Joseph and Mary, Part One
Scriptures from Matthew and Luke 

Good Morning to all of God’s People from the Voices of Hope Evangelistic Team!   It’s such a blessing to be able to worship with you today wherever you are!  I thank God for the opportunity to serve Him and to share His message with the world through today’s technology!   

We’re continuing our series on Couples in the Bible and today we’ll be studying Joseph and Mary.  

We will be reading various scriptures today from the New Testament Books of Luke and Matthew.  While Joseph is only mentioned in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke, Mary will forever stand out as unique, a rare woman among women who was highly favored and blessed by God.  

Let’s pray:
Heavenly Father, today I ask You to give us hearts like that of Mary’s, willing to agree with Your Word, Your promises, and Your intent for our lives.  With Mary there was no negotiating, no hemming or hawing, no 24 hours to think about it, no keeping her options open. 

You simply spoke, and she unhesitatingly responded with a Yes. You have a plan for each of us which will have its challenges, its high points and low points, its joys and sorrows; but Your plans are far and above the best plans for our lives. May our souls be transformed into ones that instantly obey You, that come when You call, that follow Your leading, and that believe Your Word even when we can’t fully comprehend it, for we know that Your Word is Truth.  In Jesus’ name, Amen 

Now reading from Luke, Chapter 1 verses 26-38:
“26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.  30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.  31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.  32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:  33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.  34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?  35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.  36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.  37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.  38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” 

We frequently hear these scriptures during the Christmas season, but have we really thought about the change this brought in Mary’s life?   Have we really thought about what we can learn from this teenage girl? 

In fact, imagine for a minute that you were Mary, thought to be about 15 years old.  Mary was a virgin engaged to Joseph. She was making wedding plans, busy trying to plan her life thinking that she was like everyone else. And then, everything changed!  

We don’t know what Mary was doing at the time of Gabriel’s appearance. Maybe she was praying, maybe she was peeling potatoes; we don’t know. But just imagine that you’re going through your day and suddenly, an angel appears before you. Maybe you first heard the flutter of wings, maybe you saw a bright light, but however it happened you find yourself standing before an angel from God.  Would you be frightened?  Is Mary frightened? Of course, she is! 

So, Gabriel comforted her saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”  Gabriel then tells Mary that she will give birth to the Savior of the world and is to name Him Jesus.  

Mary asked how this can happen since she’s a virgin?  She was keeping herself pure for the man she was going to marry. She can’t imagine how this is possible. Gabriel then explained that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and she will give birth to God’s Son.  Nothing is impossible with God. 

Think about how this will affect the rest of her life…she is going to be an unwed mother during her engagement period; that would be a great scandal.   

Think about her relationship with Joseph. We are told that they were pledged to be married. We normally think of that as being engaged, the period before the marriage. In their culture, though, it actually fell someplace in between; more serious than an engagement, but not quite marriage. Mary and Joseph were considered legally married, although domestically they weren’t. They were even referred to as husband and wife, although they wouldn’t actually move in together until an appointed time later on. This relationship was so serious that it required a legal divorce to break it off. By law Joseph could have had her stoned. 

And think about the effect this would have on her family life. Can you picture Mary going to her parents and explaining, “Mom, Dad, I’m pregnant. But it’s okay - I didn’t do anything?” How do you think her parents could have responded?  Having a child out of wedlock can be embarrassing today, but it was much more severe in that time and culture. Mary could have been rejected or even disowned by her family. 

And then think about the effect this would have on her personally. There would be a lot of shame in being pregnant while not being married. Society would look down on her. The people she knew as friends could have shunned her. It could be very humiliating. And along with that would come all the sickness and pain of bearing a child. This was not an easy calling for Mary to receive. 

Think about dealing with all these things while you’re a teenager. 

We can look at this passage and say, "Well, that’s Mary, the mother of Jesus – she knew God would be with her!"  No, at that time Mary didn’t know that God would be with her. Mary had no idea of the magnitude of what was going to happen in her life. 

She could have had half a dozen excuses to say no if she had wanted to: 

She could have said; "Lord I’m just a girl I’m not ready to be a mother.” 

She could have said: “I’m not wealthy, I’m not educated and I’m not able to provide him with a lavish lifestyle that the Messiah should enjoy. 

She could have said: “I am NOT worthy of this honor - maybe it should be given to someone else more worthy." 

She could have said: “Lord, okay but can You just wait until I have married Joseph and squared it with him, so I won’t have the slur of being an adulteress.” 

