. And by Jewish law, Joseph would have had the right to really run Mary’s name through the mud. Mary could have been branded as a loose woman with no morals. And had Joseph really wanted to push the issue, she could have been put to death for her alleged adultery. You might recall the story of the woman caught in adultery a few years later who was brought to Jesus, and many in the crowd wanted to stone her for his sin. But here we see in Joseph’s heart FORGIVENESS…KINDNESS to someone who really didn’t appear to deserve any. Joseph wanted to make things as easy as possible for the wife he was divorcing. He wasn’t going to make a public example of her. He would swallow his pride and give up the urge to exact revenge. It was going to be a quiet divorce. Only he and she would know that the child was not his, and all their friends would just assume, “things just didn’t work out between Joseph and Mary. I guess they were just incompatible.”