Have you decided that you will live a life that honors God? Have you decided that you would like to follow God’s word and His direction for your life? The moment you make the decision to follow God, people will not understand. They will say that you are taking your faith too seriously. They will question your use of time and money. When Joseph did as God directed and took Mary as his wife, he would have lots of people misunderstand him, falsely accuse him and judge him.
Like Joseph, I may be challenged by….
· People Who Misunderstand Me
24 Joseph… took Mary as his wife. Matthew 1:24
After the revelation Joseph immediately takes Mary into his home as his wife. Mary is in a most vulnerable position with respect to the rest of the village. The villagers no doubt considered Joseph the father of Jesus (Matt 13:55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? NIV) by taking Mary into his home Joseph removes the social stigma that would have been associated with Mary and PUTS IT ON HIMSELF. He knew he was not the father and yet he puts himself in the position to look like the guilty party.
Mary and Joseph were living in the little town of Nazareth, with lots of busybodies standing on the street corners, watching them as they walk by. Mary is 7 months pregnant, and they’ve only been married for 2 or 3 months. Think of the embarrassment, the misunderstanding.
Maybe at first Joseph tried to explain, “The baby is of the Holy Spirit. An angel told me.” “Sure, Joseph. We know all about those things. We believe every word of what you’re telling us.”
Maybe after a while Joseph even stops trying to explain. And after they went to Bethlehem, and then Egypt, probably Joseph didn’t even want to go back to Nazareth. But God led him back to that town of innuendoes and gossip. “Whose son is this? Who is his father, really?” Gossip, embarrassment and misunderstanding that was a part of the price that he paid for his service to God.
There must have been times when he realized that this Son was extraordinary in the plan of God, and yet wished for him to be just a normal boy. Certainly, the people of the town did not think that Jesus was anything special. We know that, because when Jesus was a grown man and began his ministry, he returned to his hometown, and the people did not exactly welcome him with excitement. They said, “Isn’t this just Joseph and Mary’s son? (Matthew 13:55 NIV) The Bible has this to say about his limited ministry in Nazareth: “Jesus… went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. ‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:1-6 NIV). Luke tells of another time in the synagogue of Nazareth when Jesus read from the prophets and claimed that their words were fulfilled in him: “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff” (Luke 4:28,29 NIV).
The pressure from neighbors must have been tremendous for Joseph and Mary. It seems that in time even Mary begins to bend. The Bible tells us that she comes with her other children and tries to convince her Son to stop what he is doing. In fact, the Bible says Mark 3:21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” NIV Maybe they began to believe what everyone was saying. Before the resurrection even his own brothers did not believe in him (John 7:5).
What would it be like to live with the criticism, the misunderstanding day in and day out? I can think of one word, exhausting!
Joseph is clearly a man of faith and strength.
Like Joseph I may be challenged by…
Now Joseph’s life is a life full of tough breaks and rough circumstances. Another rough circumstance must have been a sense of frustration on Joseph’s part, for the Bible says that he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. Here is this beautiful woman who is his wife, and there is no sexual relationship between them. He loves her, and he waits for the son to be born. It was tough. He took cold showers for six months so the baby could be born to a virgin!
Then like we talked about in the last post, Mary and Joseph had to go from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register for a census and taxation. Mary is nine months pregnant they have to walk 70 miles! Talk about a rough circumstance.
Then the inability to find lodging, after arriving in Bethlehem from the tiresome journey, there was no place to stay, no place to sleep, no room in the inn. Talk about a rough circumstance. Surely God did not intend this. Did they make the wrong decision? Should they have stayed home until the baby was born? Joseph must have second-guessed himself many times that night.
They were directed to a cave/stable of some sort. And there, in a humble stable not in splendor away from anyone familiar not in the comfort of home God entered the world as a dependent infant. Talk about a rough circumstance! I told you last week about the Christmas of 1990 watching my grandmother die of colon cancer. I didn’t tell you about Christmas eve 2000 sitting in an emergency room with Noel who had RSV (a respiratory problem). It’s easy to think, “what a bummer, what an inconvenience!” But it is not as rough as Joseph’s Christmas.
If what we have said happened to Joseph is not enough look what happens next!
3 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Matthew 2:13
Now they are being hunted like animals. They are refugees in another country. How can we face these challenges? What can we learn from Joseph this godly man that God chose to be the wife of Mary the earthy father for Jesus? In the next post we will learn from Joseph how to win life’s challenges.