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Joseph Did You Know? - Matthew 1:18-25

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At Christmastime, Mary gets most of the press after Jesus. It's understandable, since she was the only virgin to give birth. But Joseph is rather sidelined. So today we'll try to see the announcement of Jesus' birth through his eyes. His range of emotions follows a stressful gamut. But his example is helpful to any who receive hard-to-hear news.

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12/11/2011
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Joseph Did You Know?
Matthew 1:18-25
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
At Christmastime, Mary gets most of the press after Jesus. It's understandable, since she was the only virgin to give birth. But Joseph is rather sidelined. So today we'll try to see the announcement of Jesus' birth through his eyes. His range of emotions follows a stressful gamut. But his example is helpful to any who receive hard-to-hear news.
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Jesus: Celebrating All That He Is

Jesus: Celebrating All That He Is

In this special series, Pastor Skip Heitzig offers a fresh look at the familiar story of Jesus' birth. As we consider Christmas from various vantage points, we receive a valuable reminder that He should be the center of not only our celebrations, but of our lives.

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Outline

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  1. Excitement "Mary was betrothed to Joseph" (v. 18a)

  2. Shock "Mary...was found with child" (v. 18b)

  3. Bewilderment "Not wanting to make her a public example" (v. 19)

  4. Fear "Do not be afraid" (v. 20)

  5. Resolve "Joseph...did as the angel of the Lord commanded" (v. 24)

Detailed Notes

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  1. Introduction
    1. The culture
      1. Patriarchal, male-dominated
      2. Women important, but not celebrated as men were
      3. Today, equality is more common
    2. Besides Jesus, Mary the center of the Christmas story
      1. Virgin who birthed the Savior
      2. Christmas Carols
        1. "Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?" Mary, Did you Know? by Mark Lowry
        2. "What Child is this, who laid to rest on Mary's lap is sleeping?"  What Child Is This? by William Chatterton Dix
        3. "Silent night, holy night all is calm, all is bright Round yon Virgin Mother and Child" Silent Night by Joseph Mohr
        4. "I have traveled many moonless nights, cold and weary with a babe inside. And I wonder what I've done Holy Father you have come and chosen me now to carry Your Son." Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song) by Amy Grant
        5. "Gentle Mary laid her Child, lowly in a manger; There He lay, the undefiled, to the world a Stranger." Gentle Mary Laid Her Child by Joseph Simpson Cook
        6. "Joseph: The Face in the Background" by John Schmidt
    3. Matthew presents Joseph's unique perspective
      1. Genealogical record of Joseph: The legal qualifications for Jesus as Messiah
      2. Luke presents the genealogical record of Mary
    4. The problem
      1. We are familiar with the story
      2. We fail to see it uniquely from a different perspective
    5. Background
      1. Joseph and Mary were young people
        1. Probably not even 20 years old
        2. Girls engaged by 12 or 13
        3. Girls Married by 13 or 14
        4. Married at home and started having children
        5. Boys were a bit older, some cases much older
  2. Excitement “Mary was betrothed to Joseph” (v. 18a)
    1. Joseph in love with Mary
      1. Mary a common name: after Miriam, Moses' sister
      2. She loved him
      3. Exciting time of life
    2. Betrothed
      1. Two stages
        1. Kiddushin - betrothal
        2. Chuppah - marriage ceremony
      2. Arranged marriage
        1. When the children were young
        2. Parents signed a contract
      3. Groom's parents paid a dowry
        1. Defray the cost of the wedding
        2. Insurance in case the couple split up
      4. Betrothal ceremony
        1. About one year prior to the marriage ceremony
        2. At the synagogue; name and date recorded
        3. Called husband and wife
        4. Legally married
        5. No physical contact whatsoever (consummate after the wedding)
        6. The couple gets to know each other, build a foundation
        7. Divorce the only way out
        8. Formal commitment, like marriage
      5. Marriage followed betrothal; about one year later
      6. Joseph thinking about the honeymoon
    3. Joseph a carpenter
      1. "Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary?" (Mark 6:3)
      2. Τέκτων; tekton - craftsman
      3. Worked in stone, metal, and wood
      4. Probably a stone mason who also worked with wood
  3. Shock “Mary…was found with child” (v. 18b)
    1. Before they came together
      1. Joseph had never touched her
      2. No physical relationship at all
    2. Joseph: a just man
      1. A man of integrity
      2. Sexual purity held in high regard
    3. Mary's shock
      1. "Then Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I do not know a man?'" (Luke 1:34)
      2. She was told she was going to be pregnant
      3. "Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth." (Luke 1:39-40)
        1. Mary goes to see Elizabeth
        2. No mention of her parents (perhaps they had died)
        3. Because conception was impossible for Elizabeth, she would understand
      4. Mary had three months to process the news: "And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house." (Luke 1:56)
    4. Joseph had no time to process
      1. He dreams of the future
      2. Mary (probably) tells him the news
      3. From that moment, trust and intimacy compromised
    5. Carpenters a practical group of people; challenge for Joseph
  4. Bewilderment “Not wanting to make her a public example” (v. 19)
    1. Joseph a just man; a man of integrity
    2. Joseph's three choices
      1. Publicly shame her
        1. Bring her before the synagogue
        2. Marked
        3. Old Testament: stoned
        4. New Testament: Roman rule; Jews no longer had the right of capital punishment
      2. Divorce privately
        1. Produce a document
        2. Signature of two witnesses
      3. Get married
      4. Today there would be another option: abortion
        1. Not in Jewish society at that time
        2. Life viewed as holy; a gift from God
    3. Joseph decided to divorce her privately
      1. He loves Mary
      2. He is just and merciful
      3. To preserve his own righteous, he doesn't move forward initially
  5. Fear “Do not be afraid” (v. 20)
    1. Wrestling with thoughts, weary, fell asleep
    2. Dreams
      1. Dream every night
        1. Some remember dreams
        2. Some do not
      2. We deal with thoughts differently when we are awake
      3. Common dreams
        1. Falling: feel anxiety; fear of losing control
        2. Being chased: feel threatened; in danger
        3. Shackled, unable to move: feel we lack freedom
    3. Joseph's dream
      1. Different sort of dream
      2. Probably the angel Gabriel
      3. "Do not be afraid" (v. 20)
        1. In Greek, stop an action already going on
        2. Better translation: "Stop your fearfulness"
    4. Joseph's fears
      1. What would people say?
      2. What would relatives say?
      3. What would become of Mary?
    5. The angel gave Joseph essentially the same message given to Mary
  6. Resolve “Joseph…did as the angel of the Lord commanded” (v. 24)
    1. Courage and Commitment: He is going through with the marriage
      1. Woke up
      2. Obeyed
      3. Got married as soon as possible
    2. He made a lifelong commitment
    3. "And did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus." (v. 25)
      1. No physical sexual relationship with Mary until after the birth
      2. Never let it be said he had anything to do with what God was doing in Mary's womb
    4. He took her to Bethlehem
      1. Herod was killing babies
      2. Risked his own life and his family's lives
    5. Flees to Egypt for two years
      1. Gives up his career and life in Nazareth
      2. Lives as a fugitive
    6. Returns to Nazareth to start again
      1. Gossip never ended
        1. "We were not born of fornication;" (John 8:41) (intimating Jesus was)
        2. "We have one Father—God"
          1. We know who our Father is
          2. Implied Jesus did not know who His father was
  7. Application
    1. Families work best when Jesus is at the center
    2. The best decisions are often the hardest
    3. The world needs more men of integrity
    4. What does your life revolve around? Jesus or self?

