Joseph must have been an amazing man. A devout Jew who wanted nothing more than to follow the ways of Moses and God. He had even found a wonderful young woman, called Mary, and together they were looking forward to getting married and spending the rest of their lives together. They were engaged.
They had set themselves apart for each other and wouldn’t have dreamed of violating that sacred union by succumbing to promiscuous behaviour or pre-marital sex. Mary was a virgin.
We can hardly imagine the emotional turmoil that must have gripped Joseph when Mary told him that she was pregnant. No matter how Mary explained it away – she was pregnant and they were not married. Such a thing was unthinkable. He had been hit by something bigger and more painful than a huge 4 x 2 piece of wood.
It was all the more difficult to deal with since he couldn’t expect anyone to understand or believe the explanation. Mary had not been rebellious, she had not fallen for a one-night stand, or forsaken Joseph for someone else – she was pregnant through the work of the Holy Spirit. But who would believe her or Joseph? How could they prove that it was the work of the Holy Spirit?
Joseph was forced to make a decision about something that was not his fault or of his making – it had been thrust upon him, and it was completely outside his scheme of reference. But he would have to make a choice. He could divorce Mary – and expose her to embarrassment, ridicule, censure, being ostracised and probable physical death, or get married to cover up any further embarrassment.
His initial reaction was to divorce her as quietly as possible and to protect her as much as possible – but God intervened. Joseph had a dream and God told him to marry Mary since she was telling the truth, and the baby she was carrying had indeed been conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit and would be the longed-for promised Messiah.
However, marrying Mary wouldn’t be straightforward. Joseph would have to bear the presumption of misbehaviour. He would have to convince himself that Mary was telling the truth. He would have to put up with any misguided criticism from family and friends. He would be married but forbidden to enjoy conjugal rights until after Jesus was born. He would become a father within 9 months of marriage with all that entailed.
Over and above all that, he would become the human trustee of the most precious baby ever born – a parent to the Son of God. Someone who would be responsible for training up the Messiah in the Jewish culture of the day and in the ways of God. Joseph must have looked at the responsibilities and thought it an impossible task.
Yet we read that he was completely obedient to what the Lord said. He took Mary as his wife, he didn’t have sexual intercourse with her until after the baby was born, and he gave the baby the name – Jesus – given by God.
What an amazing man.