Saturday, December 02, 2006

Birth of a King (Matt. 1:18-25)

1And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” Matthew 1:19 NASB

Try to imagine for a moment what it was like to be Joseph. Here you are, a respected man in the community, a tradesman, and one day you discover your fiancé is pregnant, and you know full well it wasn’t you. What would go through your mind?

The newspapers and other media carry stories everyday of men who discover they’ve been betrayed by their girlfriends and go off the deep end and kill both the woman and her lover. And truth be told, in first century Palestine, nobody would have blamed Joseph if he had done the same. In fact, if he had brought her before the council, the whole village of Nazareth would have picked up a stone and helped him.

But not Joseph, son of Jacob. He is a righteous and compassionate man who, despite the betrayal, seeks to minimize the negative effects of the situation for all concerned. This tells me a very important thing. God was not only careful about choosing a mother for Jesus, but He was very careful to choose a good man as the foster-father as well. In Joseph God found not only someone who would provide a line to the Throne of David, but a man who could be trusted to look out for the young Jesus and raise Him well in the traditions of his people.

In this act also, we see a singularly remarkable man. After having made up his mind what to do about Mary – he has a dream. In this dream he is told the child is in fact the progeny of the Holy Spirit; that Mary carries in her womb the Son of God Himself; the fulfilment of all that Israel has hoped for. A lesser man would have shrugged it off as a crazy dream, but Joseph steps out in faith and does what the angel in the dream has told him to do. He adopts the Son of the Most High as his own and gives Him his name - Yeshua, in Greek - Jesus.

And in so doing, Joseph solves the dilemma we mentioned near the end of our last episode. The link in the chain is mended. In Joseph’s world an adopted son had all the same rights and privileges as one born of a man’s own seed. By naming Jesus on the day of his birth, and formally when they present him at the temple, Joseph declares to the world, “This is my son, the heir to all that is mine.” In that moment Jesus becomes a rightful heir to the throne of David. A human being adopts the son of God as heir to the throne of David so that one day God might adopt all of humanity as heirs to the throne of righteousness.

But another thing happened in that moment as well. While it is true that Joseph’s act of adoption guarantees his place in history, at the same time it ensures that place is only as a footnote. Like many men married to famous women, Joseph becomes “Mr. Mary.” And like John the Baptist, it seems that he must decrease so that Jesus and the Father may increase.

In Joseph we find ourselves a hero in a person who, in any other story, would be a minor character. His righteousness and compassion, his willingness to step out in faith (we’ll see more of this later) and his unwavering obedience make him a role model for any husband or father living today. Indeed, he is a shining example for anyone concerned about their place in life. Joseph demonstrates better than any other in scripture that it must never be about us, about who we are or what we do. The focus must always be on God the Father. He alone is what matters; even Jesus said this was the case.

Jesus knew that his entire ministry was about pointing people to the Father in heaven. In this he had the best role model possible in one simple tradesman - his earthly father - Joseph.


(Exploring the Kingdom Gospel - episode 3)

1 comment:

Phil English said...

"unwavering obedience"

That is our toughest call/challenge I believe as followers of Christ.