She could have sat down and analyzed the entire proposition and weighed the practical merits against the disadvantages and then made up her mind in a logical and concise manner.  But there isn’t anything logical or concise about a girl getting pregnant with only divine help. 

She could have refused…God would never force anyone to bear His Son.  

But that’s not what Mary did or said.  Her response was:  "I am the Lord’s servant; may it be as you have said..." 

After Mary received the message from the angel, she left and went to be with her cousin, Elizabeth (see last week’s Message on Zacharias and Elizabeth).  After three months, just before the birth of John the Baptist, Mary returned home. Although Mary didn’t know how Joseph would react, she still trusted God and told Joseph. 

We don’t know if this was before she left to visit Elizabeth or after she returned home.  Regardless of when Mary told Joseph, he is faced with some interesting choices. You ever have someone tell you a story you thought was a whopper only to find out it was true? Imagine guys being presented with a story like this from the girl you were engaged. “I just want to let you know, I’m pregnant, you’re not the father, it’s from God.” That was the story Mary told Joseph, and the laws were a lot stricter in dealing with situations such as this than they are today. 

The news naturally jolted him into sickening, stunning bewilderment. Put yourself in his place. Mary always told the truth. Her character to that point was blameless. She held to this supposed message from an angel. She reported Elizabeth’s amazing conception with Zachariah of that baby. But Mary’s story was fantastic, a biological impossibility. But she insisted, “Joseph, I have not been unfaithful to you!” The conflict raged in Joseph’s soul as he tried to work it out. Justice called for public exposure and stoning. But his love would not permit such severe treatment. Compassion called for a considerate compromise. He could not consummate the marriage, but he would show mercy by sending her away privately. His failure to specify the cause of “divorce” would spare her reputation and feelings. 

Doubtless Joseph prayed time and again for an answer and it finally came.  “Matthew 1:20-21: “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.” 

Perhaps Joseph believed it more readily because the Old Testament prophesied it. Matthew goes on to say, “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.”  Matthew 1:22, 23. From this Joseph obeyed. “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.” Matthew 1:24-25. How many men would accept this situation? 

We’ve learned two lessons from Mary.

First, she had an amazing trust in God.  She surrendered unconditionally to the unknown future God had outlined for her. If we trust God only when we have all the facts and only when everything is logical and concise then we’re not trusting God. 

God delegated the raising of His Son to Mary. Yes, Jesus was the Son of God and He was the Man who came to take away our sin but before that, He was a teenager and before that, He was a child and before that, He was a baby. Have we ever thought to ask: “Who held Him to her breast; who changed His diapers; who cuddled Him, who rocked Him, who told Him bedtime stories and sang Him lullabies; who stayed up all night with Him if He was sick; who wiped away the tear and bandaged His knee where He fell and scraped it?” 

God was Jesus’ father, but Mary was His mother, and she was the one God chose to raise Christ to be the Man that He became. But what made Mary special? So special in fact that God was willing to entrust her with His one and only son. Ask yourself this question: What type of person would you want to raise your kids?  God must have seen something in this young woman, some characteristics that He wanted imparted to His Son. 

Second, the qualities we are discussing didn’t develop in Mary’s life after she was chosen by God…they existed beforehand.  She wasn’t an evangelist or a writer, she wasn’t a teacher or a preacher; the Scriptures simply say that she pleased God. 

We don’t have to be super saints to please God, but we do have to be walking with Him consistently. True Christianity is not a stationary religion.  Instead, it is one that constantly challenges us to be growing and moving ahead in our walk with God. We don’t know how far along Mary was in her walk with God, but she must have been growing in her relationship with Him. 

We’ve also learned several lessons for life from Joseph as his character displays these attributes. 

First, Righteousness. Verse 19 describes him as a righteous man. Instead of dragging her through the muck of gossiping neighbors he decided against public exposure. Sure, people would talk, how could you miss the growing belly of Mary. And because he did not want to expose her to public shame, he could be thought to be the father who backed out of the marriage and thought less highly by others. 

Today it is rare to see people take the high road to life’s dilemmas. Dr. Joseph Tucker wrote in Jesus’ Strategy for Healed and Healthy Relationships, “The number one health problem of the United States of America and the world…is not AIDS, drugs, gun violence, cancer, heart disease, etc. [It} is the chronic enmity of persons and groups toward each other. It’s the national pandemic problem of persons and groups putting emphasis on the race, color, language, creed, gender, national origin, etc., of persons and groups. It’s the problem of persons and groups not putting emphasis on the common human identity, which God gave all humankind at the beginning through Adam and Eve. 

Joseph had that before him, to maintain his standing, to respond to his hurt, to expose Mary for her pregnancy and his own humiliation over the situation. Instead, he took the higher ground, seeking to end things privately. He wanted to believe the best in Mary. 

Second, Joseph was a man of Discretion.  Verse 19 says, he did not want to expose her to public disgrace. Here is a lesson for us. National newspapers display at the checkout counter of the local supermarket with headline news of alleged indiscretions of public figures. How much more damaging in our world are the words spoken that cut down people in our sphere of influence? Joseph knew Mary’s situation in the norm of life was not right. Being a man of character, he was not going to let everyone else know her business, just the two witnesses that were required to nullify his marriage. People could draw their own conclusions; he was not going to be party to their tongue wagging or add fuel to ignite their innuendoes. This passage indicates another character of Joseph. 

Third, he was a man of God.  As Joseph was considering what to do, an angel of God came and had a chat. If you have not connected with God, it might be difficult to fully take in this angelic conversation. Most of us have strange dreams that stay in that realm and are never taken as truth. Sometimes the natural clashes with the supernatural and we must know the difference between the two and from which side the supernatural is clashing. The Bible says Satan comes as an angel of light, and if we are not grounded we might follow that light instead of the Sonlight.  Joseph knew the difference. 

Fourth, he demonstrated another Godly characteristic, Obedience. In verse 24 it says he did what the angel said. He took Mary home as his wife. Betrothal ended. It doesn’t sound like they had had big marriage celebration with friends and family, he just did what the angel of God told him was the right thing to do. 

It is an attitude that says I will do what is right; I will walk obediently with the Lord, no matter what others might think. In Galatians 1:10, Paul writes, am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I seeking the favor of men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. 

Obedience is a hard characteristic to master because we consider the thoughts of others. We need to ask, what are those thoughts worth in the light of God’s instructions. Joseph was obedient despite what it might have meant to his reputation as a righteous man in the eyes of others. 

Fifth, he had Self-discipline.  He took Mary home and verse 25 states he set aside his needs for the needs of Mary and did not consummate the marriage until after Jesus was born.  His obedience to God changed the world. Because of free will, he could have changed the course of Jesus coming to earth by ending the life of Mary or affected the teaching of Jesus on the importance of family by having divorced her even after hearing from God’s angelic messenger. Instead, he chose the high road, believing in the best in others, and as a result impacting history. 

We, too, have the opportunity to live a life representative of Mary and Joseph; normal people used in a supernatural way by God all because they listened and obeyed God. 

John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

No matter what you’ve done in your past, Jesus can save you.  No one need miss God's best because of their past, however vile and out of God's will.  The devil will say to you:  You’ll never make it, you’re going to die, you have blown it and you’re doomed to failure. 

But Jesus says in John 10:10: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly,” and in John 6:34b: “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” 

You have a choice this morning.  Do you want to follow Jesus and do what He says is right?  Through faith you can become an heir of God and co-heir with Jesus Christ.  Jesus can become your Lord and Savior. This is the ultimate fulfillment in life. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). All these benefits come to us by faith in Jesus Christ. 

The work has already been done. If you are not saved, turn to God, repent and respond to His grace.  Receive the forgiveness of your sins and enter into a new life and destiny.  There’s no better time than now to surrender your life to God and receive Christ as Savior and Lord.   

 If you’ve known God but walked away from His call on your life to do your own thing or have been wounded and are now angry with Him or feel like you can’t come back to Him because of the depth of your sin, there is healing and restoration.  

When we turn back to Jesus in repentance, when we ask for forgiveness, intending to live a godly life again, God’s mercy reaches out to us with a message of love.   God is a God of mercy, of redemption, of restoration and of renewal. Just come by faith to the throne of grace to receive it. He is waiting for you with open arms.   Repent all over again and get back to fulfilling God’s plan in and through your life. Tomorrow may be too late. 

I pray during the coming week that everyone is blessed abundantly beyond their expectations. 
In Jesus’ name,  Amen.

When Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team is ministering in Word and Song, their Fire Choir will sing several songs and then lead the Congregation in singing. Since that isn't possible on-line, please click here and may you be blessed by the song, "Mary Did You Know."