Joseph, An Obedient Believer
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused 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 publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 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. – Matthew 1:18–24
The Apostle Matthew recorded the events of Jesus’ birth from Joseph’s point of view. He and Mary were engaged, but the wedding had not taken place. Nevertheless, he was considered her husband. That they had not come together means they had no sexual relationship. When Joseph became aware that Mary was pregnant, he was distressed over what appeared to be her relationship with another man and betrayal of him.
The fact of Mary’s pregnancy naturally weighed heavily on Joseph’s mind. He undoubtedly loved Mary and did not want her to be publicly shamed. As a compassionate and just person, he wanted to do what was proper and thought deeply about the matter. He could put her away privily, meaning quietly and privately break the engagement. While he thought about this difficult and hurtful situation, he fell asleep.
Jesus, the Savior, a Descendant of David
While Joseph slept, an angel appeared to him in a dream urging him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because she was not pregnant by another man but by the power of the Holy Spirit. The angel announced to him that the child’s name would be Jesus, and His purpose was to save people from their sins. Previously the angel Gabriel had likewise informed Mary that her child must be named Jesus. He would also be called the Son of God and the Son of the Highest. Furthermore, Gabriel informed that His kingdom will be everlasting, and He shall be given the throne of His father David (Luke 1:32–35).
Joseph was a descendent of David, and for that reason had to travel to Bethlehem to be taxed so that the prophecy of Jesus’ birth city would be fulfilled. Luther studied the lineage of Jesus and surprisingly discovered it included many persons guilty of gross sins and also those of non-Jewish roots. Why? It is because Jesus died for both Jews and Gentiles and wanted to be born into a family of sinners so that even the greatest sinner would dare approach the grace throne to find forgiveness and peace.
Joseph Obeyed the Angel’s Messages
In the times of the Old Testament and early New Testament, God sometimes used an angel to bring a special message. The angel messenger often appeared in visible form. God also revealed His will through His prophets at different times and various ways (Heb. 1:1). But it was an angel that spoke to Joseph, giving instruction surrounding the birth of Jesus.
No words of Joseph are recorded in the New Testament – only his actions. When he awoke from his sleep he remembered the angel’s urging words and took Mary as his wife. On three occasions, an angel was sent to him with instruction on what to do next (Matt. 1:20; 2:13,19). The New Testament narrators depict Joseph as a quiet and obedient child of God. He wanted to do what was right in the eyes of God.
The Prophesy is Fulfilled
The sign of a virgin conceiving and giving birth was an unmistakable fulfillment of the prophecy: “The Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). The long-awaited one who had been promised centuries before “to bruise” the head of the serpent had finally been born into the world. He would be the victor over sin, death and hell, opening the way to heaven.
The conception and birth of Christ are perfectly aligned to prophetic scriptures in the Old Testament. At the beginning of the New Testament, God revealed His will through the birth and the ensuing redemptive work of His Son. He suffered, shedding His blood, died and rose again so that all who believe upon Him might have the hope of eternal life.
The good news of His birth which was first made known to the shepherds continues to be proclaimed from God’s kingdom in the preaching of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name and blood.