Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Son Who Wasn't His

"And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, 
which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)  
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger;
because there was no room for them in the inn."
Luke 2:4-7

We went on a Christmas-walk the other night with our friends.
It was a guided tour, and the old, old story was told to us
as we walked the path passing scene after scene 
of the Christmas story.

It was a wonderful time.

When we came to the scene of Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus,
I told Zachary and his friend to walk over and stand by "Mary",
so I could get a picture.
Then, on an impulse, I said,
"Zach, go over and stand by "Joseph"
and let me get a picture."

After we finished, "Joseph" looked at Zach.
"Thanks for that." he said.
"You're the first person tonight who has wanted
his picture taken with "Joseph"."

I think a lot about Joseph at this time of year.
Of course, I think a lot about Mary and our precious Savior's birth.
But, I think about Joseph a lot, too.

He was the man in the shadows.
The one who never really received much recognition.
When we focus on Christmas every year,
he is a part of it, 
but somehow I never feel like we put as much thought
into him and the vitally important role he played 
in the life of our dear Lord 
as we should.

We don't know much about him or his life before he met Mary.
What we do know is that they had met
and were engaged to be married.

Mary was a virgin.
Joseph trusted that fact.
He trusted her.

I find it hard to imagine how he must have felt the day
she came to him and told him she was with child.
How could this be?
He had never shared intimacy with her.
He felt in his heart that she had never shared intimacy with any other man either.

Her story must have sounded incredulous to him.
How he must have longed to trust her!
Yet, as he listened to her relate the account of 
her visit with the angel, 
he must have wondered...
nothing like this had ever happened before!
How could this be?

His reaction to Mary's story speaks volumes
about the character of the man God chose to raise His Son.

Instead of turning from her,
instead of accusing her of betrayal,
instead of automatically thinking the worst,
Joseph's first impulse 
was to protect her.
To shield her...
from the stares...
the whispers....
the scorn....
the rebuke....
of those who would never understand.
To put her away...privately...
until after the baby was born.

Never mind his inner pain.
Never mind the fact he did not understand....
couldn't wrap his mind around the fact...
that Mary was expecting a child...
and they had never been intimate.

Matthew 1:19 says this, 
"Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, 
and not willing to make her a public example, 
was minded to put her away privily."

I hear no scathing rebuke.
No voiced suspicions.
No tongue-lashing.
No resistance.

Just humility.

I think Joseph must have been one of the must humble men
who ever walked the earth.
I see in him total selflessness.
He was engaged...
to this young woman...
and he was bound and determined to honor his betrothal to her...
at his own expense of ridicule,
even ex-communication....
if necessary.

He wasn't thinking of the self-righteousness of others.
He seemed indifferent to the possibility of their harsh reaction....
to his refusal to desert his beloved.

His concern was Mary....
and the baby she carried...
even though it wasn't his.

Do you see why God chose Joseph?

The man who would rear and bring up His Son would have to be willing
to lay aside his own life...
in order to raise....
 God in the flesh.
He would always take a backseat.
His needs would often be pushed aside, even denied.
He would find contentment in the mere watching of Mary's face...
as she stared into the newborn face...
of the Son Who wasn't his.

While Joseph thought about a plan,
while he gave diligent search to all options....
of hiding Mary away...
somewhere private...
something happened...
that would change his life forever.

Verses 20 & 21,
"But while he thought on these things, 
behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, 
saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife:  
for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.  
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus:  
for He shall save His people from their sins."

"Don't be afraid, Joseph!
Mary has done nothing wrong.
She is God's chosen.
So are you, Joseph!
Take her as your wife...
proceed with your plans, Joseph!
The Baby in her womb...
this Baby supernaturally conceived by the Holy Spirit...
will one day be your Savior, Joseph."

Oh, the words!
How they must have sank deep into his heart!
The awesome, heavy weight of the responsibility!
How it must have overwhelmed him...
at first.

Suddenly, the meaning to his life...
must have become crystal clear.
His very reason for existing...
to that point...
must have all made perfect sense.

They would do this together.
He would stay by her side.
He would love her...
and honor her...
and protect her.

There is within the heart of every man of honor
the impulse to rise to the occasion of a woman's need.

It is the way God created us...
as human beings.
A woman's fragility awakens masculinity
in a just man's heart.

Joseph was no different.
From that moment on,
his life's mission was to be her protector,
her shield,
her ally...
he didn't count the cost....
to himself.

It just didn't matter.
There was a greater cause...
a bigger plan.
And he intended with all his heart...
to follow it...
to be the man God sought and needed....
to fill this monumental role.

In verses 22 & 23, 
the angel went on to say,
"Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, 
which being interpreted is, God with us."

The reality fell over and upon Joseph...
with compelling force.

So, it was Mary!
She was the virgin of whom the prophet had spoken...
hundreds of years before.
She was the virgin whom God had chosen to carry and give birth to His Son...
the Messiah!
It was Joseph...himself!
Who would accompany her on this amazing journey...
of raising God's Son.

The Son Who wasn't his.

Verses 24 & 25,
"Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, 
and took unto him his wife:  
And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn Son:  
and he called His name Jesus."

I see no recoil...
from the challenge.
No questions of God...
and His perfect plan.
Though a million mysteries must have been presented to his mind....
as he wondered how he would ever rise to the occasion.
Though he must have felt a sense of terror....
when he considered the magnitude...
of what God had entrusted into his humble hands.

He got up.
He walked in obedience...
not trusting his own ability...
but completely dependent upon His.

He married Mary.
He became her protector,
her greatest defender,
her loyal comrade,
the most faithful of all husbands.

He was a humble man...
obedient to God's perfect plan.

He taught the Master Carpenter...
a carpenter's trade.

He devoted his life
to being a father...
to the Son Who wasn't his.

God couldn't have made a better choice.

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