Joseph – reluctant hero

The previous blog I took a look at Mary.  Now the spotlight moves to Joseph, as depicted in Matthew 1:18-25, which is another gloriously understated passage, isn't it?  Once again someone is given the most extraordinary news – "Joseph, I'm pregnant; but don't worry, God's the dad" – and all we read is that Joseph had in mind to divorce Mary quietly, because he was a nice bloke.  No detail of any emotion whatsoever.  I think there must have been much more to Joseph's reaction than the Bible reveals.  In the excellent BBC Nativty (definitely worth checking out) Joseph starts throwing around the furniture.  I think it's entirely plausible that Joseph would have reacted in this way; after all, he was only human and didn't have God's perspective on the issue – not yet, anyway.  Mary was asking him to believe the impossible.  The alternative to Mary's story must have been unthinkable.  Horrible.  We know he had a strong reaction, because he planned to divorce her, presumably on the grounds of adultery.  

At this point, it's a very messy story indeed.  And into this mess steps God.  God got Mary into this mess and makes sure in his infinite grace that Mary doesn't have to go through it alone.  God gives Joseph a dream, which changes nothing – because the baby would never be his, and the whispers would go on, and everything because he would have known God's presence with him.  Of course, Joseph may have been completely unperturbed by the turn of events and accepted it all serenely.  However, I believe it would have been a struggle; he certainly wouldn't have been in on the plan without God's intervention through the dream; he probably had some sleepless nights and even some nightmares after the dream.  But I also believe this with all my heart: God was with them, helping them, inspiring them, keeping them going when the going got tough, every step of the way – not only because of the very precious baby Mary was carrying, but because that's the sort of thing God does.  Because Immanuel, "God with us" entered the world two thousand years ago and was born for all of us, to save all of us; and God is still with us now.  He will never leave us or forsake us.

This is a story of great herosim.  There is no doubt that Joseph was a hero and a model to all of us of costly obedience.  But there's also no doubt that he was only able to be that hero, because of God's intervention and constant presence and inspiration.  May we all know that for ourselves.

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