Joseph’s consent to his divine calling is as significant as Mary’s consent to hers
A few weeks ago, perhaps in anticipation of the Christmas season, I read the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, with the story of the troubling situation in which Joseph finds himself when his betrothed, Mary, becomes pregnant, and how it it resolved by a dream in which an angel of God appears to him and explains that Mary is not pregnant as a result of fornication:
Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.And how does Joseph respond to this remarkable communication, or illusion?
Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.Joseph is presented with something that completely transcends ordinary, material knowledge. His betrothed, whom he he has not had relations, is pregnant. There is only one way that a woman can become pregnant. But in order for Mary to have become pregnant that way, she would have to be a gravely misbehaving young woman. So, even before the angel’s visitation, Joseph was loath to believe of her what the facts undeniable said of her, because he knew her character. Yet the facts remained undeniable, and he was looking for a way to end his betrothal to her, without humiliating her publicly.
When the angel tells him that the child in her was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that it is destined to be a savior to mankind, Joseph, instead of saying, “This is ridiculous,” believes it. He accepts the angel’s impossible statement about the nature of Mary’s pregnancy, and he obeys the angel’s call for him, Joseph, to take Mary as his wife. By doing these things, he accepts the revelation of a non-material, divine reality, and his own mission and role as the adoptive father of the savior.
Now Mary of course undergoes a similar and much more famous confrontation in the second chapter of Luke, when the angel Gabriel appears to her and says:
Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.Mary naturally has some questions about this:
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?Mary’s act of consent is not only the act which allows for the conception and birth of Jesus, it is also seen by Christianity as the archetypal act of faith, emulating Abraham’s perfect faith in Genesis, by which the Christian religion comes into being. Mary, like Abraham, is the perfect believer.
Now what occurred to me when I read the story of Joseph is that Joseph, by his act of faith in something that defied all material knowledge, and by his consent to a divine mission, is as much the perfect believer as Mary is. It is through Joseph’s perfect faith in God, his recognition and embrace of a higher reality, as much as through Mary’s, that Christ’s advent occurred in the way it did, and that the Christian religion was born.
Here is the story of Joseph, as told in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
Laura Wood writes:
In spiritual terms, every father is a surrogate father. That is why Joseph stands for something fundamental and almost inexpressibly important. By consenting to fatherhood, which involves assuming the role of protector and not simply begetting children, a man allows God to act in the human realm. Joseph threw open the door. His consent was not surrender. He decided to act.Kidist Paulos Asrat writes:
I beat you to this conclusion by about a couple of years. :).
Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 30, 2010 08:40 AM | Send