The Angel speaks to Joseph’s confusion- Matthew 1:19-25 Advent III 2016 ~Glenn Munsee
The Scripture of our focus tonight, describes an Annunciation, or announcement of Jesus birth, separate from that delivered to Mary by the angel Gabriel. This briefer Annunciation is delivered to Joseph in the first chapter of Matthew.
We begin reading there about the impact that the news of Mary’s condition has had on Joseph, and his mindset regarding his circumstance.
Verse 19 says that…
Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
It seems unlikely that he would have reached such a conclusion quickly and easily.
That led me to wonder what options and outcomes he contemplated.
Can you imagine?
You’ve got your life kind of planned out. Things are going along swimmingly. And bang, there you find yourself, forced to make a decision, you never contemplated needing to make.
I know that, when my first marriage ended, it brought with it a great deal of introspection and reexamining. There are parts of my past that I probably wore out the tape, from replaying and reevaluating.
So, here we have Joseph. He’s found steady work at a respectable job, he’s found the girl and has a marriage agreement all ironed out.
And then boom. Mary has turned up pregnant during their engagement…
What is Joseph thinking?
On one hand, does Joseph suspect that Mary has been unfaithful?
If so, and he doesn’t publicly shame her, then he also looks guilty of violating the betrothal.
From my experience I will say that the desire to set the Public Record straight is indeed powerful, but if he does publicly shame her, Deuteronomy chapter 22 tells us the outcome of that scenario.
There we read in verse 23…
If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin, pledged to be married, and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death.
Should Joseph stay with Mary or should he go?
In researching these verses, I found that there is debate about how much information Joseph had at his disposal when Mary was found to be pregnant.
But consider if he did have knowledge of all that Mary was witness to…. if he had heard of the news delivered to Mary, this could add yet another layer of confusion for Joseph.
What if she’s telling the truth? Does Joseph believe that Mary is with child, a child conceived by the Holy Spirit?
This child will be the “Son of the Most High”
Joseph would essentially be the foster-father to… well, to God.
If confusion is defined as uncertainty, I don’t know that you can find a more uncertain circumstance than that. We’ve all been confused, but confusion at this level? It’s almost unprecedented.
We could ask ourselves “What would we do?” but we would also need to remember that we benefit from “Hindsight being 20/20” and all…
So Joseph had a lot of thinking to do.
Often time’s we find that confusion is linked with another pair of well-known emotions. These we have reflected upon over the course of the last couple of weeks. Those being Fear and Doubt.
It’s easy to believe that the thoughts swirling around in Joseph’s mind came with a good serving of Doubt and a dash or two of Fear.
Doubting his own decisions. Second guessing his intuition. Fear for his future. Fear that he lacked the ability to overcome the obstacle that he faced.
The Angel that appears in Joseph’s dream addresses his Confusion. Head on.
We read in verse 20:
20 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. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
This must have had a profound effect on Joseph.
This dream seemingly galvanized his faith. His faith in God, his faith in Mary and her virtue, his faith in himself and his ability to handle what was about to occur.
As we know from the story- He woke up and willingly did exactly as the Angel had instructed. His Beloved gave birth to a son and he named him Jesus. When faced with this challenge, Joseph said “Yes”
Sometimes it is difficult to accept what is asked of us. Especially when it may be something we are not naturally inclined to do, or may not want to do. We tend to turn inwards when we are faced with hardship.
One thing that I found helpful in getting myself back on my feet, was to challenge myself to say “Yes” more often. Yes to the invitations from friends. Yes to requests for help. Yes to calls for volunteers.
I found that when I undertook this exercise it lead me to amazing places, interesting people and to opportunities that I never considered for myself. The simple act of saying yes, even when I really wanted to say no, led me out of my comfort zone, and in time led me back to a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God.
Perhaps in this Advent Season we could each challenge ourselves in this way.
Make an agreement with yourself that for the next month or week or even a day you will say “yes’’ to each opportunity that you come across. Yes, to everything you encounter and everything that is asked of you. What new experience might you find?
If Pastor Mike says, “Hey, do you want to speak at the Wed night Advent Service?” You’re going to say “yes”…
There are not many additional references to Joseph in the Bible. But here we read of his reliance on God, his faith in this “newly revised plan” for his life, and the courage that he mustered to overcome an obstacle of confusion on a truly grand scale.
So too, may we respond, when faced with our own instances of uncertainty and confusion.
With courage and great faith in the assurance of God’s guidance.