Jesse Tree: Day 22 Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25)
Without warning, Joseph’s world imploded. The woman to whom he was betrothed was pregnant. Betrothal had such legal status that Joseph is already considered Mary’s husband. As far as he knew, Mary was an adulteress. He was a righteous man, faithful to the Law of God that said Mary could be put to death (e.g. Dt.22:20-24). But there is more to righteousness than this, and Joseph tempers justice with mercy. He refuses to succumb to bitterness, still less vindictiveness. He doesn’t know what’s happened, or why, but his instinct is to avoid disgracing her. He plans to divorce her quietly (Matt.1:19). As is so often the way, the Lord let Joseph make his plans, then revealed a better way.
It takes an angelic visitation to convince Joseph of the truth of Mary’s story. And now another aspect of his righteousness finds expression. Without hesitation ‘he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took Mary home as his wife’ (Matt.1:24). His own reputation is shattered. There is no way to avoid giving credibility to the rumours that he is the father of Mary’s child. When Zechariah and Elizabeth’s child was born, friends and relatives shared their joy, and Elizabeth’s disgrace - misplaced though it may was - is removed. When Mary’s Child is born, it will be far from friends and family, under a shadow of scandal, rejection and disgrace - misplaced though it was. Christ’s humiliation has begun, and He asks Joseph to share in it.
And soon Joseph’s life is further disrupted. A second angelic visitation sends him to Egypt, a refugee seeking refuge for a Child who would be a refuge for so many (Matt.2:12-15). Again his response is characterised by a simple yet profound obedience. Joseph was indeed ‘a righteous man’. His tenderness towards Mary, his courage in marrying her (see Matt.1:20), his restraint enabling a virgin conception to become a virgin birth (Is.7:14), his enduring faithfulness to God’s Law (Lk.2:27) are all easy to miss, yet essential to the unfolding of God’s purposes. It is through Joseph’s taking of Mary as his wife, and subsequently adopting her Child as his son, that Jesus is given His credentials as the Son of David (Matt.1:20). Only the Son of David can be the Messiah. Because Joseph adopts Jesus into his family, Jesus can adopt us into His (Rom.8:15; Gal.4:4-5 etc).
We know remarkably little about Joseph. He is rarely mentioned, and he likely died sometime between Jesus’ visit to the Temple aged 12 (Lk.2:48), and the beginning of His public ministry. Yet we know all we need to when we realise the eternal Father entrusted His own Son to Joseph’s paternal care. Each glimpse we are given into Joseph’s character vindicates His wisdom.
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took Mary home as his wife. (Matt.1:24)
Ideas for Family Devotions:
Have a listen to ‘Crushed’, a song by Seeds Family Worship based on Ps.34:18. You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=879RTAJxpF0 How do you think passages like this from the Bible might have helped Mary and Joseph as they got ready for Jesus to be born?
And one last suggestion from the Jesus Storybook Bible that takes us a little beyond the scope of the Jesse Tree to the story of the Shepherds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fqMhLApCmA&t=259s
Why do you think the Lord doesn’t send us angels like he did with Joseph more often? How can we know what God wants us to do?