Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. – Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)
One of the most moving contemporary songs about Christmas is called “Joseph’s Song” by Michael Card. This song looks at the extraordinary reality of Jesus growing up as a little boy through the eyes of his adoptive father. At one point the song has Joseph sing:
Father show me where I fit
into this plan of yours
How can a man be father
to the Son of God
Lord for all my life I’ve
been a simple carpenter
How can I raise a king, How
can I raise a king
As overwhelming as this may have seemed to Joseph, it pales in comparison to the decision he had to make when he received the astonishing news: Mary was pregnant! Legally, Joseph and Mary were already married. Normally marriages were arranged so that the man would be between 18 and 20 and the woman in her early teens. Joseph was in the process of trying to establish himself financially for his soon to be family. He would almost certainly have been in the process of physically building the home (perhaps a room on his parents’ house) for where he could take Mary and start their life together. As he fitted the stones together and erected the beams he must have constantly been dreaming about what their new life as a couple would be like. Now it was over before it ever really began. Mary was pregnant and not by him. This crisis dramatically reveals what sort of man Joseph was in three key decisions:
- First, Joseph, because he was a righteous man sought to divorce Mary quietly. Whatever plans and dreams Joseph had needed to put aside in order for him to live consistently with the law of God. Please notice that Scripture does not pit being righteous against being compassionate. Joseph did not seek to torment Mary for her supposed sin by making her a public disgrace. He chose to do the right thing in a compassionate way.
- Second, God chose to override Joseph’s decision. The Angel of the LORD appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that, in spite of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph was to marry her anyway.
- Third, Joseph chose to obey God’s word. There is a beautiful touch in how Joseph does this. In verse 25 we are told that “he called his name Jesus.” In naming Jesus, Joseph claimed him as his own son. We are prone to pass over this fact too easily, but we shouldn’t forget that the Angel of the LORD appeared only to Joseph in a dream. He did not appear to the whole town. Taking Mary to be his wife would open Joseph up to the scorn of all his neighbors. Undoubtedly, most of them would think that Jesus was Joseph’s son born under illicit circumstances. But Joseph chose to suffer the contempt of man for a time because he was committed to seeking His praise not from man but from God. Joseph was a righteous man. “Mary’s obedience in Luke 1 is the same, so we see what kind of pious, God-fearing parents Jesus had, who are models for us all (Grant Osborne).”
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 13
Q. 13. Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?
A. Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God.