I decided recently to start reading my Bible again. I’ve missed it, and I definitely have much to learn. After some consideration as to where to start, I opted for The New Testament and opened it to Matthew, chapter 1. (I’m reading the New International Version that is an application study Bible, and I really like it.)
Matthew is writing to the Jews in his letter, so it’s important to him to establish Jesus’ genealogy and show that Jesus is a descendant of both Abraham and King David. (The Jews knew a king was coming to save them, so Matthew wanted to establish that Jesus was indeed that king—born of a king.) So, the first seventeen verses are simply that, Jesus’ lineage.
The rest of the first chapter focuses on Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. And this was the part that resonated with me. Matthew explained that Joseph and Mary were pledged to each other (the families had agreed on the marriage and announced it publicly—they were engaged). It was after this official, public announcement that Mary told Joseph she was pregnant—she was still a virgin, but she was pregnant. This was a potentially incredibly shameful situation for Joseph.
Under Jewish law, Joseph would have been well within his rights to divorce Mary. He would have had to explain why he wanted to divorce her, and once he had done so, Mary could have been stoned to death. Joseph wanted to spare Mary humiliation, so he decided to divorce her quietly.
Having made that decision, Joseph had a dream in which an angel came to him and told him that Mary was carrying the Son of God, that she was indeed still a virgin, and that God wanted Joseph to marry her and to raise her child as his own. Joseph had an incredible choice to make: to do what everyone would expect of him and divorce Mary for carrying a child that wasn’t his or to follow God’s will and accept her and her child.
Can you imagine, for just a moment, being Joseph in that time and place? Imagine the faith, and the integrity, and the strength he had to have to follow God, marry Mary, and raise Jesus as his own. That really struck me.
When I think about choices I have to make in my life, choices to try to follow what God would want me to do versus what might be easier or more accepted, I’m going to remember Joseph. I may not always do it right (I know I won’t always do it right), but I’ll remember Joseph nonetheless.
But after he had considered this [divorcing Mary], an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “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. 1:20-21).