The crisis of Joseph

When Mary’s pregnancy became obvious, Matthew’s gospel shifts focus to Joseph and his personal crisis. Matthew 1:19 tells us “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man, and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” You see, Joseph and Mary were not married in the sense that we think of marriage. In fact, no vows at all had been taken at any altar.

They had yet to consummate the marriage sexually because we also see in Matthew 1:25 that Joseph “had no union with her until she gave birth” to Jesus. So how was marriage done differently back then? In ancient Jewish culture, marriages were preceded by a period of betrothal called in Hebrew elrusin. I don’t want any of you to confuse elrusin with engagement because the two are very different. You see, ancient betrothal was formed when people took marriage oaths that were considered legally binding to the point that if you broke them, you had to have a divorce first, even though you weren’t technically married.

Elrusin was celebrated with a feast, a large party. Sometimes the groom would give the future bride a ring or some type of jewelry. You see, in those days, a wedding was a process, not an event on one day. When you changed your mind and backed out you had to pay a legal fine to the local courts. Backing out was a very serious matter. Marriage was never supposed to be the way it is in today’s world. Back then, you were generally set to be married to someone, and pre-marital sex with anyone else was adultery and punishable by being stoned to death.

If you think that is a brutal fact, you should consider today’s divorce rate and how the brutal divorces in our world are on children for the rest of their lives.

Now the story gets good. Joseph notices Mary is pregnant, or is told by her. He loves her deeply, she is already his wife by the law. Their families are already intertwined because they are already in the wedding, even if they actual date has yet to happen. Remember, a wedding was a process back then. An angel, probably Gabriel, visits Joseph to give him the facts of the situation, and what does Joseph do? What would today’s modern young guy do? Probably bail out, but Joseph stayed.

If you are or know a young man who could be a Joseph today, or even if in your personal life, you need some Joseph-Faith or Joseph-Mercifulness, take the lessons learned from Joseph and apply them to your lives.



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