This Christmas let's give Joseph his due!
When you hear the nativity story each year, we usually hear about Mary, the mother of Jesus. For Mary's been honored, and rightly so. Yet Joseph, has often been viewed as a mere figure to go along with the story not getting much recognition. As you'll see he didn't have to have the spotlight.
Today, I’d like to zoom in closer so you can see clearly Joseph's part in the story
According to scripture Joseph was one of the most righteous men who ever lived. How is that possible. Today when most modern Christians think of a “righteous man,” they think of things like being a good husband, a good father, a good employee who lives a good clean life (doesn’t “smoke, drink, chew or run with those who do,” as the old saying goes), etc.
But the Bible gives us a much clearer picture at what a righteous person is and how he or she reacts to certain situations. Consider Matthew 1:19-20:
Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to put her away quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
Did you catch what Matthew says, "that because Joseph was a righteous man, he chose not to publicly disgrace and shame Mary, even though (according to what he knew at the time) she deserved it.
Let that sink in real good for a moment. Think about it guys.
How many Christians today would react and respond the same way that Joseph did if they were standing in his shoes?
Joseph wasn’t out for blood and he didn’t make excuses in his mind about bringing public disgrace upon Mary. Rather, he took the high road and put her away privately, for fear that she would face public humiliation and shame.
When he first heard the news I’m sure Joseph’s blood boiled because the woman who was betrothed to him in marriage was pregnant . . . (and not by him). But because he was a righteous man, he showed mercy. This is powerful when you think about it. Joseph treated her as if he were in her own shoes and was guilty of what he had supposed she did.
Maybe Joseph thought to himself what his step-son would say to a woman worthy of death almost thirty years later, “He who has never sinned, let him cast the first stone” (John 8:7).
Or maybe after the initial anger, pain, and rage died down, Joseph took a good, hard look at his own life and recalled the many times when he himself missed the mark.
Possibly he had memories of the many heartbreaking sins that his own relatives committed in the past (see Matthew 1:1-16; Joseph’s family line is filled by those who committed murder, adultery, prostitution, etc.) But what can't be doubted, THIS is the very lineage that God the Father chose for His own Son, Jesus.
In Joseph, we find no self-righteousness at all.
And in this we find a wonderful definition of righteousness. It's to react like Jesus, living completely void of self-righteousness. As I'm growing older, I see more and more there's only ONE Person in the universe who has the right to be self-righteous, and he isn’t.
Look for a moment at the people Jesus spent most of his time with, ate with (which in that day was a sign of union, friendship, and acceptance), showed mercy to, extended grace to, and removed shame from. These were the very people who the religious leaders of his day looked down their noses as the most sinful. But this is why Jesus earned the title “the friend of sinners.”
Some specific examples:
He broke bread in the home of a tax-collector who was siding with Rome in oppressing his own people (Zacchaeus).
He completely forgave a woman caught in the act of adultery.
He allowed a prostitute to anoint His feet with her hair in the presence of judgmental Pharisees.
He communed with and later broke bread with a multiple-divorcee who was living in sin.
Now . . . lets look at the sins that really made Jesus angry and provoked him to hot-boiling, rebukes. Sins of self-righteousness aimed at those who sought to shame and humiliate others because of their wrong-doing Jesus called out because of their attitude of being holier-than-thou.
Back to Joseph.
Take notice that Matthew says that while Joseph was considering doing this righteous deed (putting Mary away privately to spare her public shame), the angel appeared to him.
Question - how many angels have passed us by because we chose to take the low road of shaming other people because of their sins or failures, without any consideration to our own sins and shortcomings? Oh, that hurt didn't it? Ouch!
Probably Matthew 18 just popped in your head. (But reading that last line where Jesus says that a local assembly can excommunicate a person because of sin, please consider two things about that passage.)
First, Jesus said to go to the person PRIVATELY so as NOT to shame them, but to bring reconciliation in a private way. Second, the person in view was pig-headed and refused to stop sinning after being approached on more than one occasion in private. Only then was it to be “told to the assembly.”
He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (Prov. 17:9)
Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. (Prov. 10:12)
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Pet. 4:8)
Jesus Christ, your Lord, is in the business of removing people’s shame.
Our Lord’s first miracle at Cana shows us his heart to remove public shame from a bridegroom who had miscalculated how much wine to provide for his wedding. Jesus saved the situation by providing the best wine at the very end, covering the social disgrace that would have been placed at the bridegroom’s feet because of his mistake.
If you’ve done something in your past that you have repented of (ceased from practicing), but it still haunts you with sadness and regret, be encouraged. Peter knew from experience, that even as his many sins grew but saddest one of all—the betrayal of his Lord—was not only FULLY forgiven and restored by Jesus, but he was used mightily by the Master.e. A.W. Tozer rightly says, “When God forgives, He forgets.”
Let's take our cue from God Himself.
Be blessed by Joseph. Be encouraged by Joseph. And be challenged by Joseph. No wonder that God picked him to be the father of Jesus. (Joseph was also from the line of David, fulfilling the prophecy of the Messiah’s lineage.)
This Christmas, let’s remember Joseph. The Life that dwells in every Christian . . . the Life of Joseph’s step-son, Jesus the Christ . . . will ALWAYS lead us to treat others the same way we would want to be treated if we were standing in their shoes. No one wants to be shamed and disgraced if they’ve repented of wrong-doing.
And self-righteousness is not in His nature. ~Dick Warner