Matthew 1:18-25

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Matthew 1

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

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St Joseph Statue

Saint Joseph has helped thousands of people to sell their homes and other real estate. The biggest part of this help is to give you faith in Saint Joseph and yourself; the belief that you now will sell your house with the help and blessing of Saint Joseph. So if you need help to sell your real estate or another house please read more on our Saint Joseph Statue homepage.

Sell My House

Do you have friends that are having trouble selling their real estate? Are you about to put your own house out in the home sales market? Have you tried everything but still haven´t sold your house? Are you in the real estate business and need an extra incentive for your customers?
– In all cases above you have come to the right place. The use of a St Joseph statue and the belief in St Joseph is a tradition known all over the world for helping you to sell your house in a smooth way. To bury a statue of Saint Joseph is both a wonderful tradition and a great gift to friends and customers.

The Home Seller Kit

There are some different home sales kit from which you may choose. It is not that important which one you prefer, the most important thing is that you have faith in yourself and in Saint Joseph. You can read more about how to use the home selling kit here.[1]

I actually first heard of this in Georgia a number of years ago when a lady mentioned it to me. She said that she had buried a statue of Joseph upside down in the yard and that her house sold not too long thereafter. She appeared to be a believer in this.

To put it mildly, I am not. But I am a fan of Joseph the earthly father of Jesus. Some call Joseph Jesus’ “foster father” or “step father.” All of these titles are efforts to recognize that God, of course, was truly Jesus’ father. But there was a man who loved Mary, the mother of Jesus, and this man played a very important role in the story of Jesus’ first advent. Even so, it seems like we never quite know what to do with Joseph. We either say a few polite words about him and move on, or we try to do strained detective work to figure out exactly what happened to him, or we ignore him outright, or, heaven forbid, we bury statues of poor Joseph upside down in our yards as some sort of real estate hocus pocus.

Yet, behind all of these approaches stands Joseph the man. All that really matters for us on this side of heaven is what we know of him from scripture. As it turns out, the portrait that scripture paints of Joseph is a beautiful portrait indeed.

Joseph was just and merciful.

We begin with a fundamental statement about the character of Joseph. Scripture tells us that Joseph was “just” and scripture shows us that Joseph was “merciful.”

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

To grasp fully the high character of Joseph we must understand the frightening situation in which he found himself. While we may be accustomed to thinking of a first century Jewish “betrothal” as roughly synonymous with the modern concept of “engagement,” the former truly was more serious than what the latter seems to have become in our society. Michael Wilkins explains that “during this stage” of betrothal, in Jewish society, “sexual unfaithfulness…was considered adultery, the penalty for which was death by stoning (cf. Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:23-24), although by New Testament times stoning was rare.” Wilkins goes on to say that “[s]ince the law did not require the deed to be made public, it made allowance for a relatively private divorce (two to three witnesses).”[2]

Against this backdrop, the goodness of Joseph shines. To be sure, like all of fallen humanity, Joseph was a sinner in need of grace. But Joseph was a good man and his character reflects his trust in God. We can see this in:

  • the fact that he is called “just”;
  • the fact that he was “unwilling to put [Mary] to shame”;
  • the fact that he was willing “to divorce her quietly.”

Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes if you can. How would you or I have responded in a similar situation? Jealousy and anger would certainly have overtaken most human hearts. After all, do we need to act with less grace in situations that are much less confusing than this must have been? Surely we do.

How do we explain Joseph’s gracious actions? I believe that one of the most beautiful attempts to explain this is found in the words of John Chrysostom, that great preacher from so long ago:

Do you not see here a man of exceptional self-restraint, freed from that most tyrannical passion, jealousy?…Joseph was so free from the passion of jealousy as to be unwilling to cause distress to the Virgin, even in the slightest way…He would do nothing of the sort. So Joseph determined to conduct himself now by a higher rule than the law. For now that grace was appearing, it would be fitting that many tokens of that exalted citizenship be expressed. It is like the sun not yet arisen, but from afar more than half the world is already illumined by its light. So did Christ, when about to rise from that womb—even before His birth—cast light upon all the world.[3]

What a wonderful thought! There, in the presence of the as-yet-born Jesus, Joseph already begins to reflect the amazing grace and mercy that Christ will usher into the world. It is as if the unborn Christ was already emanating such powerful rays of love that Joseph could not help but be caught up in them, as if Christ’s wondrous tenderness could not be contained even by the womb!

See here the goodness of Joseph but, yes, see behind it the goodness of Christ!

Joseph was a man of great faith.

Hand in hand with Joseph’s justice and grace is Joseph’s faith. What tremendous faith this man of God exhibited!

20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife

Now, Joseph is given more light. He is asked now to believe that this scandalous pregnancy is the work of none other than God Himself! He is asked to believe that the conception is “from the Holy Spirit,” that this child “will save his people from their sins,” that this birth is the fulfillment of an earlier biblical promise! More than this, he was asked to believe that this child was “God with us”!

The mind reels! Joseph is asked simply to accept this miracle on faith. He is asked to believe.

The author of the 5th century Incomplete Commentary on Matthew observes that there are two clues in the text that also point to the unique nature of Christ’s birth. The first clue is found in the opening words of verse 18, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.” He sees the “in this way” as a phrase of contrast to the normal “way” described in the genealogy immediately preceding. In other words, “It was if he was saying, ‘The birth of those fathers concerning whom we have expounded took place just as I stated. But the birth of Christ took place not in that way but in the way that follows.’” The second clue is found in the words of verse 21, “She will bear a son.” He points out that when the angel told Zechariah that his wife was pregnant (with John the Baptist) he said “your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son” (Luke 1:13).[4] Compare to the two announcements:

  • To Joseph: “She will bear a son.”
  • To Zechariah: “She will bear you a son.”

