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Joseph, husband of Mary

December 11th, 2011 by Vic

December 11, 2011

“Joseph, husband of Mary”

Third Sunday of Advent

Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2

 

Today is the third Sunday of Advent.  Advent means a coming.  This is the time of year we remember Jesus’ first coming and look forward to His Second Coming.  Christmas celebrates a fulfillment of the past and a hope for the future.  Christmas is a time to look both ways.

 

One of Jesus’ last commands was to watch and pray.  Think and remember your Creator.  Think and give Him thanks.  Pause and ponder the signs of the times.  Can you see what God is doing in your life?  Do you see how He is helping you?  Christmas is a time to just “sit a spell” and ponder.

 

Matthew 1:1-18  Notice the list of fathers and the difference with Joseph (16).  He receives Jesus.  All other fathers caused their sons to be born, but not Joseph.  Jesus was born to Joseph.  Joseph adopted Jesus.  Literally the Greek reads, “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus.”  Joseph became the legal adopted father when he took Mary to his home.

 

The name Joseph means ‘he shall add’.  Jesus means ‘God is Savior’ or ‘God is salvation’.  Christ or Messiah means ‘anointed one’ or priest.  As the Son of David, He is in line for the throne.  As the Son of Abraham He is the fulfillment of God’s promises.

 

Why does Matthew use 3 lists of 14 names in each?  3×14 is 6 sevens and Jesus’ lineage would be the 7th seven.  3×14 is 42 which was the last normal period before Pentecost and the year of Jubilee.  42 was a period of years before the conclusion and year of Jubilee.  There is a design behind the history of God’s people.

 

Verse 18 says, the birth of Jesus Christ was like this, but Matthew says very little about the birth.  His focus is on the obedience of Joseph.

Matt 1:18-25

Mary was ‘pledged’ to be married to Joseph.  A formal pre-nuptial contract was entered into before witnesses, which gave the man legal rights over the girl and which could only be broken by a formal process of divorce.  They were considered husband and wife.  They usually began living together a year later.  Mary was 12 or 13 years old.  Joseph was probably at least 20.

 

Soon after the engagement Mary got pregnant through the Holy Spirit.  I’m sure Mary tried to explain, but she was probably considered too young and too naive to be believed.  It was probably assumed that somebody seduced her and said he was an angel.  God had not spoken through angels for 400 years.  An angel would not appear to a girl.  Why would an angel speak to a 12 year old?  Joseph struggled to reconcile the facts with his kindness.  He had a soft heart.

 

It is interesting to note that no other miraculous birth is described like this one.  It was common in Greek literature for a god to have sexual relations with a woman, but none by a spirit.

 

Verse 19 suggests Joseph had a dilemma.  “Being a righteous man” compelled him to keep the letter of the law.  His options were limited.  He could expose her sin and have her stoned.  That would be the righteous thing to do.  He could divorce her publicly or divorce her privately.  But a real righteous man lets love balance righteousness.  A real righteous man is a kind man.  As a righteous man he did not want to marry a girl so obviously guilty of sin, so he decided on private divorce proceedings.

 

Joseph couldn’t marry her.  He would be admitting his guilt or demonstrating his lack of concern for holy children.  He really wanted to marry a virgin.  He had decided to quietly divorce Mary.  We don’t know how many sleepless nights he had, but after he had finally fallen asleep one night, he woke up.

 

God surprised him in a dream and changed his strategy.  This is the only place in the gospels where ‘Son of David’ refers to someone other than Jesus.  The angel confirmed Mary’s explanation and told him to take Mary as his wife.  “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife home.”

 

Compare 1:21 with 1:23.  “You shall call His name Jesus.”  “They shall call His name Immanuel.”

 

Joseph has a new dilemma.  It would be commonly assumed that the child was his.  Joseph became willing to appear like an unrighteous man and publicly declare that he was the father of this child.  Joseph was willing to obey God and lose his reputation.  Joseph was not willing to hurt Mary for the sake of his reputation in the church.  Love and kindness compelled him to handle the matter privately.  Love covers a multitude of sins.  His love compelled Him to take some of Mary’s burden as his own.  Obedience to God scrambled all his future plans and dreams.

 

Joseph was a righteous man.  This means he was a conscientious Jew.  He had committed himself to observing the Law.  He could have killed Mary and been labeled a good Jew.  He could be righteously wrong.  We can sometimes be wrong with our rightness.  We can sometimes do more harm than good by doing what the law says.  Righteousness is worthless without love and mercy.

 

What does a good man or good woman do?  Everything God tells them to do.  He obeyed.  He took Mary home as his wife.  He took legal responsibility for the child.  They lived in Nazareth.

 

God has surprised me many times.  He works all for good if we obey.  God’s plan will probably be different from our plan.  He will probably surprise us again.

 

Luke 1:26-38 tells about Gabriel’s appearance to Mary.  The story of the angel’s appearance to Joseph happens between vs. 38 & 39.  Mary stayed with Elizabeth 3 months (vs. 56) and than returned home to Joseph.  Her pregnancy may have become obvious by now.  We pick up the story with Joseph in Luke 2.

 

Luke 2

It was required for Joseph to return to Bethlehem, but not Mary.  Bethlehem was about 5 miles from Jerusalem and 85 miles from Nazareth.  If the decree had been a few months earlier or later Mary would probably have stayed home in Nazareth.  But the prophets said Jesus would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).  Herod the king was being directed by God and he did not know it.  Registration required a personal appearance in your home town.

 

Joseph travels with Mary from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea.  Pregnant women are not always easy to travel with.  They probably ended up staying in an overcrowded relative’s single-roomed home with a stable under the same roof.

