I’m going to start today’s Journey with a look at Joseph. Often Joseph seems like an add on, an after thought to Mary’s name. Mary and Joseph. In reality, Joseph took on a great task as he was the step-father of Jesus, the Son of God. That task alone would have been daunting, but he was challenged even before Jesus was born.
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place under these circumstances: When His mother Mary had been promised in marriage to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be pregnant [through the power] of the Holy Spirit. And her [promised] husband Joseph, being a just and upright man and not willing to expose her publicly and to shame and disgrace her, decided to repudiate and dismiss (divorce) her quietly and secretly. But as he as thinking this over, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream,”
Joseph was probably shocked and confused when Mary came to him with the news of Jesus. He debated over what to do, he didn’t go with his first thought. He was probably even praying and seeking out wisdom from God. He cared fro Mary greatly and even wanted to save her from the trials that could’ve come upon her, even death, if she was declared unfaithful. In his debating he might have even questioned whether he could be a father-figure to the Son of God. It’s a great responsibility.
“an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary [as] your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of (from, out of) the Holy Spirit.”
The angel of the Lord (possibly Gabriel, again) called attention to Joseph’s lineage, to him being a descendant of David. While Mary was a descendant in her own right, the law would’ve tracked Jesus through the father that claimed Him–Joseph. If Joseph had not been a descendant of David, the people would not have seen Jesus as a descendant of the House of David.
“She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus [the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, which means Savior], for He will save His people from their sins [that is, prevent them from failing and missing the true end and scope fo life, which is God]. All this took place that it might be fulfilled which the Lord had spoken through the prophet, Behold, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel–which, when translated, means, God with us.”
The Angel revealed and reminded Joseph of God’s plan. God will not leave a husband or wife out of His plans for their spouse. Even though Mary and Joseph were not married yet, they were engaged, and God did not leave Joseph out of His plan.
“Then Joseph, being aroused from his sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him: he took [her to his side as] his wife.”
It sounds like the Angel, or the Holy Spirit, woke Joseph immediately from his sleep. Joseph did not pass it off as a crazy dream but acted on faith. Joseph then took Mary “to his side”. He didn’t lord over her or think himself beneath her but took her as his partner as God intended. He could have easily thought himself beneath her, after all she was carrying the Messiah, but he didn’t. He also could have become haughty because he was marrying the carrier of the Messiah, but again he didn’t. So many things could have gone wrong with Joseph but they didn’t. He kept himself humble before God and honored Him in his actions. Not only did Joseph “legitimize” Jesus, but he helped teach Jesus God’s word as He grew up.
Joseph was one part of God’s plan. Mary and Joseph, together, helped show a completed picture of God’s image in man. Joseph did so much more than teach Jesus carpentry. Joseph was also a key part for the prophesies of God to be fulfilled. Now that we’ve looked at Joseph, let’s look at the other person in God’s plan: Mary.
“Now in the sixth month [after that], the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth, to a girl never having been married and a virgin engaged to be married to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of the house of David; and the virgins name was Mary. And he came to her and said, Hail, o favored one [endued with grace]! The Lord is with you! Blessed (favored of God) are you before all other women! But when she saw him, she was greatly troubled and disturbed and confused at what he said and kept revolving in her mind what such a greeting might mean.”
I think what we fail to remember is that at this point, God had been silent for 400 years. Completely silent, not one word to a single person, and then BAM, He sends word through a personal messenger to three of the unlikeliest people. Mary was a young girl and probably wondered what significance she held, why hadn’t God appeared to someone…more? Someone older or with a more prominent position in society. What could this messenger mean, that God favored her, the very phrase implicating that God had been watching her closely. At Gabriel’s greeting, Mary probably thought of all the ways she had failed God. She probably wondered what God would want with a girl like her. But as Gabriel tells her, she was being met with the grace of God–which holds nothing against a person.
“And the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found grace (free, spontaneous, absolute favor and loving-kindness) with God. And listen! You will become pregnant and will give birth to a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus.”
God had looked at Mary’s heart and deemed her a person who was devoted to Him, a person that would help lead and guide His Son in His ways. Someone who would have faith enough to act on what others might call absurd, but what would make perfect sense to God.
“Then the angel said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you [like a shining cloud]; and so the holy (pure, sinless) Thing (Offspring) which shall be born of you will be called the Son of God.”
Jesus was pure and sinless because He was not bound by the sin of man–a curse that is passed down through the blood which comes from the child’s father.
“And listen! Your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is now the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment.”
The mention of Elizabeth was proof and confirmation for Mary that yes, this is God’s plan. With God, the things called impossible are possible. This was the answer to Mary’s question, “How can this be?” Because God was going to do this impossible thing and look, confirmation for you that God has already done this impossible thing recently.
“Then Mary said, Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be done to me according to what you have said. And the angle left her.”
Mary gave her permission. She knew all the trials that awaited her and still took that step of faith and told God, “Yes.” I believe that this is the moment the Holy Spirit came upon her and then did not leave her until Jesus was delivered nine months later.
“And she went to the house of Zachariah and, entering it, saluted Elizabeth. And it occurred that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud cry, and then exclaimed, Blessed (favored of God) above all other women are you! And blessed (favored of God) is the Fruit of your womb!”
It is no coincidence that Elizabeth greeted Mary as Gabriel did. It is how the Holy Spirit saw and identified Mary–Blessed and favored by God. At this point, Elizabeth would not have known Mary was pregnant, but the Spirit in Elizabeth knew the Spirit in Mary and it was by that Spirit that Elizabeth gained the knowledge of Who resided in Mary.
“And Mary said, My soul magnifies and extols the Lord, And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has looked upon the low station and humiliation of His handmaiden. For behold, from now on all generations [of al ages] will call me blessed and declare me happy and to be envied!”
Mary wasn’t just happy or excited, she as ecstatic to be carrying the Son. This may have been the first time that she was able to outwardly celebrate the blessing God had given her. Mary kept herself humble. She recognized that it wasn’t just future generations that would call her blessed but past generations, too. Mary was so excited that she couldn’t contain her joy any longer. I imagine her singing as she twirled in circles with her hands raised toward Heaven.
Want to read about Joseph and Mary for yourself?
Joseph’s part can be read in Matthew 1:18-25
Mary’s story can be found in Luke 1:26-56