December 16, 2013
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
In church last Sunday, my pastor – as part of his sermon – showed a clip from “The Christmas Experience,” by Kyle Idleman. It was about how Heli, Mary’s father, confronted Joseph after he found out his daughter was pregnant – he almost decked him! And it showed Joseph’s reaction shortly after as he faced Mary, not believing her story of the angel’s visit and his announcement of the miraculous birth of the Christ child. In Heli’s and Joseph’s eyes, Mary was unfaithful – bringing shame on the family, her betrothed, and putting herself in danger of being stoned to death, according to Leviticus 20:10.
This dramatic series is well worth viewing. It will give you a new appreciation of the struggles and the messiness of the first Christmas. We read the Biblical account and so often miss the real-life drama of it all. Let’s look at Joseph’s struggle in Matthew 1:18-25:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was
betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child
of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not
wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord ap-
peared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to
take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy
Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you will call His name JESUS,
for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this was done that it
might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying,
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His
name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being
aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to
him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn
Son. And he called His name JESUS.
Can you imagine the shock Joseph experienced when Mary came back from her cousin Elizabeth’s – after a three month departure? It was revealed that she was pregnant – and he hadn’t touched her! It could only mean she had played the harlot! She had been unfaithful to her betrothed – and to God! She would be stoned to death if the priest found out about it! Oh, sure, she told him of some crazy tale about an angelic visit. Gabriel, she said he called himself. And the angel told her she was chosen to bear God’s Messiah into the world! Who could believe such a story as that?!!!
Joseph decided to divorce Mary – the only way an engagement could be broken in those days. He would send her away where no one would know her. Perhaps she could tell anyone inquisitive that her husband had died. She would probably receive help from the local synagogue widows fund, and maybe some of the town women would reach out to her – wherever he might send her.
Do you begin to see the predicament Joseph was in? Do you understand the shame that her family was thinking she had brought upon them? Can you feel the heartbreak of teenage Mary – the uncertainty of what was going to happen? She only knew God had chosen her. But she was beginning to doubt His choice! Maybe God had made a bit mistake!
In the middle of all this the angel made a second appearance. He came to Joseph in a dream, confirming Mary’s story. Joseph was to take her as his wife in spite of the circumstances. And the angel further explained God’s purpose in all this: “And she will bring forth a Son, and you will call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). It was to be in fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14: “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, ‘God with us.’ ” (Matthew 1:21).
The one born to Mary would be called “JESUS”, meaning “Jehovah saves” – and “Immanuel which is translated, ‘God with us.’ ” He accomplished the mission of both names. His sacrifice on the cross and His rising from the dead paved the way for all people to be saved. When we put our faith in the Son of God, He totally takes away our sins – having paid for them all in full! And we are then reconciled to the Father so that before Him – as it says in Ephesians 1:6 – we are “…accepted in the Beloved” – as accepted before God as is Jesus Himself!
So thank God this Christmas – for Jesus coming into the world, yes. But have you ever thanked Him for the courage and faith of Mary and Joseph who figured so prominently in this great miracle of God? Think about it!
Some years ago I wrote a story about this drama played out as suggested in Matthew 1:18 through 25, called “The Test of Joseph.” I think I will reproduce it here over the next two blogs.