Matthew 1:18-19- “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother, Mary was betrothed to Joseph before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph, her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.” NKJV
I know this is not a Christmas carol, but I heard it in a Christmas play, and I think it should be one! I want to take a few minutes to think about the young people whose lives were forever changed because they obeyed God. There’s a lesson in it for all of us during this holiday season!
Luke writes about the experience of Mary with the angel. We see that time as the precious time that it was, but we know that it didn’t come without trouble. There are a couple references in the Bible that clue us in to the fact that everything wasn’t easy for Mary, although she readily accepted what God wanted for her.
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.Luke 1:38 NKJV
Mary wasn’t just a virgin; she was contracted or betrothed to Joseph to become his bride. This meant that Mary and Joseph were legally married. In biblical days, the marriage took place in two stages. The first stage was the betrothal. The woman was lawfully married during this stage but remained in her father’s house. She could not get involved with another man unless she obtained a divorce from her husband. The wedding ceremony was held when the bride was brought from her father’s home to her groom’s home, and the marriage was consummated. In Mary’s case, she was legally married to Joseph, but the wedding had not yet occurred.
Mary’s “Thy will be done” to the Lord brought personal trials and attack on her and on Joseph. When she returned from visiting Elisabeth, she was at least three months pregnant. Her first trial was in telling Joseph that she was pregnant. We see his response in our text:
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.”Matthew 1:19 NKJV
The news that she was pregnant troubled Joseph because they had been chaste in their relationship. Now he is questioning if Mary was as chaste as he was. Her explanation that she was pregnant of God was too much for him to handle. He was trying to decide if he should just get a divorce because he no longer felt like he could trust her. The pain of betrayal must have weighed heavily on his heart.
While Joseph is going through this, Mary has her own issues. Word is probably getting out that she is pregnant, and Joseph isn’t the father. They didn’t have Snapchat or Instagram, but news traveled fast in those days within their communal type of living. Not only does Mary have to deal with Joseph’s rejection, but she has to deal with the rejection of the community, and possibly her family. This was no small task of obedience, no flippant response to obey, and the Bible does not tell us that Mary was kept from the ridicule and embarrassment of being pregnant outside of her contract.
Mary was smack dab in the will of God for her life. Her pregnancy was God-ordained, and God obtained, and yet it didn’t come without hardship. The Bible clearly tells us that Joseph struggled to the point of wanting to divorce her privately. He obviously cared for her because he didn’t want to make things worst for her, but he was seriously considering a divorce. Who could blame him?
But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”Matthew 1:20-21 NKJV
Just what Joseph needed. His own encounter with the Lord. Yes, God had spoken to Mary through the angel Gabriel, but Joseph needed his own word from the Lord. First, he didn’t know how to believe that Mary was telling the truth. This was not the usual way to get pregnant; it didn’t ring true. Yet, he had watched her life, may have even begun to love her, and was looking forward to the wedding, and now this! So he needed to hear from God for himself! Joseph is now at the place where he can join Mary and say, “Thy will be done!”
Two young people, who obviously loved God, were chosen by God to have responsibility for the life of His Son. They were favored of God, honored of God, but suffered much in their obedience, for Joseph did obey God!
Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.Matthew 1:24-25 NKJV
I find this part of the narrative of the birth of Jesus to be necessary. Everything surrounding His birth is filled with mirth. Sometimes we focus on the blessings of His birth without recognizing the price Mary and Joseph paid. Not just in accepting this great responsibility, but all the ridicule that went with it. And later, the hardship of making their way to Bethlehem.
These two young people should be role models for all young people. Young people like to fit in and have the accolades of others. Mary and Joseph no longer held the high esteem of others, and they no longer fit in with the others. Young people don’t want to do the hard thing for Jesus. They are too young and have a life ahead of them to deal with the challenges of obeying Christ. Yet, these young people suffered much to participate in the will of God.
Next time your young person, or even you, want to pout over the challenges of obedience to God, think of Mary and Joseph. They placed everything on the altar: her life, her marriage to Joseph, her dreams, his dreams, his joy of becoming a husband, their place in the community, relationships, and even their reputations. But in the end, His will was done, and they brought forth a son, the Son of God, who saved us from our sins. Enjoy this song by Hillary Scott and family, “Thy Will Be Done”! Wonderful Jesus!