Faithful Joseph – Matthew 1:18-25

Published December 21, 2011 by Geoff Turton in Messages


Faithful Joseph           Matthew 1.18-25


What is most familiar must be read more carefully.


Betrothed and Pregnant  Matthew 1.18-19

-God has other plans for Joseph and Mary

-Engagement, betrothal (legally binding), marriage. v19 “husband”. Legal divorce required to break betrothal.

-A just man but also a merciful and kind man, not willing to make Mary a public example and shame her.


Son of David   Matthew 1.20-23

-Joseph an important part of God’s plan to fulfill prophecy

-Jesus “for he will save his people from their sins”

-Immanuel “God with us”

Faithful Joseph   Matthew 1.24-25

-Immediately obeyed the angel

-Willing to suffer the consequences of marriage to Mary – shame, misunderstanding, alienation John 8.41


1) What we say and how we act reveals our heart. Change occurs when we admit sin and submit to God’s way. How blessed are those who see themselves as God sees them.

2) Jesus: son of Abraham, son of David, son of God, Savior. Make sure that you belong to God for real and not just in your own mind.

3) Two impressions: Jesus is the one and only Savior for mankind. God uses godly, faithful and abandoned people to fulfill His purposes. Be faithful, grow in relationship with God and be fruitful.



Faithful Joseph                    Matthew 1.18-25


This morning let us read and reflect on the story of Joseph in connection with the birth of Jesus Christ.


v18-19, [Read] Mary was legally pledged to be married to Joseph. Like most young women in Nazareth, Mary was looking forward to marriage and to setting up her own home, and starting her own family. Joseph was a fine believing man who was skilled in carpentry and Mary’s coming marriage to Joseph certainly filled her mind and her heart with dreams of deepening love and great hope for the future. What Mary did not anticipate was God’s intervention in her life. Mary did not resent God’s plan for her life but God’s intervention set Mary and Joseph’s life in a direction they could never have imagined.


Before the date for their wedding arrived Mary was found to be pregnant with Jesus. Verse 18 makes it quite clear that Mary is the mother of Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s pregnancy was a problem because Mary was legally pledged to be married to Joseph and this was not Joseph’s baby.


In a Jewish marriage there were three steps to be taken. 1) First there was an engagement between the parents, often made when the couple were still children. As Barclay writes, “Marriage was held to be far too serious a step to be left to the dictates of human passion and the human heart”. 2) Later came a betrothal which lasted for one year. This was a confirmation of the engagement which could be broken by the individuals involved but once entered into was legally binding and could only be dissolved by a legal divorce. The couple was known as man and wife but did not live together and did not have sexual relations. In verse 19 Matthew calls Joseph, “her husband” even though they were not yet officially married. If one of the partners died the other was known as a widow. 3) After one year of betrothal the marriage took place and the couple lived together.


Mary and Joseph were in the betrothal stage. Mary’s pregnancy was just cause for Joseph to apply for a legal divorce. Mary had been unfaithful. We are told that Joseph was a just man but he must have also been a merciful and kind man for he was unwilling to put Mary to public shame and resolved to divorce her quietly. The word used here means “to make a public example of”. Joseph could have even pressed for some criminal punishment against Mary but determined not to hurt or shame Mary. I believe that Joseph truly loved Mary and must have been deeply hurt when he heard of Mary’s pregnancy, and this resolve to treat Mary kindly in spite of his great heartbreak testifies that Joseph was a godly man with a tender heart.


*What can we learn from these two verses? 1) First of all God can intervene in our lives at any time and can change our hopes and dreams to conform to His purposes. (Sickness, death of spouse, call to new work, job loss). We will become bitter at God unless our hearts are truly given to Him. 2) Second we can learn from Joseph’s behavior. Joseph’s behavior toward Mary is a lesson to all of us. Our attitudes and how we treat others, our words and actions, show what our hearts are truly like, especially when we are responding while under pressure, under attack, or hurt. If you want to know what you are really like on the inside then stand back and take a good look at how you act toward others especially when you are in difficult circumstances. In your next encounter with someone try to look at the situation as an objective observer. You may not like what you see but if you will be brutally honest with yourself and with God, changing what you see is possible. Change begins when we see our sin, call it sin, stop blaming others or our circumstances for our behavior, and ask God for help us to be what He has created us to be. Ultimately God would have us demonstrate love from a heart of love. Sin has filled our lives with selfishness, greed, bitterness, accusations, hatred, and strife, but God wants to redeem us back to a life of love by the Holy Spirit. Joseph’s love and compassion for Mary is an example to all of us of the changed heart of a godly man.


v20-23, [Read] As Joseph considered how best to divorce Mary for her infidelity, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The angel addressed him as “Joseph, son of David”. The title “son of David” is an important addition to this story. It helps us to understand why Matthew has this birth story in his Gospel. First of all it reminds Joseph that he is in the line of David and that this fact is important with regard to his marriage to Mary. Second it gives us a hint to the importance of Joseph in the working out of God’s purposes.


Have you ever asked yourself about the importance of Joseph to the birth story of Jesus? Did God choose Joseph only to provide protection to Mary and to support Mary as she gave birth and raised Jesus? Was Joseph simply a strong helper that God provided in order to fulfill His plan through Mary? I would venture this morning that Joseph has much more than a support role in the birth of Jesus.


