With Christmas fast approaching, I was thinking about the relationship between the parents of Jesus. We don’t know much at all about Joseph from historical texts, but English translations convey that he was a carpenter pledged to be married to Mary, a Jewish girl in her teens. However, under Jewish law and according to Old Testament scholars, a betrothed woman was considered to be married. When Mary got pregnant, Joseph came to the decision that he was going to silently divorce her so that she would not be put to shame. I think that was a honorable choice, clearly borne out of his love for her. However, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream shortly thereafter, and strongly advises him to take (or keep) Mary as his wife. And we know the rest of the story.
Mary is rightfully given much adoration and praise because she willingly allowed her life to be turned on its head so that she could be the mother of our Lord and Savior. Her story is miraculous and extraordinary. But I don’t think that Joseph gets his fair share of the spotlight (and I know he probably wouldn’t want it at all, considering the decisions he made). Here’s why.
Let’s say that I’ve married Rachel, but have not yet consummated the marriage (much like Joseph did not until Jesus was born). And let’s say she comes to me one day and says something to the effect of, “Surprise! I’m pregnant!” followed very quickly by a “But don’t freak out, I can explain….”
I love the Lord – Him and me are extremely close – but how am I supposed to believe that this girl I love became pregnant by the Holy Spirit? That’s not how babies are made. There’s no precedent for that, ever, in the history of the world. A person has to have had sexual intercourse with someone else (pregnancy through medical/technological innovation is not the point here). If I were in Joseph’s shoes, I think I would feel my heart break into a million pieces, because the girl I envisioned would be the love of my life seemingly chose to cheat on me. And yes, I would probably forgive her, and try to keep things on the down low so as to not ruin her reputation and future. But I’d also probably choose to cut her out of my life.
If I were in Joseph’s shoes, I think I would feel my heart break into a million pieces, because the girl I envisioned would be the love of my life seemingly chose to cheat on me.
Not Joseph. To be sure, he did receive some divine intervention which I am sure helped calm his nerves. The angel in his dream told him to stay the course, trust his wife, and even referenced some prophetic Scripture that Joseph may have remembered from Sunday school growing up. The specific verse was from Isaiah: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son….” And that was enough for him. Joseph had faith in that promise and it was now reasonable to assume that it was coming true, and he would have a leading role in the story. But I am sure it required an immeasurable amount of faith, as well as a fierce battle with doubt, suspicion, anger, and fear.
And, apart from trusting in God’s Word about a virgin birth, and in the words of God’s angel in his dream, Joseph trusted his wife Mary. Implictly. Fully. That is a huge deal. And I’m trying to wrap my head around it. My wife Rachel has never lied to me. Ever. And I have never lied to her. We know each other’s character and constitution. And we have this track record going for 5+ years where we know that if the other person says something, it’s the truth. Perhaps Joseph and Mary were exactly the same as us. Okay, so that’s the backdrop – a really great backdrop. But there was still a moment where Joseph had to either choose to believe everything he knew about Mary and her love for him and her integrity, or not. Even in spite of the dream, which he could have chalked up to a bad fish dinner the night before, he had to make a choice.
It would be hard, but I hope I would make the same choice: to believe the best about God’s plans for my life, and to believe the best about my wife.
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