Hebrew terms: Kiddushin - the betrothal; Chuppah - the marriage ceremony
Greek terms: Τέκτων; tekton - craftsman
Publications referenced: Mary, Did you Know? by Mark Lowry;  What Child Is This? by William Chatterton Dix; Silent Night by Joseph Mohr; Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song) by Amy Grant; Gentle Mary Laid Her Child by Joseph Simpson Cook; "Joseph: The Face in the Background" by John Schmidt
Cross References: Luke 1:34; Luke 1:39-40; Luke 1:56; Mark 6:3

Transcript

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Let's pray.  Lord, thank You that You allow us to revisit the scene that we know so well from previous Christmases and in our mind's eye we have seen it so many times.  Forgive us that it's so familiar that perhaps some of us have lost the wonder of it.  But today Lord, we marvel that in and through it all of the players involved, the grand truth is You have sent Your Son into this world, the Lord Jesus Christ that You so loved the world that You gave Him for us.  We celebrate that.  Though we may not know precisely when He came, we know that He came and that's enough for us to say thank You Lord.  We do that in Jesus' name.  Amen.

You know that in ancient societies, ancient cultures, men were predominant.  It was a patriarchal culture.  Women were important but they weren't celebrated as much as men were.  They were often a back burner segment of the culture.  We also know that things have changed.  Today, life is different thankfully that there's more of an equality that is seen and enjoyed, but perhaps it has spun the other direction a bit more than it should.  I noticed maybe because I'm a guy that men and husbands are the brunt of a lot of jokes.  And we dismiss it because after all it's sort of like payback for generations.

For example, one woman who was asked, "Where did you meet your husband?"  She said, "That would be at a travel agency."  She goes, "I needed a vacation and he was the last resort."  What's frightening is some of you women are writing that down thinking, "That's such a good joke.  I'm going to share that."

Or the little kid who was asked about Father's Day and he goes, "I know what that is.  It's just like Mother's Day only you don't spend as much for the gift."  That's probably true.  I heard about a woman who was looking for a husband.  She was very particular as to what she wanted.  She went to a computer dating service, online dating service called perfectmate.com and she entered in what she wanted.  She was looking for somebody short, somebody who like to wear formal attire and somebody who is into water sports.  So the computer sent her a penguin, perfect.

