< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Joseph, Jesus’ father

Monday, July 16, 2007

Joseph, Jesus’ father

Matthew 1:18-25 “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" which means, "God with us.

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”

The book of Luke gives the story about the news of Jesus’ pending birth from Mary’s point of view, but Matthew tells us more about Joseph.

In those days engagements were often arranged by the families when the couple were children. Later, during the betrothed the groom offered gifts to the bride, and the father presented a dowry. At this point the relationship was binding. They were as good as married even though they weren’t living together for another year. But, if they broke up during the year they would actually have a written, legal divorce. And if one committed sex with someone else it would be considered adultery and they would be stoned.

Matthew tells us Joseph was a righteous man. He was just. Of good character. The Jewish community considered a righteous person to be one who lived by God’s laws. But, this righteous person, Joseph, did not exactly keep the law, did he? He didn’t publicly divorce Mary and allow her to be stoned. Instead he acted out of compassion. He planned to quietly divorce her.

The Gospel of Matthew presents Joseph as a religious Jew who understood that true righteousness demands more then strict adherence to the laws; it requires one to keep the spirit of the law. And years later, his adopted son Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.” Jesus healed on the Sabbath and He kept a crowd from stoning the woman caught in adultery. Joseph was ahead of his time!

And Jesus was raised by this man.

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