Joseph’s Dream

Matthew 1 : 18 – 25

There is no indication in scripture as to how old Joseph was. Some church tradition has it that he was a widower in late middle age who already had a family, James, Joses, Jude, Simon, and at least two daughters, a theory necessary for Mary to remain a virgin for the remainder of her life. Matthew clearly states however: Mt 1:25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

It is more likely that Joseph was a young man, probably a year or two older than Mary. We know that he was a skilled craftsman in the use of wood and other building materials and would have been able to support his growing family.

Jewish marriage custom at the time entailed a betrothal which was a legal contract supported by documentation, the bride remained in her family home. After a year the couple set up home together and the marriage was consummated. Throughout this process a legal divorce was required to end the relationship.

Matthew’s version of the birth of Jesus is short and precise. There is no mention of a census, a manger, shepherds, or hosts of angels, just two young people whose lives were being totally disrupted.  In this brief relating of Joseph’s memory of the occasion we have the essence of the wonder of the incarnation.

Joseph, a descendant of king David is betrothed to Mary who is found to be pregnant. Joseph knows that he is not the father and his presumption could only be that Mary had been unfaithful to him. The punishment for adultery was death and so it was evidence of Joseph’s love for Mary that he had decided to quietly divorce her. Whilst mulling over these things an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying,

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1 : 20)

Who do you think you are?

The angel starts his message by reminding Joseph of who he was, a descendant of king David. Joseph, steeped in the scriptures, would know that the anticipated Messiah would come from the family of Jesse, David’s father.

 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

(Isaiah 11: 1)

This is a good lesson for us as we follow Jesus day by day beset by trials and temptations and not always confident in our faith. Just remember who you are in Christ, a child of the king! Not an earthly, run of the mill, ordinary mortal king but the supreme creator of the universe, the Sovereign Lord of all. I remember these words from an old gospel song:

I once was an outcast, a stranger on earth,

A sinner by choice, an alien by birth;

But I’ve been adopted, my name’s written down

An heir to a mansion, a robe and a crown.

I’m the child of a King! I’m the child of a King!

With Jesus my Saviour, I’m the child of a King! (Hattie Buett)

Although Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ biological father, being married to Mary he became such in the eyes of the law and of society and therefore brought with him legitimacy and his heritage of David’s line.

Remember God’s Word

The angel went on to tell Joseph that the child in Mary’s womb was from the Holy Spirit, what’s more the child would be a boy and he was to be named “Jesus”. This was a popular name for Jewish boys the Hebrew being “Joshua”,  the great hero of Israel. The name means “The Lord saves”, and the angel concluded his message by stating that the child would save his people from their sins. Matthew adds that these events fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah:

  “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—(Isaiah 7 : 14)

Matthew reminds his readers that Immanuel means “God with us”, and Jesus was to be the presence of God as a human being among his people. Fully human through Mary’s DNA and fully divine through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Joseph, no doubt, would have put two and two together and realised what God was calling him and Mary to do, so in obedience to God’s word he took Mary as his wife and together they provided a home for God’s anointed.

Remember God’s power and authority

Some still want to cast doubt on the virginal conception and suggest that Jesus could have been the Messiah even if he had been sired by a Roman soldier. This, to me, is absurd, how could such perfection come out of such a sinful act? No that attitude speaks of a very limited understanding of our Sovereign God. Of all the miracles attributed to God and his Son Jesus Christ in scripture, getting Mary pregnant does not rank among the most remarkable! What is amazing is the love that God had for his creation that he sent his only Son to be our Saviour.  I think it was important that the Father God wanted his Son, in the incarnation, to experience a full understanding of the struggle of human life and share our joys and sorrows. 

At this Christmas time with all its frustrations let us thank our Father God for the amazing gift of his Son Jesus Christ. And praise him for the faith and obedience of Joseph and Mary in providing a home for Jesus who, in time became the Saviour of the world.

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