I feel that some of that has been done to the Christmas story.  When it comes to the Christmas story, when it comes to the characters of the story besides Jesus, the one who gets top billing is usually Mary.  And she should in the sense that she was a virgin who birth the Savior into the world.  I get that, I understand that.  I guess I would just like a little equal time here.  And so I'm calling this message, "Joseph did you know?"  It's a take off of the song.  And by the way speaking of songs, have you noticed how many songs there are about Mary?  Have you noticed that?  Let me ask you this question.  Can you think of a Christmas carol just about Joseph?

Oh, I'll read you a few that you're familiar with.  "Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?"  You know that song.  Well, couldn't Joseph have known anything?  What about this?  "What child is this who lay to rest on Mary's lap?"  Didn't Joseph have one too?  I mean, my baby boy sat on my lap when he was a baby.  Or "Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.  Round yon virgin mother and child."  It's like, we've got a nativity set and we go, "What will we do with Joseph?"

I mean, he had no part in bringing the child into the world.  Put him back by the shepherds or with the camels or something.  Another song is "Breath of Heaven."  It's called, "Mary's Song."  Mary's Song.  "I have travelled many moonless nights, cold and weary with a babe inside and I wonder what I've done.  Holy Father you have come and chosen me now to carry your Son."

What an honor that was for Mary.  I do not take away anything from her status, simply to say that the wonder and privilege of Joseph to care for her and to raise Jesus should also be considered.  Another Christmas song, "Gentle Mary."  "Gentle Mary laid her child lowly in a manger.  There He lay, the undefiled to the world a stranger."  Gentle Mary.  What about gentle Joseph?  Not even mentioned.

Another one, "Mary's Boy."  "Mary's boy child Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day and men will live forever because of Christmas Day."  One preacher that I found saw this as so blatant and oversight that he wrote a sermon for Christmas that he called "Joseph, The Face in the Background."  I want to bring that face to the foreground today.  Our ladies did a great job last week in celebration of light talking about Mary's Christmas.  I want to talk about Joseph's.

I'll have you turn to the Gospel of Matthew because Matthew, unlike Luke is about Joseph.  It's about Jesus but it's from Joseph's unique experience and perspective.  For example, Luke shows the genealogical record of Mary.  Matthew includes the genealogical record of Joseph because you would have to show for messing on a qualification, the legal qualification.  And Joseph, though he was not the father of Jesus, he was the stepfather but he provides the legal qualifications.  So in Verse 16 of Chapter 1, Jacob begot Joseph, it says, who was the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus.

I'll take you to our text, Verse 18.  We begin of Matthew 1.  "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."  And then Joseph, her husband being a just man and not wanting to make her a public example was minded to put her away secretly.  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 will call His name Jesus for He will save His people from their sins."

So all these was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet saying, "Behold the virgin shall be with child and bear a son and they will call His name Immanuel which is translated God with us."  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 until she had brought forth her first born son and he called His name Jesus.

We are so familiar with this story.  That's our problem.  We have the manger scene in our heads.  We know how it went down and the problem is the familiarity with it that we fail to see it uniquely from one angle or another angle.  I hope to correct that a little bit today.  Joseph had a front row seat.  He was there.  And we will look at today the journey that he took emotionally during the scene, how he goes from excitement to shock, to bewilderment, to fear, to resolve.  All of that is found in the text.

Now, here's just a little background before we get into these emotional states.  First of all understand the experience that Joseph and Mary had, they had as young people.  They were not in their 30's.  They were not in their 40's.  They probably weren't even in their 20's.  At least Mary, she was quite young.  Two thousand years ago in Israel, girls were engaged by age 12 or 13.  Get your head around that.  They were fully married by age 13 or 14.  I mean married at home and soon to have babies at age 13 to 14.  That's very difficult for us to conceive.  You go, "No way, not ready for it."  Boys were probably older, in some cases much older.  But Mary and Joseph faced what they're facing as young people.

Now, let's look at the first stage.  Let's begin with the most natural phase.  I think it's suggested in Verse 18, by the word betrothed when it says in that verse, "Mary was betrothed to Joseph."  I'll explain betrothed in a minute but let's just look at it this way, Joseph was in love with Mary.  Mary, a common name, named after Miriam of the Old Testament, Moses' sister.  Joseph loved her and she loved Joseph.  And they became what we would call engaged, in that word betrothed.

Now if you're married, I want you to think back, go back in your mind, to when you were engaged.  How exciting was that?  Some of you have to really go back and dig the emotional soil up a little bit and get in touch with those feelings but just try, go with me on this.  Remember how excited it was when you were engaged?  I remember when I was engaged.  I was scared to death.  I was that excited.  In fact, my wife and I were talking about this at lunch yesterday.

I fumble through asking her to marry me.  I've told you this before but I don't even remember asking her to marry me, that's how scared I was.  I asked her and I know this because she told me I asked her and it was my intention to ask her.  But I kept rambling and rambling and rambling and finally she waved her hand and she said, "Yo, Skip."  I said, "Yes?"  I said, "You said yes to what?"  "You just asked me to marry you and I said yes, I will marry you."

