“But when he had thought this over, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” — Matthew 1:18–22Read the full passage: Matthew 1:19-22
This account goes beyond just facts. Everything about this story was unusual with natural and supernatural elements.
First, there was the immaculate conception: God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus by virgin conception and birth. This was a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit where the unseen met the seen in order to create a one-of-a-kind condition and creation: 100% God, 100% humanity in the body of a baby in the womb.
Notice Joseph’s unusual and outstanding character. Imagine being Joseph, betrothed to Mary. In Jewish culture, this was more serious than engagement and just below marriage. They were as good as married but waiting to inaugurate the covenant of marriage. To Joseph, Mary was a young, beautiful bride-to-be, the future mother of all his children. No doubt they had dreams and expectations of being a family together.
Imagine being Joseph when Mary told him she was pregnant. He KNEW he was not the father! No doubt the words “how, who, when, and why” must have crossed his mind. Someone was the father, but it wasn’t him.
In Jewish culture at this time, the penalty for adultery (including the betrothal period) was death by stoning. Upon discovery, Joseph would have been obliged to divorce her. Imagine how conflicted Joseph must have felt.
Upon divorce, Mary would have been subject to public shame and humiliation. Joseph would have gone down as the guy who got out of that relationship just in time, dodging a bullet!
Notice that even BEFORE the angel appeared, Joseph’s character shined. Before he had heard from God, he was already planning to discretely end his relationship with Mary. No hard feelings, no public hearing, just quietly going their separate ways.
When the angel appeared, he believed, and he embraced Mary and the baby.
Notice Joseph’s care for Jesus. When the child was finally born, Joseph had every right to say that Jesus was not his flesh and blood. He could have treated Jesus with contempt. It would have been understandable in a human sense.
But Joseph embraced Jesus as his own son. He protected Jesus from Herod by fleeing to Egypt. He nurtured and cared for Him. He even taught Jesus his own trade, carpentry. Imagine them building something together, father and son.
Joseph’s care was unusual and continues to be admired to this day.
Today, so many men who father children do not seriously accept the privilege and responsibility of raising them. They pass on the responsibility to everyone else. They forfeit the blessing.
1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Joseph is a powerful reminder of what a good father is really like: protective, providing, loving. In the end, Jesus grew up with two fathers: One who was His perfect heavenly Father and the other who was his righteous, humble, hard-working earthly father. What an example the Savior had in Joseph. Men, we should strive to do likewise with physical and spiritual children.