Matthew 1:19 – And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
Tucked away in the story of Advent, there are surprises. This verse above is one. Joseph himself is another. He was a man of epic compassion and character. He disappears before we pick up on the adult years of Christ’s ministry in the Gospels, but he is center stage at the beginning. Without his resolve to do the best he could for a woman who seemed to have betrayed him, the story of Advent would not be what it is.
Here are just a few things to think about concerning Joseph…
- The Character of Joseph was the real home that God the Father chose for His One and Only Son, once the baby Jesus left Mary’s womb. Only a man like Joseph could be the earthly, adoptive father for the Son of God, the Savior of the World. Joseph, like no one else in history, provided for and protected Jesus Christ. How amazing this is!
- The relationship grace extended from Joseph to Mary continues to uplift every single person who hears of it, right up to this very minute. It is the model of Ephesians 5 marital submission-to-the-other. It is the model for what is most important in any human relationship: thinking of what is best for the other.
- Joseph did not allow his emotions to overwhelm his ethical code. He was willing to sacrifice his own feelings, reputation, and pride for the sake of his fiancé and the child she carried.
- Joseph’s “Advent Resolve” came from an exchange with an Angel (messenger) of God. The Angel’s voice rose above all the other voices that must have been shouting for Joseph’s attention.
- The Scriptures here call Joseph her husband, though he was not yet, at least not technically. However, beyond the cultural piece we’ve all heard about how engagement was different in those days, we can read this as the identity Joseph accepted. “I am really already her husband.” In his mind, Joseph was not merely the leading candidate for being Mary’s husband, nor was he merely a customer who had put his marriage to her on some kind of lay-away plan. He leaned into the full responsibility of his future role. He did not back out.
- Joseph saw his relationship to Mary and Jesus as an opportunity to serve, not to be served.
- Joseph, a carpenter, seems to have lived a difficult life in which he had to rise above disappointment and stand up to defend those in his care. He was a warrior in his way: a man of courage, decisiveness, honor, and strength.
- Joseph was a leader like no other. He may have had only two followers during his most important season of leadership, his wife and his son, but the rest of us are still yielding endless blessings because he accomplished his mission.
- Joseph, in this verse, is a man with a completely broken heart. Divorce – not from his marriage, but from his engagement – was the only option he knew before an Angel counseled him. He wasn’t going to look the other way on what he thought was Mary’s sin, but he also wasn’t going to do anything to make things worse for her. He had, apparently, already identified himself as her husband.
- No sense of revenge polluted Joseph’s thinking. He didn’t want to hurt Mary because she had hurt him. He wasn’t on the hunt for “the other man.” He didn’t allow his personal pain to play too large a role in his thoughts or his actions.
- Joseph disappeared. We don’t read a thing about him past the birth and childhood of Jesus. I think this is more than him just dying early. He embraced obscurity. And it seems even God honored this servant’s humility by allowing him to retain it in this special way. That’s part of the mystery of Joseph. Did he know the joy of humility that his adopted son epitomized? It seems so. It’s refreshing and encouraging to consider the soul and heart of such a person of faith. I hope you think so.