Now this I do remember.  When she told me that, it's like I woke up.  And I took a step back and I said, "Now, wait a minute."  Can you imagine how she must have felt?  I said, "We've got to talk this through.  This is a big thing."  Joseph and Mary were excited.  They were betrothed.  Now people don't get betrothed today.  Do you remember your betrothal?  No, you never had one.

So let me take you back to their custom.  A couple thousand years ago, there were two stages of a Jewish marriage.  Number one was called the kiddushin or the betrothal.  The second was called the huppah.  That's the wedding ceremony itself but it was a ceremony followed by a week of celebration.  Think of hoopla and you'll think of huppah, that's the wedding.  Typically, couples were spoken for by their parents who arranged their weddings far and advanced.  They were little kids.  They didn't even know each other necessarily.  Mom and dad would say, "You've got a cute little girl.  I've got a handsome young boy.  Let's engage them."

A contract was signed at an early age between parents.  Once it was agreed upon, the family of the groom would give the family of the bride a payment of money, a dowry called a mohar in Hebrew.  The payment was to defray the future cost of the wedding, number one.  Number two, to be an insurance policy in case the groom would dump the bride and she would be left penniless.  It was a nest egg just for that insurance purpose.

So whatever happened, Joseph was spoken for with Mary.  About a year before the wedding ceremony, they entered into the betrothal.  They would go down to the synagogue, picture young Joseph, young Mary going down to the synagogue.  There is the Rabbi.  Their names are written down.  The date is written down.  They are formally betrothed which means they will be called husband and wife.

In fact in the text, this is before the wedding, they are called husband and wife in the text.  They are legally married though they have no physical intimacy whatsoever.  They don't consummate the marriage until after the wedding itself.  But they are formally married.  This betrothal period is a way to get to know each other and build a foundation until the wedding itself.  The only way to get out of the betrothal is a certificate of divorce.  Now, it's very different today.  People get engaged and they may or may not go through with the engagement. I know many people have been engaged, engagement breaks up.  They realize, "No, this isn't going to work.  Let's call it quits."  And it's really not a big deal.  It happens all the time.

And sometimes the guy gets the ring back and sometimes he does not.  So what?  2,000 years ago, that would be front page news.  I heard about a girl named Dianne who loved a boy named Tom.  They got engaged.  This is recent.

She gave to him a picture on the back, it was a picture of her.  On the back it said, "Dearest Tom, I love you.  I love you with all my heart.  My love for you grows everyday.  I will love you forever and ever into eternity.  Signed Diane, P.S at the bottom, if we ever break up, I want this picture back."  That's today.  That is not 2,000 years ago.  A betrothal was a formal commitment that was as good as being married.  Then 12 months later, that same couple would be back in the synagogue, name and date again and that time the ceremony would take place, the huppah and then the week of celebration that would follow it.

So this couple is betrothed.  They're excited.  Joseph is excited.  Joseph is thinking about the future.  Joseph is thinking like any young man would think before the wedding.  What is he thinking of?  The honeymoon, somebody had the guts enough to say that.  He is thinking the honeymoon.  Don't look at me that way, you know it's true.  He's a young man about to get married going, "I'm getting married.  I'm going to have a honeymoon.  It's awesome."  There is excitement.  And he is in his carpentry shop, I don't know.  I picture him carving out something that says, "Joseph loves Mary," chiseling that out on a piece of wood or something.

Incidentally Joseph, what did he do for a living?  What was he?  He said a carpenter.  And that is because, you say that and I say that because there's only one time the Bible hints of that and that is in Mark Chapter 6, "When Jesus in Nazareth is called the son of the carpenter."  Here is what you need to know about the word carpenter.  The word is tekton.  Tekton means a craftsman in general, a craftsman or a builder.  It usually refers to somebody who worked with hard materials, stone, metal, and wood.  I know you're thinking carpenter, nails, hammer, saw, wood.  Only problem with that is, 2000 years ago, nobody built anything with wood except maybe doors, window jams and a little bit of furniture.  All the homes were built out of stone.

So he was probably a stone mason, so I had to shatter your whole visage of Joseph.  A stone mason who also worked with wood, that was his tekton shop, his carpentry shop.  And he is working hard and dreaming about the future and planning a home with that young, beautiful teenage girl named Miriam.  Until one day, he gets some very troubling news.  Let's look at the second stage emotionally.  From excitement to shock, Verse 18, "Mary was betrothed to Joseph before they came together."  Now everyone in this room probably knows what that means.  It's before they have any kind of relationship physically at all before they came together.

She was found pregnant.  It says with child of the Holy Spirit.  Now this would be a shock.  It would be a shock to Joseph.  He never touched her.  He never had any physical relations at all with her.  That was Jewish law but also because of how he is described in Verse 19 as a just man or a righteous man or a man of integrity and because sexual purity was always a high standard, oh and by the way, still is in God's eyes. It's a high standard with God.  There is no relationship so you don't touch.  Joseph wouldn't go into any kind of physical, temptible situation with Mary at all, wouldn't even think of it, wouldn't be on his radar screen.

