“Matthan the father of Jacob,16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.” Matthew 1.15-16
“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[d]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”).” Matthew 1.18-23
Only the Gospel of Matthew speaks about Joseph’s potential divorcing of Mary. Interesting enough, the text uses the term “divorce” for an engaged couple to be married. Mary was pledged to marry Joseph. She told him she was pregnant, which he obviously did not understand, and he was going to do the honorable thing and end their relationship before their marriage. He was going to do this “quietly” so as not to “expose her to public disgrace.”
Joseph, we can assume, was a nice guy. Mary tends to get all the credit for being chosen by God to deliver the Messiah, but didn’t Joseph have something to do with Jesus’ raising, protection and growth? I imagine when God was searching out a couple to raise His Son, he not only looked at the godliness of the mother but also the holiness of the father. Joseph, in addition to Mary, was righteous.
How do we know this for sure? Because the text tells us. He was obeying the law of Moses in divorcing Mary. He was upholding the law of the Jews. And the very fact that he was going to do it privately, meant he was not only law abiding but compassionate. Yet when the angel of the Lord appeared Joseph to help him understand the situation, Jospeh accepted it as fact. He might not have understood it, but he accepted it.
Joseph, in spite of not being Jesus’ biological father, was Jesus’ human father. He stuck by Mary who testified, as did the angel, that what was growing inside of her was given to her by God. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and not another man. In addition, it was Joseph who was in the lineage of David (see our excerpt from Matthew 1.16). It was Joseph whose line fulfilled the prophecy and not Mary’s. God used Joseph just as much as he did Mary in bringing forth a Messiah into the world.
This third day in our “Ten Days of Christmas” has to do with “understanding.” Just as Mary and Joseph sought to understood God’s call upon their lives, so we are called to do the same. We might not have a visit from Gabriel, although I pray that we would. We might not hear a voice from heaven but God is still speaking.
His Holy Spirit speaks through His Holy Word, the Bible. Are you listening? Allow him to speak to you so that you might fully understand his plan and purpose for your life.
“O Lord God, you are good. I praise you for your abiding presence and steadfast peace. Thank you for including us in your plan to save the world. Thank you for the examples of Mary and Joseph who heard your voice and obeyed. Help us to do the same — to hear and obey. I love you Lord and praise you for this Advent season. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen