Good morning. We are currently "Waiting in Wonder" at Whitewater, and we welcome you!
We’re looking at some key biblical/historical characters in the Christmas story as they waited for hope to arrive. Two weeks ago, we saw some Kings and talked about worship vs worry. Then last week, JT led us to focus on the shepherds, and we talked about praise vs pride. That brings us today to Joseph, and we'll see the difference between character and convenience.
You know, Jesus borrowed many things in his life. He borrowed:
• A place to be born
• A lunch to eat and multiply
• Money to pay his taxes
• A donkey to ride on
• Even a tomb to be buried in
Today as we continue our Christmas series, we see that Jesus even had to borrow a dad. An earthly dad. His name was Joseph and what a father and man he was. Little is known about Joseph, but one thing we do know is how much he loved Mary and Jesus. And, he chose character and commitment over convenience. Let’s look at Matthew 1:18-25:
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 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. 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. 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.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
To better understand the dynamic described here, it would be helpful for us to talk about the three stages in a Jewish marriage. The first stage is engagement where the parents arranged a marriage. Which, if you have kids, is not such a bad idea! (Inwon and Sukjaw Kwon are family friends and long-term missionaries to Seoul, South Korea. When they were growing up their parents followed the custom of arranging marriages through a matchmaker (a go-between). Sookjaw’s father paid a fee to get a husband for her. Inwon was in law school when they got married, but soon felt the call of God to be a pastor, so he quit law school. Initially, this did not make Sukjaw’s father happy. He said, "I paid a lot of money for her to marry a lawyer – I could have got a preacher for nothing!")
Then the betrothal stage where they pledge to be married. This is the stage Joseph and Mary are in as we read Matthew 1. This betrothal stage lasted for one year and during this time you were considered married in every way, except you didn’t sleep together. In fact, to get out of this betrothal, you had to get a certificate of divorce. This is why it says Joseph had in mind to divorce her quietly.
Then the third stage was the wedding itself, which was quite an elaborate deal with days of celebrating, drinking, and dancing. Like some of your weddings!
As we take a deeper look at these verses, we see three attributes Joseph possessed that illustrated he chose character over convenience - why it says he was a "righteous man."
1. Joseph was sensitive (and loving) to Mary. He wasn’t an Archie Bunker-type man who was rough and domineering. Do any of you remember All In The Family? One day Archie said to his wife Edith, "If I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you!"
Joseph was tough, but tender. He didn’t expose Mary to public disgrace. He could’ve punished her, but he didn’t. He could’ve withheld his love and affection, but he didn’t. He stuck with her and believed in her no matter what his macho buddies said - which you know they did. Put yourself in Joe’s sandals for a moment, "Hey, I heard Mary’s pregnant, man." “Yes, she’s pregnant by God.” Yeah, right! Think about the faith in God and his betrothed, Mary that Joseph had. Mary was a different virgin than he bargained for, and you just know the gossip and chatter were flying. This is National Enquirer/Jewish TMZ stuff.
You can tell a lot about a man by looking at how he treats a woman and a wife – especially when they’re vulnerable. I also think Joseph demonstrated remarkable sensitivity and self-control with Mary by remaining abstinent sexually. Remember what Matthew 1:25 said... Even after marriage, he was patient. Guys/Men - we can learn a lot from Joseph. Our nation and communities need more men like Joseph. Our homes need more men like Joseph. Our Church needs more like Joseph.
His character caused Joseph to courageously and faithfully face the situation. The convenient thing would have been to walk away. But he had no second thoughts of raising a child not his own, no hesitancy about helping a pregnant woman - which is a challenge for most men. She likely had morning sickness, cravings for Jewish chocolate-covered pickles, and he would have been willing to listen patiently as she went into all the feminine details that guys tend to zone out on. Ladies, you’ve seen it before, that glazed look! And we didn’t even mention the help she needed on an 80 mile trip with no car, heated seats, GPS, cell phone, and Spotify playlist.
2. Joseph also proved his character because he was submissive to God. As I glance at the text, I see he obeyed God multiple times. At least five times in the Bible, God told Joseph to do something, and he did it completely all five times.
• He married her… like God told him to do.
• He fled to Egypt… like God told him to do.
• He returned to Israel… like God told him to do.
• And he went to Nazareth… like God told him to do.
• And when he named the child 'Jesus’, per instructions, he was faithful and submissive yet again. Usually in their day, a father named the first born son after themselves. But not here.