Mary herself is shocked in Luke's account when the angel Gabriel says, "Mary, you're going to have a baby."  Remember what she says?  She says, I'll paraphrase it, "Huh?  I don't get it."  Or in the New King James, "How can this be?  Seeing I have never known a man?"  She is shocked.  She has never had physical relations with anyone.  How could it possibly be?  So she is shocked when she hears it.  She has to tell Joseph.  We don't know how Joseph was told.  We don't know when Joseph was told, but I like to think about those things because again, we're looking at this through Joseph's eyes.  He is excited, betrothed, honeymoon, future, then comes the announcement, "Honey, I'm pregnant."

Now, here is my guess.  He did not get that announcement right away.  I don't picture Mary immediately rushing over to Joseph going, "I'm pregnant."  And I'll tell you why.  I believe it happened three months later.  I believe that Mary had three months to process this.  Joseph had no idea what was happening until three months pregnant and then she tells it.  I want to show you why.  Turn with me to the Gospel of Luke.  Let's take a Luke.  Yeah, I know.  I know.  Got to live with it now.  Verse 34, Luke Chapter 1.  Mary said to the angel, "How can this be since I do not know a man?"  There is your question.  The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you.  It's going to happen."  It has not happened yet.  It's going to happen.  And the power of the highest will overshadow you, therefore that Holy One who is to be born will be called Son of God.

Now indeed Elizabeth, her relative has also conceived a son in her old age and is now in the sixth month of her, it was called barren.  For with God nothing will be impossible.  And Mary said, "Behold, the maid servant of the Lord.  Let it be to me according to your Word."  And the angel departed from her.  Mary was told she was going to get pregnant.  It would be sort of weird for her to say, "Joseph, I'm going to get pregnant."  He would have said, "Yeah, like in a year or so."  So she gets this announcement.  She is stunned.  How is this possible?  But the angel also mentions her older relative, her older cousin who lives down south in Judea, Elizabeth.  And says she is old and barren and yet she is already six months pregnant.  So notice the next verse, Verse 39.

So Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, that means in a hurry.  It means quickly to a city of Judah and entered the house of Zachariah's and greeted Elizabeth.  As soon as she gets the announcement from the angel, Mary is thinking immediately, "Who do I talk to about this?"  Who do I process this with?"  It's interesting.  There is no mention of her parents.  You would think that she would immediately go to her mom and dad and say, "I've got to tell you this."  Maybe they weren't even alive.  I don't know.  But she must have thought, if there's one person on earth who will have some understanding of these things, it's a woman who has something similar happen and that is my older cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant and it was impossible for her to get pregnant, but she is.  I'm going to go talk to her.  So she goes.  So probably Mary goes into Joseph's shop, "Joseph, I'm taking a trip."  "Oh, where are you going?"  "I'm going to go visit my cousin.  She lives down toward Jerusalem, down in Judea."

"Oh, how long will you be gone?"  "I don't know but I've got to go."  "Okay, anything wrong, anything up?"  "Just pray for me Joseph.  Just pray for me."  Off she goes.  Now look at -- again, Luke Chapter 1, look at Verse 56.  "And Mary remained with her about how long?  Three months.  She is talking this over.  She has been processing this and at the same time her belly has been growing slightly.  She can now see it, first trimester, three months.  It's happening.  And so, she has time to process this individually, personally and with Elizabeth for three months.  In the meanwhile Joseph, making stuff, working hard, dreaming, excited, honeymoon, future, has no clue.

Three months later in walks, Mary to the carpentry shop.  She is back from Judah.  They embraced.  "Joseph, I have something to tell you.  I'm three months pregnant."  Now she has been gone for a few months.  What is Joseph thinking?  His mind begins to reel.  He goes from excitement to plummet, shocked.  "What?"  I don't know his reaction but I can almost guarantee you, his lip tightened.  He might have said, like a guy would, "All right, whatever."  Right?  I know this.  That from that moment on, their relationship was strained, right?

The intimacy was compromised.  The trust was compromised.  He went from excitement all the way to shock.  And she tells him the news.  She probably left crying.  He probably was left reeling in the shop.  I don't know if he had shop buddies that had left the room but certainly a guy like him, a tekton, a carpenter, a builder.  Have you ever worked around builders?  Some of you are builders.  I grew up, my dad was a builder and he would put me to work doing the grunt work, to clean up and stuff and it's a very interesting and I would say, practical group of people.  I'm painting with a broom here but they usually speak their minds and sometimes, in colorful language.  I imagined if Joseph had a carpenter buddy and he goes, "Oh man, what am I going to do.  Mary is pregnant."

One of his buddies would have said, "Dude, she's a loser.  If she would do this to you before you are married, can you imagine what she might do afterwards?  It's a good thing this happened to you now.  Loser, walk away from this."  Maybe another buddy would have said, "Joseph, come on dude 'fess up.  I've only seen you two together.  I've never seen her with anybody else."  Are you just pushing the blame on someone else and her?  If they weren't voiced to him or voiced around town.

