18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
There is a core of people here who believe that parenthood should be planned (for the sake of discretion, I’ll refrain from using the actual name of these organizations). Our culture is about convenience and what Tim Keller calls “Self-actualization.” So many have their lives planned out and have a plan to improve their lives the way they see fit. If anything interrupts that plan, then steps need to be taken to fix that. Many divorces happen because the marriage didn’t do what they thought it would do, so they break it off for a fresh start.
Put yourself in Joseph’s situation. What would you do if your fiancé informed you that she was with child—knowing full well that you both had remained pure with each other throughout your entire relationship? How would you feel? Betrayed? Devastated? Vengeful? We may believe that things were so different in Bible times—but Joseph likely reacted at first the same way you would have.
Notice he wanted to “divorce her quietly.” Why? You see, this was a betrothal, not like our Western, American engagement. Betrothals in that time carried a legal binding, and thus a legal hearing would be needed to end this betrothal. This would have been a very public, very scandalous spectacle that would have ruined Mary’s life for good. For fear of putting her to shame. Even in the midst of this scandal that shook him to the core, he was ready to call off the betrothal, but to do it in a way that would not harm her nor shame her—after all, the penalty for such was death. Granted, a physical examination was all that was needed to prove that she was telling the truth about not knowing another man, but that could have been explained away as well.
Joseph was like the rest of us—and needed convincing to take another track. He had remained pure, he was a ‘just man.’ An angel appeared and told Joseph not to fear! The angel verified Mary’s story–especially since an angel was the one who explained it to her. She had remained faithful–to God, to Joseph–and was thus ‘highly favored.’ She would still be taken as his wife. He would be called Jesus. And notice the obedience in verse 24: “He did as the angel commanded him.” He took Mary as his wife, left her untouched until Jesus was born, and Joseph was the one to name him.
Even here, Christ recognizes we need rescuing. Joseph could have said, “That’s enough! This is too much! The cost is too high! What will people think? He would have been within his cultural right to abandon, but instead, he adopted that child. In our day, what advice would some of these organizations have given Mary or Joseph in these circumstances? But when God spoke to Joseph about the value of that life in the womb, regardless of the sacrifice, he got up and said, “Yes, I marry you, Mary! Yes, I will adopt this child and raise him as my own. Yes, I know that this who is born is Immanuel, God with us… who came to save his people from their sins.”
This is a picture of the gospel. Galatians 4:4-7 says:
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Christ came to redeem us lawbreakers, sinners against a holy God–so we might be adopted as sons. When this happens, he seals us in Him by sending His Spirit to secure us in Christ. Joseph in his relationship to the infant Jesus gives an incredible picture of this! He did not abandon his wife and Child when things became inconvenient and times were difficult! He loved his wife and stayed with her and the Child through it all!
My, how this mirrors the incredible faithfulness of God who adopts us as His children through the atoning work of Christ!
(To listen to this sermon in full, click here. This was preached on Sunday, December 23, 2012 at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Centennial, CO.)