Jesus through the eyes of Joseph

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Joseph -- the husband of Mary, mother of Jesus -- was a simple man.

He was a carpenter by trade. His formal education matched that of his children -- none. He was also a new parent. Like any new parent, he probably held tremendous excitement and anxiety in his heart while waiting for the miraculous package tucked away in Mary's womb to arrive.

Joseph was betrothed to Mary in a day when betrothal bonded two people together as strongly as a marriage. Confronted with a pregnancy in which he had played no role, he was brought face to face with a crisis. He could be obedient to the law and publicly divorce her for adultery. In doing so he would open a window of opportunity for a mob to inflict their justice upon her. Or he could still obey the law and divorce her quietly. Simply give her the certificate of divorce in front of two witnesses and be done with the matter. She would still experience great conflict as a single, unwed mother, but her life would be spared. They could both move on with their lives. His third option was to take a woman he thought to be an adulteress as his wife.

Joseph went to bed with this decision weighing upon his mind. In his dreams the Lord spoke to him saying "fear not. The child in Mary's womb has been conceived of the Holy Spirit."

He was commanded and comforted with the instruction to take Mary as his wife and name the child Jesus, which rooted in the name Joshua carries with it the meaning "Yahweh is my salvation" or "God saves." For this is what the prophets spoke of. The virgin will conceive and bear a son.

When Joseph awoke he did something amazing: He obeyed. The Lord had spoken to him and he obeyed. The hopes that he had dreamed of for his future family were crashing around him, but he obeyed what the Lord had told him. Joseph's faith in what he understood to be God's plan was now shaky at best, but he obeyed when told not to be afraid.

Joseph reminds each of us that in time of great distress we do not fear because God is with us. We can obey him despite the competing voice of fear within. Joseph reminds us that God is with us, therefore we must be obedient to the terrifying and exhilarating adventure he has called us to.

Rob Hurtgen is a husband, father and serves as the associate pastor at the First Baptist Church in Jackson.

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