And you know what it's like when you read a story and you're outside reading the story and because you're reading from the outside, you know certain things that are going on that the characters in the story don't.  So it's like, you go to a movie and there's a thief that breaks into the kitchen with a gun and hides in the kitchen closet and soon the owner of the house comes home and you know that the guy is in the closet, he doesn't.  And you want to shout to the screen, "He's in the closet."  And so, I'm reading this and I want to look over Joseph's shoulder and shout to him, "Read Luke Chapter 1.  You're still in Matthew 1.  Keep going."  Of course, it wasn't around for him to do.

There are certain things we know going on that Joseph has no idea what is happening.  He was shocked.  Some of you know what's it's like to be shocked.  You may have had a son or daughter, a teenager, a daughter coming home and say, "I'm pregnant."  How did you feel?  Do you go, "Oh, it's great.  Congratulations."  No, you did not.  Or a teenage boy who said, "I got her pregnant."  Or a boss who said the word, you hate the word, downsizing.

We're downsizing in our company which means you're out of a job.  Or the bank used the word, foreclosure or the doctor goes, "Well, we found something, a spot.  We would just like to investigate it."  You know what that feels like, it's shock.  So here's Joseph, whenever, however Mary told him, the news, picture it.  "Sweetheart, I'm three months' pregnant but I want you to know, it is of the Holy Spirit."  Do you think that did Joseph a whole lot of good at that point?  He probably went, "Right, yeah."  Let's look at the third stage.  Go back with me to Matthew Chapter 1 Verse 19 for the third stage emotionally is bewilderment.  Then Joseph, her husband being a just, the word means righteous or a man of integrity and not wanting to make her a public example was minded to put her away secretly but while he thought about these things, I'll just stop right there.

Joseph was in an awkward position.  Again, he hadn't processed any of this yet until now, he's processing it.  And he is confused.  He is bewildered.  He has been thinking future, home, joy, excitement.  Now he's thinking, "I've got a pregnant girlfriend, what do I do?"  What are his options?  In those days, he had three options.  Today we have four, I'll mention that.  But they have three options.  Number one, he could publicly shame her.  That is, she would be brought before the synagogue or the open square called "The Unfaithful One."  And she would be forever marked.  If it were Old Testament days, the law said, "You stone somebody for doing this.  You kill them with stones."  This is the New Testament, the Roman's rule.  They have taken away the right of capital punishment, that wouldn't happen.  But it would be public shame.  Option number two, you could divorce her privately, secretly.  All that was required is for the man to produce a document, hand written document.  I divorce Mary, have two witnesses.  It's done.  Option number three, he could stick with the commitment to walk through the betrothal period even though she's pregnant and it's not his baby and get married.

He decides option number two is best.  He doesn't want to do number one.  He loves Mary.  He has a compassionate heart.  He is just.  He is sweet.  He is merciful.  He genuinely loves her.  He doesn't want to do option number three, that is marry her and go on with this because he wants to preserve his own righteousness.  I didn't have anything to do with this.  So I'll do option number two.  It'll be a private, secret divorce.  Nobody will know at first.  Eventually, everybody will know but that's her problem, not mine.  That's what he chooses.  That's where he lands.  In his confusion, he lands on a private divorce.

Now, if this were today there would be a fourth option, that's abortion.  That was not even at all on the Jewish radar screen for thousands of years.  Life was seen as holy and gift of God and so that wasn't even considered.  So he chooses option number two and he is minded to put her away privately.  So excitement and then shock, then confusion or bewilderment, takes us to the fourth stage, which is interesting because it shows up at night time and that is fear, he is afraid.  Verse 20, "But while he thought about these things, pondered them, mold them over in his mind.  Behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream."  You know it's like when you have thoughts like this, they just wrestle with and distract normal thinking, you get weary, you get tired, you fall asleep and you dream.

Now dreams are interesting.  We typically dream every night, I'm told.  I've done a little bit of digging on this.  My wife dreams, she doesn't remember them but I do.  And she's very articulate.  I've had conversations where I've woken up because she would be saying something and I'll respond back to her and then she'll respond back to me.  She is in a dream.  I'll respond back to her and we'll have a conversation and she has no recollection at all the next day.  She's in a dream state.

But I usually know when she's dreaming because she gets vocal.  But a couple of weeks ago, middle of the night, I thought she had woken up but she was asleep.  She goes, "Sweetheart, I love you."  It was a nice thing to get woken up to.  I said, "Thank you, sweetheart.  I love you too."  She goes, "Oh no, I adore you."  Again I thanked her.  Maybe two, maybe five minutes later, she said, "Shut up and go to sleep!"  I said, "Who were you talking to?"  She goes, "I'm talking to you."  No recollection the next day of any of it happening.  It was precious.

