My oldest son and I watched the movie The Nativity Story a couple of nights ago. I can’t really attest to the accuracy of the movie – particularly because it portrayed the Magi as having been at the stable/cave at the same time as the shepherds and it is more commonly believed now that the Magi didn’t actually arrive until Jesus was a little older.
But at any rate, it did get me thinking a lot about Joseph. The Bible doesn’t have a whole lot to say about Joseph. In fact, he all but disappears after the incident when Jesus was 12 and was found by his parents teaching in the temple (Luke 2:42-52). And actually, we don’t that hear much about Mary either after then until the time of the crucifixion.
But back to Joseph. Given the lack of information we have, we could make all sorts of assumptions about Joseph. In the Catholic church, it is believed that Mary and Joseph never had “relations” and she remained a virgin throughout her entire life. Along with this assumption is that the siblings of Jesus that the Bible refers to were either Joseph’s children from a previous marriage or else they weren’t really siblings but rather were cousins or just “brothers and sisters” in the faith. It is thought by some in this case that if these siblings were from a previous marriage, then it was possible that Joseph was quite a bit older than Mary (so I guess then that would explain the lack of sex/children between M and J?). Personally, I think the idea that Mary remained a virgin her entire life is questionable and you know, either way it doesn’t take away from the miracle of the birth of Jesus in any way. And if she and Joseph had 20 other kids besides Jesus, it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that God chose her out of all the women in history to be the mother of Christ.
But again, back to Joseph. So I never put a lot of thought into Joseph before. I mean, yes he was a great man – obviously there must have been something to him for God to have chosen him to be the earthly father of Jesus. And inasmuch as God chose Mary, He chose Joseph too. Never really considered that before. I know, I know…duh. But it wasn’t like out of all the eligible bachelors in Nazareth that God just lucked up that it was Joseph that Mary wound up with. God wouldn’t have left that one to chance. He handpicked Joseph. God saw into Joseph’s heart, just as He did with Mary, and knew that this man would be upright and obedient before the Lord.
So anyhow, Mary’s pregnant and Joseph knew it wasn’t by him…at most he could have had her stoned for adultery and at the least, she and her family would have been disgraced by her “sin.” But Joseph really was a good and decent man. He planed to divorce Mary quietly. God, however, had other plans and He made those plans known to Joseph in a dream. So Joseph tosses the divorce idea and takes Mary as his wife. You can read all about that in the first chapter of Matthew.
So in thinking a minute about Joseph’s character, he most assuredly was a man of grace. To just let that thing go like that. To not demand retribution for what he at first deemed to be Mary’s unfaithfulness to him. (Remember, his decision to divorce her quietly was before he’d heard from God. His immediate response was grace.) And too, you have to think now that not only did people most certainly taunt Mary and call her all sorts of names behind her back (well, and probably to her face) but I image that many people who were close to Joseph probably thought he was nuts for marrying what they believed was an adulteress. They probably talked about him behind his back too. Maybe they called him weak or foolish. Maybe they said he wasn’t a real man since he didn’t even stand up for his rights. One can only speculate, but I would guess this was the toughest yet most blessed decision he ever made in his life.
There’s lots more to say about Joseph so I’ll save the rest and do some more tomorrow, but just one more thing about Joseph. We are blessed to know the whole story…we know who that Child was that Mary carried in her womb. We know about the calling God placed on her life. And she knew it too. She knew in her heart she had nothing to be ashamed of. And you know, even if somehow it had been demanded that she be stoned for her infidelity, God would have protected her. She carried The Christ inside of her. But isn’t it sweet just the same that God sent a man who would cover her, be her husband, and care for her so that she would not bear the shame of being pregnant, unmarried and alone? I think that’s pretty awesome.
No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame… – Psalm 25:3
To be continued…