Joseph Adopted Jesus
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
When Joseph woke, the world looked different. This dream was more than a dream. It meant all his dreams had come true (Phillips). His burden was lifted, he could marry his beloved Mary, and of all David’s sons, he was the chosen one.
Matt. 1:24a (Holman) When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the
Lord’s angel had commanded him.
Joseph’s prompt compliance was no less amazing than Mary’s. He obeyed the angel at once. Instant obedience is the only obedience that ultimately counts. Delayed obedience is disobedience. Always obey God’s known will immediately.
Matt. 1:24b-25a He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son.
Matthew, determined to be crystal clear that the virgin birth happened, went out of his way to make his meaning unambiguous. Joseph and Mary, yielding to holiness and restraining natural desires, were not intimate till after Jesus was born.
“Until” implies they began normal conjugal relations after Jesus’ birth. We know Mary had other children. Jesus was one of at least 7 siblings (Mark 6:3).
Jesus was raised in a home, not a convent (Glover). He grew up in the real world, knew the love and wrangling of siblings, the joys and trials of a home. He was made like us, even in the detail of knowing what everyday family life is like.
The One who made all things entered His self-made world. The Creator, taking on the form of a creature, became one with the dust He used to create us.
The self-existent One became dependent. He had indwelt the burning bush as the fire which needed no fuel to burn, but now became a helpless newborn.
The Almighty became tired. This must have been a strange feeling. The Content felt discontent. “But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes”–good poetry, but bad theology. Jesus cried like other babies do. He soiled His clothes and nursed at His mother’s breast. He was born into our existence, He was one of us.
Matt. 1:25b And he named Him Jesus.
Joseph, by naming the baby, acknowledged and accepted his assigned role as the child’s father. Joseph adopted Jesus. Mary and her firstborn son were hereby assured of having the protection and care they needed.
Thank you, Joseph. We owe you a debt of gratitude. Our churches need more believers like Joseph, people willing to take the second place.
Being an adoptive father did not diminish Joseph’s parental role. In God’s eyes, Joseph was as much a father legally as a birth-father would have been. The Bible stresses this. Luke said both Joseph and Mary were “His parents”; to Jesus, Mary said of Joseph and herself, “Your father and I” (LK 2:41,43,48).
Why all this commotion? Who was this child over whom all the fuss was made? Before He came among us, He was called YHWH, Second Person of the Trinity, the angel of the Lord. The name reserved till His enfleshment was Jesus.
The name marks an event so momentous–the humanization of God–that it will never cease to be loved and memorialized. The name God took when He came here in flesh, He still takes in Heaven. At the end of Revelation (22:16) He refers to Himself as “I, Jesus.”
Jesus, the name we treasure, will never cease to be used. It will always be His. The name Jesus will identify Him forever, and we will cherish it forever.
“This name Jesus is honey in the mouth, harmony in the ear, melody in the heart” (St. Bernard). A poet wrote, “Sweetest note in seraph song, Sweetest name on mortal tongue; Sweetest carol ever sung, Jesus, blessed Jesus” (Wm. Hunter).
Jesus is the name above every name, the name at which every knee shall bow. No other response can ever be appropriate for the God who came among us.
This Christmas season, let’s remember His humble condescension begs to be imitated by all who call themselves His followers. In 1732 two ordinary men left Copenhagen to become the first Moravian missionaries. They were common laborers. John Leonard Dober was a potter, David Nitschman a carpenter. Leaving the dock, they called back to family and friends, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.”
They went to the West Indies to preach to the slaves, but could not get near them. The slaves were driven to the fields early in the morning, and returned home late at night with only enough strength left to fall into bed. Dober and Nitschman had no opportunity to teach. The slaves had no energy to learn.
The missionaries were also thwarted by another huge, frustrating barrier. The slaves associated the two men with the slave owners, whom the slaves hated.
Dober and Nitschman brokered a deal with the masters. The two were told they could go into the fields every day with the slaves, work beside them, preach to them all day long, and live with them at night, on this condition. The missionaries had to work as hard and long as the slaves did. Any reduction in work due to their presence would result in their expulsion from the West Indies.
The work was brutal; conditions terrible. In 18 months, Dober was dead. Nitschman, with his last reserves of strength, sent word he did not think he could last much longer without help. Eighteen young Moravian men came to help. Due to the foundation laid by Dober and Nitschman, they were able to start a church.
By placing themselves in the slaves’ condition, by living as they lived, by suffering what they suffered, and yes, for one of them, by dying their death, the missionaries followed the example of Jesus, who came among us, who lived our life, who suffered our sufferings, who died our death. Merry Christmas.