I think pretty much every Christian knows the Christmas story, and I assume you have probably heard it multiple times in your life, whether you are a Christian or not. However, there is an oft overlooked character in this story that I think we can learn quite a bit from, particularly as men. His name is Joseph.
Joseph was betrothed to Mary, a young girl who was to be his wife. They were considered as married, set aside exclusively for the other. I’m certain that, like any man, Joseph was incredibly excited to be married and everything that needed to be done in preparation was daily on his mind. In the midst of all this, his betrothed comes to him and drops a massive bombshell in his life that will change things forever.
Just imagine for a second what was going through Joseph’s mind when Mary explained to him what had happened. She was pregnant. That only happens because of one thing, and to Joseph, that meant infidelity. Imagine how grieved this man was thinking that his dearly beloved had betrayed him. Matthew 1:18-19 records, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: when as his mother Mary was espoused (betrothed) to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privately.”
It was probably typical in that day that if a woman were found to be unfaithful to her husband and the husband desired to divorce her, a huge scene would be made before all. She may be dragged out and called an adulteress; her would-have-been husband making a complete shame of her and her family. However, Joseph was a different sort of man. He didn’t desire to embarrass her or her family publicly, bringing shame on them. Instead, he, being a just and righteous man, thought the best course was to divorce her quietly.
Matthew 1:20-24 continues, “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife.”
The angel came unto Joseph and said “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife”. Why would the angel need to say that? For many reasons, I think. Joseph had been afraid to take Mary as his wife because he thought she had been unfaithful. The angel explained that this was simply not true. What is often overlooked in my eyes is the fact that Joseph, if he took Mary as his wife, would likely bear public shame and mockery. Think about it: would anyone (especially in Nazareth) truly believe that a couple are getting married and the woman is pregnant because of God? To those who knew Mary and Joseph, they would either think Mary had been unfaithful, or they had both defiled the marriage bed by sleeping together before the proper time.
I think this is one of the bravest actions I have ever heard. Taking Mary as his wife was a hard thing for Joseph, not because he didn’t love Mary, but because of those from the outside. Yet he took her anyway and obeyed God, being willing to lose his honor and integrity in the eyes of others for the sake of his wife and her child, the Son of God. Though this would change their lives forever, Joseph was willing to take the harder road to glorify God.
Joseph obeyed the hard command laid before him and chose to take the shame of Jesus upon himself. This is what often lies before us. Are we willing to obey God, even when the decision is hard, even when it presses us more than anything else we’ve experienced before? We can be certain that Christ will help us make a wise decision; but we don’t need wisdom, we need courage to do the right thing. Sometimes when we’re indecisive, it’s not because we don’t know what we should do, we just don’t want to do it. May we take a hint from Joseph and make the right decision, no matter what it costs.
Second, Joseph bore the shame and reproach of the unborn Christ. Are we willing to bear the shame of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? When we publicly align ourselves with Christ, mockery will come. 2 Timothy 3:12 says that “all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution”. Are we willing to be persecuted?
This Christmas season remember one of the most honorable of men, Joseph, husband of Mary, who obeyed his God and bore the shame of his Savior.