- Religion and Philosophy
The Story of Joseph
Every year, when Christmas comes around there is a multitude of Christmas stories depicting the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There are nativity scenes in yards, stories and books written about the miraculous and aspiring account of the virgin Mary and the immaculate conception. Most everyone has read or heard the account of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah of all the world.
These stories or chronicles can range in their topics and often times they center on either the conception or the birth and the subject is usually Jesus Christ Himself or Mary the mother of Jesus.
Rarely, is there an account that emphasizes the role of Joseph. Though, Joseph is known as the legal father of Jesus, he is given little attention in the role he played in the most miraculous and important event in all of history. Even those that know Jesus Christ as the One and Only Messiah have not exercised their knowledge on the pertinent and much needed attention to the role of Joseph as the man who married Mary and became the legal father to Jesus. To have this knowledge, one can have a more intimate look into the character of God and His decision making.
We can all appreciate that Joseph was engaged to Mary before her divine pregnancy. In the days of Jesus, single parenthood was rare and considered an abomination of sorts. Mary, when she consented to the immaculate conception, was putting her very life on the line. Her fiance could reject her and be well within his legal grounds as well as moral grounds, since her pregnancy would bring shame to him and his character as well. There was a law (Deut. 22:21) that would allow her to be stoned in a legal manner. Mary could remain with her parents, but the shame and disgrace of an unmarried pregnancy would hurt their standing in the community. Remarriage would be out of the question since no decent or ethical man would take her as wife, as her supposed adultery would taint the reputation of any who approved of her, much less marry her. And to be single and living alone was unheard of for a woman in these days. This was a family oriented and family centered type culture. Mary would be totally reliant upon the grace of God to see her through this divine pregnancy.
In the biblical account of Joseph coming into the knowledge of Mary being pregnant (Matthew 1), Joseph is said to be a 'righteous' man. This means his standards were high, just, fair, good and upright. He was more interested in doing the right thing than in making a public disgrace of Mary (I mean, come on, it must have been hard for him to believe her when she tried to explain the pregnancy). If Joseph married her, he would be making a spectacle of himself as well as tarnishing his own reputation. But, his morality was more important to him than his reputation. Doing the right thing was the focus that Joseph chose. So, Joseph decided he would quietly divorce (end the engagement) with Mary. He was not interested in letting the world know that she was an adulterer and had done him wrong. Joseph decided to end the engagement in a legal and binding matter and to protect Mary's reptutation as much as he could.
God had a different idea, though. And He presents this idea to Joseph, while Joseph is sleeping. God explains to Joseph that Mary is impregnated by the Holy Spirit and goes on to tell Joseph that he must name the child Jesus (names carry much weight with God and on the earth .. the name Jesus means Yahweh saves). This is important because the naming of a child by his father is a legal binding matter and it is an admission of the father that this is his son, according to the laws of the Jews. (This also brings Jesus into the lineage of David, who is Joseph's ancestor, and fulfills biblical prophecy.)
Joseph betroths Mary and this alleviates any shame and disgrace that might be brought upon her as well as the man Jesus. Joseph goes on to do as God directs and this results in keeping Jesus alive, until the appointed time of His death.
Most Christians agree, that when Mary consented to giving birth to Jesus, she was highly favored of God and she went down in history as a woman that was surrendered to God's Will and an excellent example of what it truly means to be submitted to God and His plans for our life. But, many overlook the importance of the surrender of Joseph as well. Joseph had the right character for God to be able to use him. (Joseph did not weary in well doing.) Joseph was able to hear from God and then he immediately went into action (this is the true act of faith) doing as God instructed him to do. Joseph betrothed Mary. Joseph named Jesus. Joseph took Mary and Jesus and fled the country when King Herod devised to kill the child Jesus. Joseph brought his family into the town of Nazareth, which fulfilled biblical prophecy. So, we could say, Joseph kept the person of Jesus from disgrace and shame. Joseph took Jesus in as his own and treated him so. Joseph kept Jesus alive, until the appointed time of His death. Joseph was responsible for Jesus being a Nazarene. It is probable that without Joseph and his obedience to God, the disgrace and shame brought upon Mary would also be brought upon her son.
God's choosing of Joseph was as imperative (if not more so) as the choosing of Mary. God was choosing a couple to raise His Son and to fulfill His plan. Joseph's character was exactly the character that God was looking for and this allowed Joseph to be worthy of God's trust where the birth and plan of Jesus was to come to pass. Let us not overlook how important Joseph was to the central theme of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(Note .. I would like to thank 'Joyful Heart Ministries' for the idea of this story and an excellent take on the Christmas Story. )