Sunday, October 19, 2014

God's grace through Joseph

“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.  But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’”  Matthew 1:18-25 (NRSV)

God chose Joseph, Jesus earthly father, to be the father of the Messiah, just as He chose Mary.  The book of Matthew tells us that Joseph was a righteous man, which means he followed the Torah. He was law abiding and tried to do the right thing because he loved God. 
Joseph desired to do the right thing, which was not to marry a woman who was pregnant with a child that did not belong to him.  Joseph did not want to disgrace Mary by accusing her of adultery, so he planned to keep quiet about what appeared to him to be a wrong against himself.  Joseph wanted to obey the law, but his righteousness was not self-righteous.  He put Mary's welfare before his own hurt.  What Joseph was planning to do was a very kind way to treat a woman who became pregnant out of wedlock. 

Then, Joseph had a dream, and an angel spoke to him in the dream. God's intervention into Joseph's life turned the kind and righteous act of putting Mary away quietly into a magnanimous outpouring of love.  God instructed Joseph to set aside his ideas of kindness and righteousness, and take Mary as his wife and raise Jesus as his own son. God’s dealing with Joseph provided Mary and Jesus a loving, home with a righteous husband and father.

The scripture does not mention if Joseph ever said anything about his dream to anyone, although it is likely that Mary knew his story. This indicates that Joseph let everyone believe that the baby was his.  He allowed his friends and neighbors to think that he and Mary could not wait until they were properly married before they came together, and he allowed his righteous reputation to be sullied a bit.  This righteous man, Joseph, was willing to set aside his own righteousness in order to allow God's grace to pour through himself and into Mary and Jesus.