The Faith of Joseph

Matthew 1:18-25

This scene explains the ambiguity that we found in 1:16 regarding the father of Jesus, and I’m sure you will recall our discussion of that from last time. Joseph was betrothed to Mary, which in that place and time was a process of about a year in length. During that time, the couple was legally married, but their union could not be consummated. During this time, the woman would normally continue living with her parents, and after the appropriate time had expired, she would move to her husband’s house to begin their lives as husband and wife and consummate their marriage.

Since they were legally married, even though they were not living together, the only way this betrothal could be broken was by the death of one of the parties, or by a legal divorce. When our story picks up, Joseph has just found out that Mary is pregnant. Joseph does not know who the father of her child is, but he does know who the father is not. OK, so you are Joseph: What would you do?

Being a righteous man, Joseph recognizes that his betrothed has committed adultery, and that the Law prescribes what must come next. Being a compassionate man, he doesn’t want to initiate formal proceedings and bring Mary to disgrace, so he resolves to present her with a bill of divorce quietly, in front of two witnesses, rather than have formal proceedings, which technically would have her facing a capital crime.

With this all bouncing around in his mind, God steps in.

A messenger of God comes to Joseph and explains the situation (vv. 20-21) telling him that the child has come from the Holy Spirit of God. All of this takes place in a dream and then Joseph awakens. Verses 24 and 25 tell us that Joseph believed this and did as he was instructed, taking Mary into his house, and when the son was born, naming him Jesus; we are also told that Joseph and Mary did not consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born. It’s all well and good for us to read this and accept it without much more thought, but we also know how the story of Jesus ends, so the news that He was the Son of God is already a given in our minds, but what about Joseph? Every December we hear sermons and stories about the great faith of Mary, while Joseph is only mentioned in passing. Clearly, Mary’s faith was amazing, but it always strikes me that Joseph’s was even greater. Maybe it is because I’m a man, but Joseph was still faced with a rather significant choice here; what if that was just a regular old dream and not an angel coming to deliver a message?

Whatever thoughts and lingering doubts may have been in his mind, Joseph did as he was instructed, and Jesus was of the royal line of David by adoption.

Some might be thinking here that Mary was also of David’s line as seen in Luke’s genealogy, and that would appear to be true. However, Mary was a descendant of David through David’s son Nathan, while Joseph was of David’s line through King Solomon, and the throne was passed down to and through Solomon, not Nathan, thus any claim Jesus would have had to the throne of David, would have been by his adoption by Joseph which, by the way, would be perfectly legal.

Much more important than any claim to the throne at that time, was the fact that Jesus’ actual father was God, and His unique status as royal heir and Son of God will  play a major part in his ministry.

To complete our brief look at the faith of Joseph, let’s get back together and discuss the verses I haven’t mentioned here, 1:22-23, and Matthew’s interesting use of a prophecy form Isaiah.


About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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17 Responses to The Faith of Joseph

  1. Pete says:

    “Joseph did as he was instructed, and Jesus was of the royal line of David by adoption.” I love that you included that because we are a royal priesthood through adoption as well! It really gives a lot more weight to the fact that we are adopted. Praise the Lord!

  2. Yes, Joseph’s buy-in was crucial here. If he had rejected her, Mary would be pregnant with nowhere to go. Her parent’s had passed, she couldn’t go back to the temple. The only option would have been Martha, but would Martha’s husband take in this sullied woman and her unborn child?

  3. pipermac5 says:

    Jesus may have even looked like “one of the boys”, because it certainly was possible for God to have “replicated” Joseph’s DNA.

  4. Mel Wild says:

    I’m glad you brought out Joseph’s faith, how hard his predicament would really be. We would most likely blow it off as too fantastic and only our own wishful thinking, not from God….
    Imagine going to church next Sunday morning and saying, “Yeah, I had an angel visit me last night and he told me that my wife wasn’t actually having sex with anyone…No, she got pregnant from God!” What kind of stares of “Are you nuts? Lock him up!” reaction would we get from even the most faithful? This isn’t your normal kind of faith! It ranks right up there with Abraham basing his faith that God would give him an heir based on a vision, or dream (Gen.15:1). “Yeah…hey, Sarah…guess what I dreamt about last night…” 🙂

  5. ganastephen says:

    Encouraging, inspiring…..

  6. Steve B says:

    Joseph’s faith was extraordinary for he probably had to even face questions from his peers. Joseph was probably a very devout believer in God at this time without being too religious.

    BTW as an aside I have released this book at the below link. If you or one of your Life Project followers can spare some time and do a review (preferably 5 star :)) that would be helpful. Of course it could be too way out there. 🙂

  7. I have written thirty books. I never had a favorite until I wrote “JOSEPH: THE OTHER FATHER.” Jesus was born into a violent world. There were skirmishes on the highways and in the towns for two decades after King Herod died. Plus little Nazareth, an unwalled village of some 500 people was three miles from Sepphoris, capital of Galilee where Herod Antipas had his palace. Young Herod managed to make a lot of people mad, including the king of Arabia and Caesar’s representative in Syria. With 100,000 soldiers, they marched on Sepphoris and burned it down, but not before spending a few weeks in tents surrounding the city and building bulwarks. I’m sure Joseph and the others in Nazareth were fearful the soldiers would spill over into Nazareth. He must have nailed his gate closed and pushed a cart or something else heavy, and done other things to protect his family. Jesus was about ten years old at this time. When you read Josephus, you realize just how dangerous it was. I can imagine sometimes when things got desperate, Joseph must have cried out, “God! Help me protect our Son!”

    Yes, now I have a favorite book.

  8. This past Christmas season, I was really thinking about Joseph and his….patience? As soon as the words were out of Mary’s mouth, he could have broken the betrothal and let the chips fall where they may. Instead, the bible says that he “considered” what was happening. I look to him as an example of keeping my mouth shut, and giving God the time to speak to me about any situation. Better to have His wisdom than just my own knowledge.

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