Matthew 1:18-25 — If You Want To Talk About Faith, Let’s Talk About the Mary & Joseph Kind of Faith!

Posted: August 21, 2015 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 1:18-25 — The birth of Jesus Christ is romanticized to the point that we often do not think about how young Mary really was, how early in manhood Joseph was and how Mary’s pregnancy would have been a scandalous thing in the era of 6-4 BC (when most scholars believe that Jesus was actually born based on the historical record of when Herod was king). We make the nativity a neat and tidy beautiful story and it truly is from an eternal perspective as we discussed yesterday. But let’s bite into the context of the times. Socially in near first century Palestine, this was not the acceptable way for any child to be born much less the King of Kings. What this story does really demonstrate to us that God can use anyone and any situation to bring about His Sovereign plan when we place our trust in Him totally.

Although in society at large today, we find that there is less and less social stigma attached to women becoming pregnant outside of wedlock, there is still a stigma attached to it in some social circles. As you progress backwards in time, you can see this social disdain is greater and greater the farther back in history you go. Particularly, when we get back to 6, 5, or 4 BC, it was death worthy. Not just being a social outcast which was often the case back then but it could even be punishable by stoning to death in Jewish society. Could you imagine in the highest strict Jewish society of the time, what the young teenage Mary must have been going when she found out that she was pregnant and began to show signs of pregnancy. We see the highlights of the story in our nativity scenes, but could you imagine what she was going through in her heart on the inside and socially on the outside. We do not know for sure the day to day stuff that Mary went through but we know the context of Jewish society at the time. Mary probably felt at times with the social taunting that I would be willing to bet that she went through like why me? Why me? But we know from the Gospel of Luke that Mary knew of the social stigma that would follow her by her statement in Luke 1:34, but she follows that up in Luke 1:38 with statement that “I am the Lord’s servant.” Wow, what a statement. Mary knows what ridicule she will go through and knows of the possibility of death, but she puts it plain and simple. She trusted the Lord. She was His humble servant. How spiritually mature is that? This young teenage peasant girl from Palestine just before the beginning of the first century can teach us a lot about trusting in God.

Talk about demonstrating your faith in the face of certain opposition. Mary teaches us that. She was willing to lay it all on the line for God. She was willing to trust God with the details. She knew of what she would be facing socially but her trust in God was so great that the details did not matter when God called her to be the mother of Jesus. She was willing to serve the Lord in this way and trust that He was going to provide the way. She was willing to trust that He was going to provide divine protection for her life and that of her baby. Even first century Jews knew enough about reproduction to know that it was impossible by human standards for a girl of childbearing age to become pregnant without having sexual relations with a man. That mattered not to Mary when the Lord said it would be. She put her doubt aside and trusted the Lord to work out the details. Oh what you and I can learn about faith from this teenage peasant girl from Palestine just before the beginning of the first century.

And what about Joseph, Jewish marriage customs were different than our today. Back then, there were arranged marriages. Families agreed upon the marriages of children between families. When the families came to an agreement, the engagement was publicly announced and the betrothed man and woman were as good as married even before the wedding and even before living together in their marital home. It was a contractual relationship that was difficult to break. Mary’s apparent unfaithfulness was a big deal. Joseph had a right to “divorce” her and the Jewish authorities could have had her stoned to death. Joseph had a difficult choice here far greater than you and I really think about when we think of the Christmas story. Sure, we have the advantage of 2,000 years or more of church history and we know that Jesus was the Son of God. We almost make Joseph’s decision a quick and easy one in our tidy versions of the nativity. But Joseph, think about it, did not have the advantage of all that we know. He was just a devout Jewish guy probably in his 20’s ready to get married settle down and start making a living for his family in his trade. Then, bam, Mary’s pregnant and he knows he’s not the father. Think about it! Really, sit for a minute and think about that! What would you do even today if the girl you were engaged to came to you and said she was pregnant and you knew for a fact that you had not had sex with the girl. What would you do? Multiply those feeling by a 1,000 then when you consider the era in which Joseph lived. This wasn’t just some oops thing that we might consider it today. It was a big, big, big, big deal. It was only through the intervention of the God that Joseph was moved to do what we now know was the eternally needed decision.

Although Joseph could have justified breaking the engagement off and thereby sentencing Mary to a life of being an outcast and Jesus being considered an outcast from society as well for the rest of mother and son’s lives. The breaking of the engagement would have exposed her pregnancy and jailed her in a life of shame for the remainder of her life and the life of her child as well. The breaking of the engagement could have also exposed her to stoning to death if not the life of shame. And, think about, too, even if he decided to marry Mary, he could be exposing himself to social shame because it would have been and admission that he had had sex with Mary before marriage. All of this had to be swirling in his head. He probably could not sleep or eat. He was probably mad at Mary. He was probably angry with God. He probably had doubts as the truth of Mary’s story about being made pregnant by the Holy Spirit. He probably thought, man, this girl, this teenage girl sure is whacky! What have I got myself into? All of this talk of Holy Spirit induced pregnancy defied logic and all human reasoning to him even in those times much less today! It took heavenly intervention for Joseph to fully understand the miraculous nature of what had happened to Mary. But like Mary, Joseph loved God with all his heart and the angelic message was enough for him to set aside his anger, disbelief, fear, and the whole range of emotions he must have been feeling. He did as the Lord commanded. He is the epitome of a submitted servant of the Lord. He took Mary as his wife. Joseph trusted in the Lord with the details. He trusted in the Lord’s protection. He trusted that the Lord would give this bad situation a good end. He trusted the Lord plain and simple. If the Lord commanded it, he was going to do it and leave it to the Lord to work all the stuff out.

Do we have Mary and Joseph trust in the Lord? Do we? Do we really? Think about the historical and cultural context that Mary and Joseph operated in! Think about it. Really think about it. How much faith and trust in the Lord did they have! That had it in spades my friends! These young people had faith that would put ours to shame I am afraid. Just imagine what they must have been going through. Their faith is instrumental to us being Christians today. That is why God chose them to do what they had to do I guess. When we trust fully in the Lord, He can use us mightily. When we trust fully in the Lord, He can use our situation no matter how bad to bring glory to His name. It all begins with our trust in the Lord. How much are you willing to lay your trust in Him? How much do you really trust him? If He calls you out to go on a mission trip, do you trust Him with the details? If He calls you to go into full time ministry, how much do you trust Him with the details? If He calls you to do something that will cause you to stand against the social tide of the day, how much do you trust Him? If He calls you to support your church with 10% or more of your income, how much do you trust Him to get you there? If He calls you to make sacrifices for the cause of Christ, how much do you trust Him? Do you and I have Mary and Joseph trust in the Lord? May we pray for it daily. May we pray for it daily and live as submitted servants in the same way that Mary and Joseph did!

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