When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
(Matthew 1:24-25 ESV)
We previously learned that Joseph was a righteous man, who obeyed God as best he could. He was also a compassionate man who wanted the best for Mary even though he believed that she had betrayed him. Today we see further evidence of these character traits.
After the angel had explained everything to Joseph in a dream, he wasted no time. He took Mary as his wife as the angel of the Lord had commanded him. The word “took” in the original Greek is παραλαμβανο (pronounced: par-al-am-ban’-o) which means “to associate with; to not reject”. Joseph had been contemplating rejecting Mary, albeit discreetly. But when you’re visited by an angel, you tend to do what the angel tells you to do (not that I’ve had this experience myself).
This verse implies that Joseph did not wait until the original wedding date but instead married Mary earlier than scheduled. This was probably best for Mary. Joseph obeyed the angel by marrying Mary and also by giving the baby the name Jesus. This continues the pattern we saw previously in Joseph: he acted with compassion while at the same time being obedient to God.
I think these two character traits should describe every one of God’s children – those of us who have put our faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins [John 1:12]. First, we should seek to be obedient to God at all times and at all costs. By obeying God and marrying Mary, Joseph was setting himself up for a life-time of ridicule. We know that 30 years later people were still cynical about who Jesus’ father was [John 8:41]. I’m sure Joseph and Mary endured plenty of snide remarks. But he was willing to live with that as it was more important for him to please God than to please man or himself [Proverbs 3:5-6; Matthew 6:10].
Second, just like Joseph we should also act with compassion towards others while being obedient to God. I think sometimes we think these are mutually exclusive behaviors and we get in the habit of being too stern with other people in the name of godly obedience. But Joseph demonstrates that we can do both at the same time. When we are kind to others we not only benefit them but we benefit our self as well [Proverbs 11:17].
Finally, even though Joseph married Mary early, he knew her not (did not have sex with her) until she had given birth. This in itself was more obedience on Joseph’s part. But notice the word “until” – it is important here. It tells us that once Jesus was born Joseph and Mary had a normal and complete marital relationship.
The Catholic church erroneously teaches that Mary remained a virgin her entire life. But the Bible clearly contradicts that here in this verse as well as other verses which identify other children she and Joseph had [Matthew 13:55-56; Luke 8:19]. We’ll read some of these verses later on in Matthew’s gospel.
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