Now when we sleep, we deal with thoughts differently than when we're awake.  You go home from your work day, from your life, you thought that you've dealt with things.  You put them in categories and then you go to sleep.  And you get woken up by a thought you believed you have dealt with but obviously you haven't because it says, "Hello, here I am."  And sometimes, you wake up with fear.  I did a little dream research, a couple of different websites and the most common dreams people have, there are several, there is like a list of 10 but some of the most common fearful dreams are falling.  They were falling in their dream.  They are falling somewhere.  It typically is an anxiety-related dream.  It shows the fear of losing control of some part of your life.

Another common dream is you're being chased in a dream.  Someone is always chasing you.  You're always running.  And that is, when you believe some part of your life to be threatened or in danger.  Then there are dreams where you're shackled, where you can't move and again, it's like you feel like you're being pushed into a corner by someone else or a decision that is being made and you lack the freedom.  This dream was very different.  It wasn't just Joseph dealing with his thoughts though he might have had those dreams too.  God took advantage of his dream and entered it by an angel, probably the same angel that went to Mary, the angel Gabriel.  Angel appeared to him in a dream saying, "Joseph, son of David," interesting term to use.

"Do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit."  And he is thinking, "That's exactly what Mary said."  "And she will bring forth a son and you will call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.  All this was done that it might be fulfilled which is spoken of by the prophet."  This dream was enough to talk Joseph off the ledge but he was afraid, that's why the angel said, "Do not be afraid."  In the Greek language, the way it's written, it means to stop an action already going on, a better translation would be, "Stop your fearfulness."  Now, you don't say that unless the person is afraid.  He was afraid.  What was he afraid of?  He was probably afraid of the consequences of divorcing Mary. What are people going to say?  What are my relatives going to say?  We've been planning this wedding.  What's going to become of Mary?  I love her.  She is out on her own.  How will she raise this child?  All of those things became night time fears.  And the angel talked Joseph off the ledge, said, "Its okay buddy.  It's all right."  And the same message the angel gave to Mary essentially came to Joseph.

God has done this.  This is the Holy Spirit.  Now, let's look at the final stage emotionally for Joseph.  He goes from excitement to shock to bewilderment to fear then he wakes up with resolved courage, commitment, no wavering.  He's going to go through with it, Verse 24.  "Then Joseph being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife."  Notice the verbs, he woke up.  He obeyed.  He got married.  He has resolved.  He has resolved to go to the rabbi and say, "We need to get married ASAP, now."  Now the Rabi is probably going, "Ahh.."  He knew that something was up especially since after that, Mary would be wearing looser clothes, maternity clothes and all of that, very busy neighbors would be talking about that around Nazareth but he was resolved.

I told you how fearful I was when I asked my wife to marry me.  I really wasn't resolved until I walked up to the altar to get married.  I mean, I woke up on my wedding day.  I woke up on my wedding day saying, "I can still get out of this."  I was mortified to make such a commitment that I knew was a lifetime commitment.  I've never made a lifetime commitment in anything.  But I remember the resolve of putting on the shoes and the tuxedo and the shoes were a size and a half too small but whatever.  I'm going to walk that aisle.  Now you want to see the resolve in Joseph?  You want to see how a guy goes from shock to bewilderment to fear to resolve?  Look at Verse 25, it says it all.  And Joseph did not know her, that has have any physical, sexual relations.  He did not know her until she had brought forth her firstborn son and called his name Jesus.

Men think of that.  Men think of that.  You're excited for your wedding.  You're wedding is coming up.  You've been looking forward to this day.  Your girlfriend is pregnant.  You had nothing to do with it.  She is going to have a baby that is not your baby.  And then you're going to say, "You know what, I love you so much.  I won't touch you."  Now imagine Joseph said probably something like this, "Mary, I am so committed to this baby being born.  I had the dream like you had the dream.  I'm so committed to this baby being born.  I never want it said that I had anything to do with what God has been doing in you.  I won't touch you until after the baby's born."  Months of cold showers.

Don't look at me like that again.  That's the reality.  That's commitment.  Take another step further in a different direction.  Not only that he would take her to Bethlehem where the baby would be born, that's in the jurisdiction of Herod the Great. The wise men would tip him off that a baby has been born.  He will kill the babies of Bethlehem.  So now, he is risking his life and his family's life, take it a step further.  When he hears that, where does he flee for two years?  Egypt, two years.

He gives up his career in Nazareth, his life in Nazareth as a carpenter for two years.  Now he's a fugitive for two years then he would go back to Nazareth after two years, start all over again.  And be around the same people who knew them, who could put dates together.  "Oh, that's when she got pregnant.  Yeah, the baby is how old now?"  Interesting.

And that kind of gossipy talk and people who gossip, they don't care about facts.  They just try to string things together and behind your back say things.  He would go back to the town that would gossip about them and by the way, that gossip never ended.  Did you know that?  Did you know that Jesus, when he was growing up, even the Pharisees said things like this to Jesus, "We are not born of fornication."  Why would they say that?  Because they're intimating he was.  On another occasion, the Pharisees would say, "We know who our father is."  As if to say, "Who is yours?  Some soldier?"  All of that was a slight on his character and Joseph had to live with that.  He had to adjust his whole life around Jesus, a child he had nothing to do with bringing into this world, that's resolve.

