Matthew 1:18-25 (focal v21)
The genealogy of Matthew points to the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham and David. It also gets the reader thinking about the troubled reputation of several women in earlier days. Now we see another couple troubled by apparent sexual sin.
Couples married young, and this young couple had their lives before them. The young carpenter and his younger bride-to-be. But then the ultimate slap in the face: Joseph discovers that Mary is expecting a child. It is not hard to imagine the shattered dreams, repulsive images and the emotional turmoil that Joseph endured.
Not only did this crisis mean their forthcoming wedding was a sham, Joseph also now faced the shame of suspicion. The obvious pathway forward was to save face for himself by publicly disgracing her and distancing himself. If he could be sufficiently indignant and distance himself, then maybe his honor could be saved. But Joseph did not choose the obvious path.
Public disgrace for Mary might have meant some sort of public execution by stoning, but even without that, public disgrace is too painful to describe in a shame and honor society. Joseph chose an incredibly gracious option: he would divorce her, and he would do so quietly. What would people say about him? The cloud of suspicion would linger, but Joseph looked out for the best interests of the girl who he thought had sinned. Joseph’s selflessness is worthy of reflection, not least because we know what he didn’t – the identity of the baby inside her!
That night an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream. He was told not to fear taking Mary into his home. He was told that the baby was in her from the Holy Spirit. He was told to name the boy Jesus. And he was told why. This boy would live up to his name – he would save his people from their sin.
So what would Joseph do? Seems obvious: obey the angel. He had insider information concerning the child inside her. The boy Jesus was to save his people from their sins and he would be God with us, Immanuel. Still, what about Joseph and Mary?
The stigma of the sinful reputation would linger for years. It could cost them on so many levels. How would he provide for them? How would Mary cope with the dagger comments in the market? How long until the child sensed what everyone thought? It wasn’t that nobody sinned in Nazareth, that was all too common. But when a couple perceived to be different turn out to be the same as everyone else, well, they don’t get treated the same as everyone else. And what about the family? What would they say? Family, friends, work and just about every aspect of life would be stained by the reputation of sinful infidelity.
Matthew leaves us with no doubt what kind of man Joseph was. He had been kind to Mary, even when he thought she had been unfaithful. And now he proved faithful to God when the days ahead looked so uncertain.
He took Mary into his home, thereby offering the protection and security she needed. A quick wedding was the best thing for all involved. Then he had no marital union with her until after she had the boy. And Joseph named the boy Jesus.
How could they face the uncertainties, the knowing looks, the suspicious smiles from family members, or worse, the rejection that may come their way? They face the stigma of sin because this child was Jesus, the One who would save his people from their sin. This child was Immanuel, God with us.
Join us this week as Chad walks us through this passage on the origin of Jesus and shows us what this means for us, not only eternally, but presently. This fourth Sunday of Advent would be a wonderful time to invite someone to join you as we worship Immanuel, God with us.
“The glory of the incarnation is that it presents to our
Adoring gaze not a humanized God or a deified man,
But a true God-man – one who is all that God is
And at the same time all that man is: one on whose
Almighty arm we can rest, and to whose human
Sympathy we can appeal.”
~ B. B. Warfield
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