Joseph and Mary: A Love Story?

I would like to begin this blog with a disclaimer:  I am a HOPELESS romantic.  I read entirely too many romance novels in my early adult life and therefore my idea of life and love may be terribly skewed.  My poor husband.  Good thing he’s a bit of a romantic himself or else he’d be in trouble! ha!!  So  anyway, forgive me if I tend to add a bit of romance/love to the mix but I can’t hardly help it. 

Okay, let me make one thing clear first.  This is my speculation according to what I’ve read, what the Bible says, and what I believe.  It’s not that I think that scripture doesn’t say enough…on the contrary.  Scripture tells us everything we need to know.  But I also think that the Scriptures were meant to be dug into and so if we can put flesh on these people’s bones and give them some humanity, they really seem to come alive off the pages.  (Incidentally, Beth Moore is really good at that – if you’ve never read any of her books, I would highly recommend her.)

Now, it is assumed that Mary was probably around 12 or 13 years old because during that time in history, that was about the age that young women would be betrothed to be married.  Being betrothed was sort of like being engaged, only it was as binding as actually being married.  During this time, the bride would continue to stay with her family while the bridegroom built a home for her, which was often an addition onto his family’s home.  Now in the movie my son and I watched the other night, it depicted Mary as not wanting to marry Joseph…that her dad betrothed her to Joseph because of financial necessity.  I’m not sure I really agree with that.  See, I remember how I was at 13 and boys were the bees knees.  That would have been about the time the “do you love me? check yes or no” notes would start going around the classroom and the girls would be writing their new “married” names on the pages of their notebooks.  Although Mary would have been considered almost a woman at 13, she was still 13 and I can’t help but think that she could have had starry-eyed dreams of love.

And Joseph.  I’m willing to bet that his betrothal to Mary wasn’t at all about finances.  I believe with all my heart that Joseph loved Mary and wanted her to be his wife.   (Parents would usually arranged marriages then, but it wasn’t uncommon for the young man to suggest a bride.)  And anyhow, I just can’t imagine God bringing two people together who would bring the Messiah into the world, have them marry and not have any love for each other.  I couldn’t find where it said specifically how long they’d been betrothed, but betrothals usually lasted for about year.  So, Mary and Joseph at this point could have been “a couple” for several months, and living in the same village, could have known each other for a while before the betrothal.  The Bible tells us in Luke that after the angel tells Mary of the Child she will bear, that she left pretty quickly…maybe the very next day?…and went to see Elizabeth and was there for about three months.  Now you know the old saying – “absence makes the heart grow fonder” – so I can imagine for every brick laid in the home he was building for Mary, that Joseph’s anticipation of her return grew.  What would she think of the house I built?  Would she like it?  Does she miss me?  Has her love for me grown cold in this time she’s been gone?  And I wonder too about Mary.  What could she have been thinking?  Will Joseph believe me when I tell him about the angel?  Will he still want to be my husband?  Will he still love me?  Will he think I’m fat in this dress?  Okay, well maybe not that last bit.

So in all his anticipation of Mary’s return, can you imagine how heartbroken Joseph would have been when faced with the reality that she was pregnant and the child certainly wasn’t his?  I would guess his emotions were running rampant…anger that she would betray him, humiliation at possibly having thought that she loved him, anguish that she would so flippantly toss his love aside for another.  He may have even been disgusted when she told him the story of the angel and wondered to himself if she thought he was that much of a fool to believe such a story.  The Bible says Joseph wasn’t willing to disgrace her publicly, that he would just divorce her quietly – that is until the angel of the Lord came for a visit (Matt. 1:19-25).  Can you imagine Joseph’s relief when the angel told him that everything Mary said was true?  That she really hadn’t been unfaithful?  That she hadn’t given her heart to another?  And then can you imagine the knot in his stomach when he realized that she’d been telling the truth…and he hadn’t believed her.  I’ll bet he couldn’t get his yarmulke on fast enough.  I can imagine him in an all out sprint to her house, pounding on the door, calling her name.  And when she appeared at the door, I can hear him rambling, out of breath, about the angel in his dream, asking for Mary’s forgiveness for not having believed her and praying to himself that she’d still agree to be his wife.  Can you feel the energy between the two of them as they realize that God had ordained this marriage, that God had an amazing purpose for them?  I like to think that at that moment, their hearts were bound together as one.  At that moment, the two individuals became one unit as they embarked on the journey of a lifetime.

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Joseph: Husband of the Year

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…