Where Luke focuses on Mary as the physical mother of Jesus, Matthew focuses on Joseph as the legal father of Jesus. By marriage Joseph became the legal father of Jesus. It is Joseph who directly connects Jesus with the line of David and makes Jesus the legal heir to the throne of David as the son of David. The purpose of Matthew’s Gospel, as he states in 1.1, is to show that Jesus is the son of David and the son of Abraham and thus the promised seed and the promised King, and the fulfillment of many OT prophesies.


Jesus is the physical son of Mary and the legal son of Joseph by marriage. Both Mary and Joseph bring Jesus into the line of David, but it is Joseph as a son of David and as the legal father of Jesus that establishes Jesus as the rightful heir to the throne of David.


The angel tells Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife and that the son in Mary’s womb has not been conceived by another man but by the Holy Spirit. Joseph realizes that Mary’s incredible story of an angel coming to her and telling her that she has found favor with God, and that she is going to become pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and give birth to the Messiah, is all true. This assurance from the angel would have mended the broken heart of Joseph and encouraged him to join Mary in this God directed purpose.


The angel goes on to tell Joseph to call the son Jesus. Gabriel told Mary to call her son Jesus but here the angel in Joseph’s dream tells him why he is to call the son to be born Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins”. It is clear to us in the Gospel of Luke as well that this Jesus is God’s Savior from sin. After the birth of John the Baptist, Zechariah prophesied about his son John saying that he would go before the Lord to prepare his way to “give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins”. And the angel said to the shepherds, “for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”.


Matthew goes on to tell us that the birth of Christ to a virgin named Mary fulfilled the OT prophecy of a virgin conceiving and bearing a son and that this son would be called Immanuel which means “God with us”.


*Jesus, the son of Abraham, the promised seed that brings blessing to all the nations of the world. Jesus, the son of David, the promised king that will rule for ever. Jesus, the son of God, who came from heaven to earth to save mankind and now mediates for those who believe before the throne of God. Jesus, the Savior from sin who restores men and women and young people and children into fellowship with God and becomes their Father and who gives the gift of eternal life to those who truly believe and put their trust in him to save them.


I visit terminal patients in hospital and stand before coffins and urns, and at those times I know that only one thing really matters – Do they belong to Jesus? Did they know Jesus as their Savior? Have they repented and trusted in Christ to save them from sin? If you have said the sinner’s prayer or went forward at an evangelistic crusade you may still be in your sins. Belonging to God is more than saying a prayer. If trusting in Christ has not given you a desire for God’s Word and to be with God’s people, and a hatred for sin, and changed your attitudes and thoughts and actions, I seriously doubt if you belong to Jesus Christ. The new birth is more than learning a new vocabulary and losing a few bad habits. It is God’s nature coming into your life by the Holy Spirit and the Spirit bringing new life, and this new life should be evident to everyone around you. Even though you have been hanging around Christians for a long time make sure that you truly belong to Jesus and have been saved from your sin. Joseph was to “Call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins”. There must be evidence that Jesus has saved you from your sins. Jesus was God with us and now through salvation God is in those who believe.


v24-25, [Read] When Joseph woke from sleep he did what the angel told him to do, he took Mary as his wife. We are told that Joseph did not have sexual relations with Mary until after the birth of Jesus. Joseph also made sure that he called the son born to Mary, Jesus.


*What impresses me the most about Joseph is his quiet faithfulness to God and to Mary, even when it seemed he had been betrayed by Mary and let down by God. I do not recall a single word spoken by Joseph in the Gospels but his faithfulness to God and Mary and Jesus is written in bold letters. When Joseph learned the truth about Mary he immediately obeyed the angels command to take Mary as his wife. This obedience was costly to Joseph but his love for God and for Mary overcame the cost. People would consider Joseph an ungodly man or a fool. An ungodly man for getting Mary pregnant before they were legally married, or a fool for taking Mary as his wife when she was pregnant by another man. Explanations of what really took place would only bring more suspicion to the whole situation.


In John 8 Jesus is confronting some Pharisees about their sin and their unbelief. They are accusing each other back and forth. In response to Jesus saying to them that Abraham is not their father, the Pharisees antagonistically say to Jesus in verse 41, “We were not born of sexual immorality”. The fact that Jesus was conceived before marriage may have been more than a family secret. Joseph had to bear the shame and the gossip associated with his sudden marriage to Mary. Here is another thought. One commentator writes, “Joseph was willing to give up what was often perceived to be a Jewish father’s greatest privilege – siring his first-born son – in order to obey God’s will.” (B. Witherington III)


**As I read the stories of the birth of Jesus this year I came away with two impressions. I was impressed once again with the Love and Grace of God in sending Jesus the Son of God to take a human body and live like us yet without sin so that he might give his life as a sacrifice for sin. There is no greater sacrifice in the world than what Jesus did for sinners like us. The importance and worth of the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ grows larger to me with each passing day.


The other thing I was impressed with this year was the godly character and complete abandonment to the will of God of Zechariah and Elizabeth, of Joseph and Mary, and of Simeon and Anna. God was able to use these servants in fulfilling this part of His salvation plan because they knew God and had allowed God to work in their lives. They were ready to let God use them in His way and in His time. That is all that God wants from us – that we love Him and let Him love us, and that we grow in our relationship with Him, and walk in humble obedience to Him. May your coming year be marked with a growing relationship with God and greater usefulness in His purposes.

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