Joseph: A Very Good Man
“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife” (Matthew 1:20).
Joseph has been rightly called the forgotten man of Christmas. It is natural that most of our attention should focus on Mary since she gave birth to Jesus. Nowhere in the birth accounts do we have any recorded words of Joseph. He appears on the stage of history for a few moments and then disappears.
Let me briefly list for you the things we know about Joseph:
–His father was Jacob.
–His family came from Bethlehem in Judea, but he lived in Nazareth in Galilee. That meant Joseph and Mary had to travel about 95 miles to register for the census.
–He is from the royal line of David. The genealogy in Matthew 1 makes that clear.
–He was a carpenter by trade.
–He was a poor man. When he and Mary presented Jesus in the Temple, they brought a turtledove to sacrifice. Jews did that when they could not afford a lamb.
–He was a devout man.
How old was Joseph? We don't know the answer for sure, but many writers agree he was probably a young man and possibly a teenager.
Now Mary turns up pregnant. Joseph only knows one thing for sure. He's not the father.
What did he say to her? What did she say to him? Did she tell him about the angel Gabriel? If she did, can you blame him for not believing her?
I think Joseph cried harder that day than he had ever cried in his life.
Matthew 1:24-25 reveal Joseph's finest qualities:
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she had given birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Every step he takes testifies to his greatness:
*By marrying her quickly, he broke Jewish custom, but he protected Mary's reputation. She was pregnant and he wasn't the father, but he married her anyway.
*By keeping her a virgin until Jesus was born, he protected the miracle of Jesus' conception by the Holy Spirit against slander by unbelievers.
*By naming the baby he exercised a father's prerogative and thus officially took him into his family as his son.
In these days of confusion, Joseph shows us what a godly man looks like:
He was strong when he could have been weak.
He was tender when he could have been harsh.
He was thoughtful when he could have been hasty.
He was trusting when he could have doubted.
There is one other line of proof about the kind of man Joseph was. When Jesus grew up and began his ministry, he chose one word above all others to describe what God is like. He called him Father.
Heavenly Father, thank you for choosing Joseph. Grant me the same courage to do right even when I don’t fully understand your plan. Amen.
Musical bonus: Written from Joseph’s standpoint, this song reminds us that God’s plans continually surprise us. Let’s listen together to Strange Way to Save the World by Rascal Flatts.