19 March 2011

Matthew 1:18-25

"When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her [Mary] as his wife." (v. 24)


Today in the Church's calendar is marked as the feast day of Joseph of Nazareth, a largely neglected character in the Jesus story and someone about whom we know relatively little. Our reading is preceded by the extraordinary genealogy of Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1:1-17), linking Jesus and Joseph with the house of David and thus fulfilling the prophecy that this would be the house from which the Messiah would come.

It is generally assumed that Joseph was rather compliant in the events of the nativity. He apparently takes in his stride the shocking and incredible news that the young woman he is engaged to is "found to be with child from the Holy Spirit" (verse 18). A visit from an angel in a dream convinces him that all is well and that he should proceed with his marriage plans undeterred.

Impossible as it is for any of us to put ourselves in Joseph's shoes (or sandals), it doesn't take much imagination to recognise that things may not have been quite so straightforward. Our reading today provides the bare bones of a story that must have had its difficult and perplexing moments. Maybe we should give more thought to the realities of Joseph's experience and the doubts and questions with which he must surely have struggled.

Joseph is portrayed, however, as a decent, honourable and faithful man, and these qualities enabled him to deal with the challenging circumstances he faced. As Mary is rightly revered for the willing acceptance of her lot: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word" (Luke 1:38) maybe more credit could be given to Joseph for his own faithful obedience: "When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him."

To Ponder

Try and suspend all your preconceived ideas about this episode and imagine what it might really have been like for a young and somewhat bewildered Joseph.

When you have been confronted by surprising or perplexing circumstances how have you coped? And how have you remained faithful and involved God in your struggles?

Bible notes author

The Revd Graham Jones

Graham Jones is a Methodist presbyter serving as a member of the Discipleship and Ministries Learning Network in the Yorkshire Plus region of the Methodist Church, with particular responsibility for ministry development. Graham is committed to developing ministry in its broadest sense, enabling both lay and ordained to live out their vocations, and to share in God's mission in the most fulfilling and effective ways.