Let me close quickly with just three take-away points, three life lessons.  Number one, families work best when Jesus is at the center.  Families work best when Jesus is at the center, think of Joseph's family.  He would stare into that face, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  He would stare into that face year after year, a face that didn't look anything like his face.  He had nothing to do with the birth of this child, except that he would provide.

Before it was, Mary and I are getting married.  It's all about him and them.  Now it's suddenly about him, Jesus.  Their whole life is revolved around Jesus.  He is not the star of this family, neither is Mary for that matter, Jesus is.  And I wish there were more families where husbands and wives would make Jesus the center, the star.  The one their life revolves around because he entered their family.  Here is the second take-way point, the best decisions in life are often the hardest decisions in life.

I want to touch on a philosophy that I find many Christians have that is wrong thinking.  It goes like this, "If it's God's will, it's going to be real easy. Or if it's God's will, it's just going to flow.  Things are just going to pop right into place and it's going to flow so easily, that's God's will.  Why?  Because it was easy.  Really?  Really, do you think that?  You know what the easiest thing for Joseph would be to do was?  Walk away.  Divorce her privately, leave town, leave her on her own.  He didn't do that.  He made the righteous choice.  Sometimes the hardest choices are exactly the choice God wants you to make.

And so moms and dads in a marriage, got to get me on the thing of, "Well, I'm right.  I want to be right."  Why don't you be righteous instead of always being right.  What's the righteous thing to do?  What does God want me to do?  The third and the final take-away lesson is this, the world needs more men of integrity.  Joseph Verse 19, was a just man, righteous man, a man of integrity.  He would become the provider for the child, the partner to this woman and the worshipper of God.  Emmanuel, God with us.

We need more men who will be partners and providers and worshippers of God to lead families, more than any other time in our history as a nation, we need them.  Final question, what does your life revolve around?  Now you don't have to answer that question to anybody around you.  You just have to answer that in your own little mind, your own heart.  What does your life revolve around?  Does it really revolve around Jesus or does it revolve around you, your plan, your future, your comfort?  Because as I read it, when Jesus enters a life, life is to revolve around him.  God isn't some item on a shelf that we add to our lives.  Our lives change and revolve around Him.  Would you join me in prayer?

Father in heaven, we have considered Joseph, this amazing, marvelous man.  We're amazed Lord at his commitment, his resolve to be the one chosen by you, to be the provider and caretaker of a woman who is pregnant, though a virgin.  And to enter into the scene and to believe that and to support her in that and not to be critical of that, to embrace her in that.  Lord I pray that you would speak today also to stepfathers and encourage them, to foster fathers, to all fathers.  Show how important that role is in a culture of absentee dads and fatherless kids.  And Lord I pray that you would free us men, free us to be affirming, forgiving, free us to be outwardly loving and encouraging, gracious, merciful like you are as our Father.  Lord, I pray for anyone here today who doesn't know Jesus personally.  They've entered into a season where they just want to get through it, sort of a hassle to them.  I pray that they would pause during this season and place Jesus at the center of their lives, everything would change as a result.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

Additional Messages in this Series

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12/4/2011
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Can Christmas Lead You To Christ?
Skip Heitzig
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Lots of people make a lot of fuss about Christmas. Some love this time of year (myself included). Others hate it or are opposed to its celebration. Some couch their disdain in “spiritual” reasons, saying some of us have capitulated to the world's celebration of a pagan holiday. Oh, really? Is it true? And if so, can Christmas lead you to Christ?
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12/18/2011
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Occupy Bethlehem!
Luke 2:1-20
Skip Heitzig
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During the last quarter of this year, much of the news has been about a growing movement in America and around the world--"The Occupy Movement." Crowds of assembled protestors have gathered to object to perceived corporate and government mismanagement. Two millennia ago, a heavenly movement was afoot to occupy the small Judean town of Bethlehem. Let's see why.
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12/24/2011
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How The Grinch Almost Stole Christmas - Christmas Eve 2011
Revelation 12:1-5
Skip Heitzig
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In the classic tale How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, the hard-hearted Grinch attempts to steal Christmas from Whoville. The Grinch couldn't stand the joyous celebrations, the laughter, and the love—and he went to extreme lengths to prevent them. Throughout history, there has been a real Grinch working behind the scenes to rob the world of the only true source of joy and love—Jesus Christ. Let's consider the cosmic battle between heaven and hell, and God's plan to wash away sin and provide everlasting life.
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12/25/2011
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Christmas Day Celebration
Skip Heitzig
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It's not easy for us to find the perfect gift. It's difficult to know the right size, the right flavor, or even the right packaging. But God knows exactly what we need—a Savior. Join us as we celebrate the greatest gift ever given: Jesus Christ.
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There are 4 additional messages in this series.