The Time-Line of Christmas – VIII, “The Test of Joseph”, part 2

December 20, 2013

Based on Matthew 1:18-25

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Slowly Joseph dropped his hand.  He felt so drained, so weak, he couldn’t even weep anymore.  He just lay down on the mat thinking of nothing.  Slowly, thoughts came again – the doubts, the sick feeling, the horror of Mary with child.  It was such a fantastic story.  Why would God pick Mary?  She was a lowly peasant girl, yet so important to him!  Her royal family had long since lost its trappings of royalty.  True, she was always sweet and gracious, so lovely, so kind.  But she was poor, and her parents were poor – oh, what would this do to her parents?  It would break their hearts!  Why would God choose Mary?  He wanted desperately to believe her, yet the doubt, the sick feeling – Mary with another man!

He rolled to his back and stared through the darkness at the ceiling where a beam joined the whitewashed wall.  The thought of Mary being intimate with someone else had been only a vague thought in the back of Joseph’s mild.  Now it started to take form and dominate his thinking like a violent storm rolling down from the mountains to the north.  As it poured in – black and threatening – it drove out all the other things that almost made sense, that Mary really was telling him the truth.

Joseph lay very still – a new terror grew within him.  Slowly, the echoing sound of the old rabbi reading from the third scroll of Moses:

    The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits
    adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall
    surely be put to death. 5

No!  It cannot be!”  Joseph sat up as new tears formed.  “I will not let the priests and rulers know!  Mary may have sinned – greatly!  But I…I love her.  I will not let them stone her!

He lay back down, a plan formulating in his mind.  He would send her away, back to her cousin Elizabeth’s.  Away – anywhere – where they would not know of her infidelity.  She could say her husband had died.  He felt himself dead now anyway.  There was still time – at least two months more – before anyone would see she was with child.  The long robes Jewish women wore would hide for awhile more her distended abdomen.  Yes, he resolved, he would send her away.  The thought broke his heart.  But she had to go. Even if she was telling the truth, who would understand?  Who would believe her?  No, he had to send her off – away from Nazareth, away from his heart.  A tear coursed down his rough face as he drifted into an uneasy sleep.

Joseph dreamed.  He saw Mary reaching out to him, crying hysterically as he, with folded arms, told her, “Go!”  He saw the rough men of the temple police dragging her off, as he watched, helpless.  He saw a crowd of people circled around – mostly men and older boys – viciously hurling sharp rocks at someone in the middle.  He heard the rocks dully thud – someone scream, then moan.  He couldn’t see the target of the attack, but he knew all to well who it was!  He tossed and turned on his mat, sometimes moaning himself, sometimes crying out.

Suddenly, in the middle of his nightmare, it all changed – still a dream, but different.  A brilliant light flashed.  Fear and awe came over Joseph, yet with a sense of peace – something the night had so far withheld.  The light before him shimmered and danced.  And, behold, an angel – shining robes, powerful wings, ageless face with golden hair – appeared in the midst.  Joseph dreamed on.  Somehow he knew it was a dream – yet something still more – but he was unable to wake up.  The angel spoke.  His voice was heard both without and within:

    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 shall bring forth a
    son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from
    their sins. 6

The angel was gone.  Joseph –  wide awake – sat up.  He knew he had dreamed, yet nothing in him doubted the angel.  The words burned in his heart and mind: “…take to you Mary… conceived…of the Holy Spirit…bring forth a son…call His name JESUS…save His people from their sins.

Joseph looked around and realized it was morning.  From the window the rising sun sent  streaks of light across the hard clay floor.  He could hear the muffled sounds of Nazareth waking to a new day.  He jumped to his feet – his heart felt so light and free!  He looked around the shop – the shavings, the sawdust, the tools laying on the bench.  His gaze fell upon the unfinished plow.  “It will stay unfinished today!” he exclaimed as he strode through the door.  Joseph was going to claim his Mary – JESUS and all!  
5  Leviticus 20:10
6  Matthew 1:20, 21

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