Do you see what is missing in the announcement to Joseph? Joseph is not told that Mary would bear “you” a son. He is told that Mary will “bear a son.” In other words, Joseph would be a father to Jesus, but he would never be the Father to Jesus, for Joseph was not biologically the father.

This, to put it mildly, is a lot to ask of someone! Mary and Joseph were both asked to show a shocking degree of faith. And how did Joseph respond? Amazingly, we read:

24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife

The simplicity of this stops us in our tracks. Again, we respond with less understanding to much smaller requests for faith! We stumble in our faith over much less than this! But Joseph, when asked to believe all of this, at great peril to Mary and to himself, quickly obeyed. In this, Joseph’s response foreshadows the response of Jesus’ first disciples when called in Matthew 4:

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

There is something in the call of God upon our lives that asks for immediate and life-altering faith and obedience without consideration of the seeming enormity of the request. The Lord seems to be in the habit of bluntly setting before us assertions and propositions that no normal, sane man or woman could reasonably be asked to accept…and yet there they are! The call for faith and following and belief is a radical call and indeed we need divine assistance to accept it. But accept it we can! We can, like Joseph and Mary, and everybody else who has truly taken the offered hand of Christ, drop what we are doing and follow. And it seems to me that this is the great challenge of this Christmas text: will we have this kind of faith? Will we trust? Will we follow?

Joseph understood that he must in no way interfere with the unique and world-altering actions of God in the coming of Jesus.

There is one more dynamic at play here, and it is found in the last verse of the chapter. It is found in the phrase he “knew her not until she had given birth” in verse 25.

25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

This is truly one of the most controversial passages in all of scripture, and Christians have debated its meaning ever since. Simply put, while the clearest meaning appears to be that Joseph did not approach Mary in a marital way until after she gave birth (in other words, after the birth of Jesus they had a normal marriage in every sense), many in the church object and argue that this does not suggest they then consummated their union after the birth of Christ. What is at stake here is the Catholic doctrine of “the perpetual virginity of Mary” that argues that Mary remained a virgin. This is rooted in early Christianity and seems to have arisen, at least in part, from the belief in some quarters that sexual union was inherently bad even in marriage. Thus, for Mary to have had a physical union with Joseph would mean that Mary was diminished in some way.

To this let me simply say that calling the sexual union in marriage “bad” (and some church fathers tried to argue that married sexual union was “bad” but not “sinful” since it was necessary for the propagation of the human race) would appear to violate Isaiah 15:20, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” After all, in Genesis 2:18-25 we find that marital union is good!

Regardless of that particular debate, what is agreed by all parties is that Joseph did not approach Mary while she was pregnant with Jesus. And this is telling. Blomberg sees Joseph’s restraint as “in keeping with his ‘righteous’ character (v.19)” and notes that while Joseph “goes beyond what the angel explicitly commands” his behavior “further refutes any claim that might be made then or later that Joseph himself was Jesus’ biological father.”[5]

This is true, but in a wider sense we might argue that Joseph does not approach Mary because he saw in her pregnancy, as best he could, the unique and world-altering actions of God Himself. In other words, the only thing that Joseph, from his vantage point, could do in this great divine act was interfere. So he stands back. He loves Mary. He supports Mary. He cares for Mary. But he “knew her not.”

I believe that more should be made of this than is sometimes made. Sometimes we read this to mean simply that Joseph shows restraint until things can be normal with his wife. But I think it is more than that. I think Joseph’s restraint is an act of worship, and act of standing in awe of the goodness and glory of God! I think Joseph had a sense of the holy and the sacred. I think that he and Mary both, while struggling to understand what was happening, at least understood that God was at work in a way that the whole world had been waiting for! Nations and kingdoms and thrones would be shaken by the coming of this child. History itself would be rewritten! The door of heaven was being opened and the voice of God was calling all of lost and hurting humanity home.

Yes! And Joseph, I truly believe, had some sense of this. Maybe it was just a sense of trembling and amazement. Maybe it was the quiet voice of the Spirit of the living God say, “Just you wait, Joseph! Just you wait and see what I am going to do through this child that you will raise! Just you wait and see the story that you are caught up in!”

In a sense, then, we all rise up and call Joseph “blessed” too, do we not? He has shown us an example of faith and trust and obedience that we can only hope to aspire to. He has shown us what it is to worship and to trust.

See Joseph! A great man of a great God!

 

[1] https://www.st-josephstatue.com

[2] Michael J. Wilkins, “Matthew.”  Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary. Gen. Ed., Clinton E. Arnold. Vol.1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), p.11-12.

[3] Manlio Simonettie, ed.,  Matthew 1-13. Ancient Christian Commentary On The Scriptures. Gen. Ed. Thomas C. Oden. New Testament, Vol. 1a (Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press, 2001), p.14-15.

[4] Thomas C. Oden, ed., Incomplete Commentary on Matthew (Opus imperfectum). Ancient Christian Texts. Matthew, vol. 1. Trans. By James A. Kellerman. Ser. Eds., Thomas C. Oden and Gerald L. Bray (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010), p.23, 28.

[5] Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew. The New American Commentary. Gen. Ed., David S. Dockery. Vol.22 (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992), p.53. Bruner believes that Matthew is simply approximating. Bruner, p.16. Frank Stagg, p.61. Blomberg also argues that “[t]he grammatical construction translated ‘until’ strongly suggests (but does not prove) that Mary and Joseph proceeded to have normal sexual relations after Jesus’ birth.”

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