Though there is not much said about this man, I would argue that Joseph played a significant role in the birth narratives. It took an enormous amount of risk and faith for Joseph to stay married to Mary after she told him that she was pregnant. According to the society of the time, Mary would have been labeled as a woman of the street and could have easily been stoned to death. Joseph, according to Matthew’s birth narrative, was “a just man” and decided to divorce Mary quietly. This implies that instead of acting our of anger towards Mary, Joseph still loved and respected her.
The fact that Joseph decided to quietly divorce her suggests that he made this decision out of his love for God, which is greater than his love for Mary, suggests scholar Douglas Hare. Joseph, Hare writes, “determines to do it secretly, so as not to cause her public humiliation.” This is the kind of compassion that Jesus would grow up with. This is the kind of compassion all of humanity should have towards each other.
Joseph, however, changes his mind. An angel appears to him in a dream informing him that the child Mary’s carrying is from God. The text says that when Joseph woke up, he did as “the Lord commanded him” (Matthew 1:24) and did not know her until “she had borne a son” (Matthew 1:24-25).
I think we can each find ourselves in Joseph. When he was first told that Mary was going to give birth to the Son of God, he was not ready to go out on that limb. He did not want to step outside of his comfort zone and accept what God was doing in his life. The reality is that when God calls us, it is to call us out of our comfort zones. Joseph went out of his comfort zone and embraced Mary and the unborn child.
How is God calling you out of your comfort zone?
Resources: Hare, Douglas R. A. Matthew. John Knox Press, 1993.