And think about this - Joseph fathered a child not his own. Sometimes a father raises a child not his own and doesn’t know it... the formal term is "paternal discrepancy" and that is unique, but Joseph DID know it wasn't his child. It was God’s child. So, imagine how unique and stressful that would be. Stepdads and blended families can be difficult to navigate, but imagine raising God in child form. Did they make him do chores or enforce a curfew? Did they discipline him? Mary and Joseph are the only parents who could have legitimately said, "Just wait till your father gets home" - and really meant it!
Author, Max Lucado says he has some questions he’d like to ask Joseph someday about what it was like to raise Jesus.
• Did it feel weird teaching Jesus that he, himself, created the world?
• Did Jesus ever come home with a black eye?
• Did young Jesus say anything when he hit his finger with a hammer in your carpenter shop?
• Whenever Jesus saw a lamb being led to the slaughter, did he act differently?
Obedience is the sign of allegiance, and Joseph showed his true character. I have come to understand that the only part of the Bible you really believe is the part you actually do!! Joseph believed it enough to act on it. He understood his role and humbly embraced it. In fact, Luke 2:39 says, "Joseph did everything required by the law of the Lord." In spite of his previous plans for a wife and a life, he was submissive to God.
Those of us who are Type A, Enneagram 8s (strong-willed folks), don’t like anybody interrupting our plans - even God. It’s hard to be submissive when you’ve already decided what God should do! It’s even harder to trust God when it’s risky, when there’s a price tag, when it doesn’t make sense, when it hasn’t ever been done before, and when others won’t understand. I guess that’s why I am so proud of so many of you for stepping out to live on mission for the One on your streets, schools, and companies.
I mentioned to JT and several others that last Sunday was a special Sunday here. It was the 14th anniversary of us opening Phase 1. A huge dream realized! We had 1034 in attendance (by the way, next Sunday is five years since we opened Phase 2!).
One of the things we kept saying 14 years ago was "Let’s do something so big, that if God’s not in it, it’s doomed to fail!" And we did. And HE did. And here’s the best news – this church's best days are ahead! JT and our leaders are still dreaming big and asking God to show up and show off! Faith-filled risk in order to reach lost people, and obedience to the leading of God is a thread that runs deep throughout the history of this church and through the tapestry of the Christmas story. And I think it’s one of the keys to waiting in wonder.
Well, Joseph was sensitive to Mary, he was submissive to the Father, and lastly, we see Joseph was supportive of Jesus.
• He protected Jesus multiple times from Herod, as well as Herod’s son.
• He dedicated and presented Jesus at the temple. Let me show you this in Luke 2:22-33, When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Simeon was waiting and Joseph was marveling! Imagine the wonder in their waiting!
• Joseph’s trade as a carpenter provided for and supported Jesus, too. Jesus eventually learned the trade, too.
The word the Bible uses for carpenter is the word Tekton, which means wood craftsman, and fascinatingly, can also mean Stone Mason (because most carpenters also work with stone). This makes the prophecy about Jesus even more profound when it says Jesus was the stone the builders rejected… the chief stone/cornerstone!
I think if you want to get a snapshot of Joseph’s heart though, it is found in Luke 2:41-52…
Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
Think about Jesus' answer from Joseph’s vantage point. "Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?" He’s not talking about Joseph’s house in Nazareth and this must’ve been a blow to Joseph’s ego. Even though he didn’t fully understand, Jesus grew as Joseph continued supporting, providing, and enabling the whole ministry of Christ to begin on a stable foundation. Even Jesus waited in wonder for His public time of ministry to fully come.
So I have a message for you today. Never underestimate the difference a dad can make, even a borrowed dad. One who shows character over convenience. And when you look at the life of a grown-up Christ, you’ll notice Jesus had the same dominant traits Joseph exhibited. Like father, like son. Jesus was sensitive to Mary, his mother. Jesus was submissive to God the Father, and Jesus was supportive of the church/His body and protected and resourced her. Where did Jesus learn these things? From God the father sure, but also from Joseph, his earthly father.
From this point on in the biblical narrative, Joseph basically disappears from the pages of the Bible. Some think he died soon after, but no one knows. Doesn’t matter - he fulfilled his role in the cosmic redemptive saga. My question for you is this - Have you fulfilled yours? Have you been sensitive, submissive, and supportive with the word of God and the son of God? Will you choose character or convenience? If so, you’ll keep the wonder alive in the waiting.