Matthew 1:18-21, 24 (NLT)
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus,[i] for he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.
Joseph’s position is problematic. His situation is serious. Mary is carrying someone else’s child. And it’s hard to think this is a good thing.
It’s hard for us to imagine the cultural pressure Joseph was facing. It was scandalous for him to follow through and marry a woman carrying another man’s baby. The child would be labeled a bastard for the rest of his life. The rumors would whirl around him as he walked through the streets. The mother would be labeled as loose, of poor character. She would be shunned from all good society. The husband would be labeled as a dupe, a fool. He would be mocked to his face. The family would be talked about for the rest of their lives.
I get it. I understand. When I was a child, my mother and father divorced. It was the early 60s and this type of thing just didn’t happen in polite society (or wasn’t discussed). However, she remarried shortly after and her new husband adopted my brother and me. We took his name and I’ve been an Austin from that day forward. I was too young to understand all the dynamics of this exchange but it impacted me throughout my life.
I can remember discussions with my teachers who knew it, my classmates who teased that I didn’t know my real father, or my cousins who pointed out that I wasn’t really the son of Mr. Austin. It hurt and of course, it was intended to. That was the point. Despite my father’s deep love for me, a feeling of alienation pervaded my life.
So imagine the shaming that Jesus, Mary and Joseph encountered every day of their lives.
No one believed Mary’s story. And no one forgot the rumors. No one respected Joseph’s decision. And no one understood his act of “generosity” toward her. No one accepted their Son…and few do to this day.
Like my own father, Joseph listened to God and did what was right, but not what was easy. He acted honorably and he raised a son, giving guidance and in the process, teaching him to be honorable. He taught him to look people in the eye, shake hands firmly, and love others who suffered similar fates of public humiliation and shame.
Joseph faced the difficult dilemma like a man, and in the process, taught his son to do the same.
Dear God Above,
Thank you for faithful men like Joseph. Thank you for his example to us all.