 

Joseph and Mary had not had a baby before.  The baby was coming and they were not thinking of anything else.  They were unaware of what was happening in a nearby field.  Some young shepherds were hearing an angel choir announcing the birth of their baby.  The shepherds would be coming soon to praise God for the baby.  The sign by which the shepherds are to recognize the Christ-child is a paradoxical one.  God allows the Messiah to be without outward splendor.  Swaddling cloths is a mark of a mother’s love and care.

 

Luke 2:16

The shepherds found Mary, Joseph, and the manger baby.  Having seen the promised sign, they pay no further attention to the child.  Seeing a baby was not as special to them as seeing angels and hearing the announcement of angels.  They told everyone what the angels had told them about this new baby.  The praise of God is the appropriate response to what God has done and is doing through us.

 

Everyone was amazed at the shepherds’ message.  In addition to being amazed like the others, Mary treasured and pondered.  Joseph was probably very busy arranging for food and garbage service.  Maybe he was trying to tidy things up for the next round of visitors.  Maybe he was thinking of next weeks circumcision.

 

Luke 2:21

Jesus is circumcised and named on the 8th day.  Joseph was responsible for the naming.  The naming is the completion of his formal adoption of Jesus and thus the confirmation of His Davidic lineage.  Joseph was obedient to the heavenly vision he had from the angel.  Mary was considered unclean and could not enter the Temple until her purification after 40 days.

 

Luke 2:22

Joseph and Mary must have stayed in Bethlehem with relatives for 40 days for Mary’s ritual purification.  After waiting the proper length of time, they took Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate Him to the Lord and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord.  The first born son was considered as belonging to the Lord in a special way.  The use of pigeons in sacrifice was a special concession to the poor.

 

Simeon, a righteous and devout man, was directed by the Holy Spirit to recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah.  Simeon took Jesus in His arms; his life changed.  He now has seen God’s promise and never has to return to the Temple again.  His watching is now accomplished.  God is dismissing him of his duty to watch for the arrival of the Messiah.  That great day has come.

 

Anna, a prophetess, was also at the right place at the right time and she recognized God was in it.  She told everyone who would listen that Jesus had come to bring salvation to Jerusalem.

 

Luke 2:39

Joseph and Mary did everything required of the Law of the Lord and returned to their home in Nazareth in Galilee.

 

Neither Matthew nor Luke tells us why or when Joseph and Mary returned to visit relatives in Bethlehem.  Luke does tell us that every year Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast.

 

Matthew 1:25-2:23

Matthew mentions the naming of Jesus (1:25) and the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.  He is going to tell us how Jesus fulfilled prophecies regarding Bethlehem, Egypt, Ramah, and Nazareth.

 

Herod the Great died in 4 b.c.  Herod’s response to Jesus is a dramatic contrast to the response of the Magi.

 

Joseph, Mary, Jesus and the wise men received Divine guidance to be at a house in Bethlehem at the same time.  Apparently Joseph was not home when the Magi visited (2:11).  After the wise men left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.  He warned Joseph that Herod wanted to kill their child.  Joseph’s life became a little more complicated.  A Roman ruler was planning to kill his son.  Their son was on the government hit list.  They must have wondered why?

 

He obeyed instantly.  He never argues or tries to consider the facts differently.  He obeys.

 

Probably less than a year later, Herod died.  The angel again appeared to Joseph and said he could return to Israel.  Joseph must have considered the Bethlehem area in Judea, but because a son of Herod was still ruling there, he decided to go back to his home town of Nazareth in Galilee.

 

Many have seen parallels of Jesus’ family coming out of Egypt with the Moses exodus.

 

Luke 2:41

Joseph and Mary had been bringing Jesus to Jerusalem every year for the Feast of Passover.  When he was 12 years old, routines were scrambled a little.  At 12 years old Jewish boys could be expected to participate in 1 day fasts.  The parents could punish them more severely for disobedience.  They were becoming adults.

 

Jews traveled to the Passover Feast in large groups.  Joseph probably told Jesus when their group was leaving and he was expected to obey.

 

Jesus is depicted as an eager student (46).  After 3 days, Mary and Joseph found him.  Mary questions him.  It is a little surprising that Mary is speaking for the parents.  She expressed to Jesus that she and Joseph felt a sense of betrayal.  They were really worried and hurt that he was not considerate to them.

 

Jesus is genuinely surprised at her question.  He knew his parents were godly.  He knew they were faithful to God and His Word.  He knew that they knew His birth was unique.  He expected that they would know if he was not in Joseph’s house he would be in the Temple.  Jesus had no intention of dishonoring either of his fathers.  He recognized his dual identity and was surprised that Mary was grieved.  We don’t know anything about Joseph after this event.

 

Joseph demonstrates the dilemma of the righteous in an unrighteous culture.  He knew what the law required, but he felt kindness was more important than the law.

 

Joseph had many expectations when he asked Mary to be his wife, but was willing to set those aside for God’s surprises.

 

Advent is about the surprise arrival of the Light of the World.  Christmas is filled with lights.  Advent is about light shining in a dark world.

 

Read Isaiah 60:1-3.  The light of the world is a person.  The Light of the world is Jesus.

 

When you see the beautiful lights this season, remember Jesus and God’s surprises.

 

The Jews had no ’60 Minutes’ or ’20/20′ to investigate all the facts that came together for the first Christmas.  Miracles were happening all around, but no one put the pieces together for several years.  Take some time to ponder all the activities of God in your life.  Take time to “sit a spell.”

 

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