19 March 2018Matthew 1:18-25 (Joseph of Nazareth)
“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (v. 20)
Psalm: Psalm 89:26-36
‘We interrupt this programme…’
Most of the daily passages for the next two weeks direct us towards the drama of Jesus’ death on the cross. We begin, this week, with a series of passages from the prophet Jeremiah, who expressed the suffering of his people and looked forward to God’s saving intervention. Then, in Holy Week, we move on to readings from the Gospels. Today, though, that sequence is interrupted as we return to the very beginning of the story of Jesus. That is because today many Christians will commemorate the role of Joseph, the husband of Mary, in the story of salvation.
What seems like an interruption is actually a reminder of a number of things that are central to understanding the meaning of Jesus’ life and death. First, Matthew’s Gospel, like all the books of the New Testament, is soaked in the language and faith of the Old Testament. The Gospel quotes from Isaiah 7:14, a passage that may not directly speak of the virgin birth of the Messiah but does support Matthew’s belief that the birth of Jesus is within the promised salvation of God. Secondly, it underlines the human collaboration that was part of God’s work in Jesus. Joseph is a righteous man – like Mary, he was part of the humble poor who look for God’s kingdom. Jesus came to those who were already open and expectant. While the Passion story is about the failure to recognise Jesus for who he is, the nativity story is much more positive about those who took a step of faith to share in God’s great project.
- Joseph wanted to ‘do the right thing’ but found that the Jewish law didn’t quite fit his situation. Think of situations in which you have had to look to God for guidance rather than simply follow the expected norm. What happened?