Posted on Sun, Dec 22, 2013
December 22, 2013
Fourth Sunday in Advent – “Joseph’s Quandary”
Gospel Text: Matthew 1:18-25
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah
18 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. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 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. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
I really wonder how we know so much detail about the story about how Jesus was born… Did Joseph have a private secretary working for Matthew to help him by writing everything down?
Look at the detail of Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus; in one sentence Matthew lets us know what happened and in the next sentence he let’s us know the significance of that event!
Each Gospel is different. Each Gospel writer is writing about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, but each writer is writing for a different audience for a slightly different purpose.
Mark is the oldest Gospel text, written most closely to the life of Jesus. It is probably the most accurate, not too interested in theology, just interested in telling us where Jesus was, who he was speaking to, what he did, and where he was off to next. Mark sounds like a television reporter, very little detail, but his favorite word was, “immediately” in Greek. Luke and Matthew used much of the book of Mark for their own Gospels.
Luke was beautifully written for “my dear Theophilous;” either one person named, “Theophilos” which was a common name at that time, or any person who “Loved God,” as the name is directly translated from the Greek. Luke wrote very theologically and beautifully helping any person make the connection between Jesus’ ministry fulfilling all that was prophesied about the Messiah/Savior in the Old Testament.
John was written specifically for the Jewish ears and mind, and most of the book is about the last seven days of Jesus life on this earth. It is very different in style and use of metaphor than Matthew, Mark or Luke.
Matthew is the strict confirmation pastor. He is writing for a small community that is made up of Jews and Gentiles who have left their home customs and religions and began a new life of faith, believing in the words of Jesus, and becoming members of the new religious group (cult) called “the people of The Way.” Matthew writes in such a way that tells his people that once you have heard the Gospel of Jesus and you believe, there is no returning to your old customs and traditions. Your heart has been made anew and the people of your old traditions and customs will never reject you… because you are now labeled as a “Follower of Jesus.” For this reason, Matthew may come off as a little strict or even black and white in his writings. In today’s text he just lets us know what is clearly going on… 18” Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.” Rather clear cut, not much room for questions…
Matthew says, “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.” He doesn't just say Mary was engaged to Joseph, he wants to make sure that we understand there was no hanky-panky between Mary and Joseph before the birth of Jesus, and it was all the result of God’s plan through the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill the prophesy of the virgin birth. Again, clear cut, no need/room for questions.
Matthew continues, 19 “Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.” Why didn’t just Matthew say, Joseph was a nice guy and worked as a carpenter? Because this wouldn’t help him tell us what was most important about Joseph, that Joseph was ‘a righteous man.’ This means Joseph was a man of faith, and as a Jewish man of faith, he understood God was as close to him as the air he breathed, unlike the Greeks who had tons of gods living in the sky, clouds or some ethereal place. Joseph was probably like Tevye the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof always recognizing God’s presence and maybe always talking to God.
It also tells us something about Joseph’s heart. Mary was from Nazareth, because they were engaged they were going to the town where Joseph’s family line lived. Joseph had relatives in Bethlehem, but none of these cousins in Bethlehem knew about his pregnant 14 or 15-year-old fiancé… not surprising Joseph didn’t go to a cousins’ home to stay but he looked for an inn… When the arrived in Bethlehem, Joseph was truly in a quandary. But he couldn't just “let her go” in the condition she was in 70 or so miles from Bethlehem. According to the Jewish Law in those days all he had to do was write a simple paper of divorce and he would be rid of being responsible for this young pregnant girl… but that is not the kind of thing a “righteous” man would do. Because of love he was in a real bind.
But Joseph was close to letting her go, but God, probably through Gabriel, intervened, “20 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. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’” Matthew let’s us know that God comforts and reassures Joseph to keep Mary has his wife, but more importantly God informs Joseph of God’s intention for Mary and Joseph. Joseph is the most knowledgeable that he is not the father, but that means little in helping him understand that the prophesy about Jesus’ lineage must be fulfilled through humble and righteous Joseph. That is why the whole beginning of the book of Matthew is about Jesus’ lineage FROM ABRAHAM TO OUR CARPENTER JOSEPH! Matthew tell us that even God informs Joseph the name Joseph will give to the baby, “Jesus.” And what does that mean? Matthew leaves no details hanging, the name Jesus means, “He/One who will save his people.” (From their sins.)”
At first Joseph was probably very concerned about what would happen the day he and his young fiancé, who was very much “with child,” would enter Bethlehem and he would be obligated to visit family… besides, they knew that Joseph was coming, the probably knew nothing of Mary.
Matthew continues to make sure we have no questions about the purpose and meaning of this amazing couple, 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ The prophet is Isaiah directly from Isaiah 7:14. Isaiah calls the child, Emmanuel, and Matthew again, to keep things clear defines the title “Emmanuel,” it means, “God is with Us.” JESUS IS GOD WITH US!
Matthew is such the teacher!
Then, to keep that virgin birth prophesy, and the purity of Jesus intact, Matthew finishes his story about how the birth of the Messiah took place, “24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.”
According to Matthew, Joseph was righteous, obedient and true to his calling to be the protector of Mary and the young Jesus. Can you imagine yourself as Joseph? What would you have done? I am sure the direct coaching by God and God’s angels helped him and would help you. But if he wasn’t a righteous man, with ears of faith to hear, eyes of faith to listen and a heart of faith that allowed him to believe, the story would never had come to be. I am thankful for the righteous of Joseph… a gift given to him through FAITH. Amen.
No messages have been posted.
You must first create an account to post.