Christmas and Manhood – Reflections on the Life of Joseph

Christmas and manhood are two things that don’t mean anything in our culture (and most of the Church) nowadays. For the world, Christmas means a time for discounted prices, giving of gifts, and spending time with the family and friends; for the world, manhood is womanhood and womanhood is manhood: men are expected to be women and women are expected to be men. How dire is our need for truth these days!

As Christmas approaches, there is one subject I’d like to briefly touch upon, and that is the subject of manhood.

How many men are willing to be men according to the Word of God these days? How many men are simply boys who know how to shave but nothing more?

We find in Joseph, Mary’s husband, an astounding example of true manhood and righteousness, titles which very few people get throughout the Bible.

Let’s take a quick look at the character of Joseph, shall we?

Firstly, he was a descendant of King David, as we see recorded in Matthew 1. He was directly descended from the royal line that God Himself promised to bless forever, and through which He promised His Messiah, Jesus Christ, would come.

Secondly, he was betrothed (engaged) to Mary, who was a virgin at the time. Betrothals back in this day  were like engagements today; only that it was as if they were actually already married, they were bound to each other legally, Joseph had only to claim her as his wife.

During this time we read in the Gospel of Luke 1:26-38 (ESV),

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”

Notice that she never refused or rejected the angel’s announcement. The Son of the living God, God incarnate, the one the prophets prophesied about, the promised Messiah, the Lamb of God, coming to her womb! God Himself forming within her womb! How infinite and overwhelming this must have been for Mary!

But there’s a problem — how to tell Joseph? Will Joseph actually believe that an angel revealed himself unto his bride to announce that she would supernaturally bear a son, not just any son, but the Messiah Himself, God Himself? Will Joseph abandon her if he does not believe her?

It is not recorded for us in Scripture, but I think it’s fair to conclude that Joseph perhaps did not believe Mary; yet he loved her and, “being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her [publicly, as the law required when there was infidelity], planned to send her away [or divorce her] secretly” (Matthew 1:19, NASB).
Here is a man who, instead of disgracing his wife, chose to show mercy and grace to her. Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes as we read from Matthew 1:18 (ESV),

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” 

Before they came together – meaning, before they had consummated marriage – she was already pregnant! Consider the fact that for about 400 years God had not sent a single prophet to Israel, that the Jews had been dispersed and conquered by the Romans without a single word from any prophet from God. Yet all of a sudden an angel comes to Mary to announce the coming of the Messiah through her? Surely this was hard for Joseph to understand and believe; yet, he did not act as unrighteous men would have. This is why the angel came to Joseph, not to Mary. 

Matthew 1:20-23, ESV,

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for [for is a very important word you should always pay close attention to] that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
   and they shall call his name Immanuel”
   (which means, God with us).” 

Gabriel didn’t come again to Mary to reassure her about Joseph, he came straight to Joseph for two things:

1) To confirm Mary’s account of his visitation.
2) To remind him of his duty as a husband and a man toward his wife.

Notice that the angel never quoted the Old Testament to Mary, only to Joseph. The reason why I point this out is because, although Mary was indeed highly favored to carry the Savior in her womb, it was Joseph who needed to be reassured that what his wife told him was true. The angel confirmed the account by quoting the Old Testament, about to be fulfilled through his wife.

But the part that got me the most was verse 24,

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”

He took his wife. How amazing is that!? Joseph did not care about the public ridicule they’d have to endure, “he took his wife,” meaning, he married her; his family was probably cast in a bad light for having married a woman that was “unfaithful” to Joseph, as was probably Mary’s family. They were exposed to shame every day of their lives, even up until Jesus ministry in John 8:41, where Jesus tells a group of Jews that they are not children of Abraham but of the devil because they do not do as Abraham did by faith, and they replied to Him,

“We were not born of sexual immorality.”

What’s more, Joseph chose not to consummate the marriage until after she gave birth to Christ. He sacrificed his desire for his wife, now that they married, for her comfort, her benefit. True men have their wives’ best interest in mind always; they are ready to sacrifice their own interests for those of their wives. That is a true man.

Mary was probably devastated when Joseph did not believe her; he had probably started distancing himself from her. Her only comfort and support on Earth was fading, her husband did not support her. However, after the angel revealed himself to Joseph as well, Joseph went to her, claimed her as his wife with all the love he always had for her, and, from that phrase “he took his wife,” I can imagine he said to her, “Mary, I believe all you said. The angel revealed himself to me and confirmed it all. I love you, and I will marry you. I will be your support and your comfort. Don’t be afraid, I am here for you.”

That is a true man! A man who will take his wife, claim her, and be her strength and rock, regardless of the cost.

It was to Joseph that the angel quoted the Old Testament to confirm the Messiah’s supernatural birth, it was to Joseph that the angel commanded to take his role as a man and go to his wife, it was Joseph who named the child.

We see an angel appearing to Joseph a second and a third time in Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 (ESV),

“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”….But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egyptsaying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of GalileeAnd he went and lived in a city called Nazarethso that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.”

 Not only does the angel appear to Joseph three times, he does so because Joseph is the leader, the guider, the protector, and the comforter of his pregnant wife. He does not appear to Mary to tell her to rise and go, he tells Joseph. Joseph had to lead Mary and her son safely to Egypt, protect them while in Egypt, and provide for them; he had to find a job in Egypt to provide for his wife and her baby; he had to stay awake during their traveling to Egypt, sometimes probably get no sleep at all as he protected her and her son. This gave Mary incomparable relief. Joseph had to do the same when he was told to return to Israel. Joseph had to endure cold, hunger, sleeplessness, tiredness, among others, so that his wife would feel safe, loved, protected, and cared for. We even see that he was afraid when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea, he probably interceded to God for his wife and her baby, so that they would come to no harm, and he was warned in a dream to go to Galilee; he had to find somewhere to stay as well, and, “so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled,” he “went and lived in a city called Nazareth.” True men are always obedient to God.

Perhaps Joseph was merely a young man, but his innate manhood sprung up when it was required of him, enduring it all for his wife. What guidance did he have other than the three times the angel appeared to them? He had to plan the route to travel, he had to be ready to protect his wife from any thieves or criminals on the road, he had to provide food and shelter for her while traveling and when they were settled. God, through his angel, had entrusted Joseph with the bearer of His Son and His Son Himself. Joseph knew what a man was required to do for his wife, not only to provide, but to love, guide, protect, comfort, endure, and forgive.

Joseph is one of those few people of whom it can be said that he was a “righteous man” (Matthew 1:19). What better thing for us men to do but learn from Joseph how to be men. This Christmas, remember Joseph the man, who, by the guidance and strength of God, protected Mary and kept her safe. This Christmas, before you jump from Matthew 1:24-25 to Matthew 2, stop and put yourself in his shoes, and learn from him how to be a man; not only a man, but a righteous man. This Christmas, men, repent if you have not been a man to your girlfriends or wives. This Christmas, commit to being a man this coming year. This Christmas, be a man.

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