And Joseph got up from his dream and did what the angel of the Lord told him. Matthew 1:24
When we read the Christmas story and hear about Mary and Joseph, does it come as a surprise to you that, in the Bible, Joseph never speaks a single word?
Why does this seem so odd? Maybe it’s because Joseph “speaks” so powerfully by his life.
After Joseph was engaged to Mary, he discovers she is pregnant. At this time, he doesn’t know what’s going on. But he does know that Mary isn’t pregnant because of him.
In the Old Testament, if a woman is betrothed and another man sleeps with her, both are to be executed. Not only that, but in the culture of the day, Joseph is expected to stand up and defend his innocence by publicly denouncing Mary.
But Joseph didn’t do this. Instead, he planned to divorce her quietly. Engagements could only be legally dissolved by divorce, but he could do so without making a big stink about it.
Do you see what Joseph’s plan meant? Mary, he thought, had been unfaithful to him. As heartbreaking as this was, Joseph didn’t plan to retaliate by harming her. But think about it: if he divorced Mary quietly, who would everyone assume got her pregnant? Joseph! Yet, Joseph was willing to bear the public shame in order to protect Mary. And, not only that, by divorcing her quietly, he also loses the dowry he paid for her.
Joseph had no idea Mary was pregnant because of the Holy Spirit. Only later, in a dream, does the angel of the Lord tell Joseph what is happening and that he must take Mary as his wife. And he does.
In the 19th century, one of the most well-known preachers in America was Charles Spurgeon. On the side, Spurgeon and his wife raised chickens and sold the eggs. Some of Spurgeon’s close friends and relatives expected a discount on the price of his eggs. Spurgeon refused. He insisted that everyone pay the full price.
Needless to say, Spurgeon earned a reputation for being a cheapskate. It wasn’t until after Spurgeon’s wifedied that the public learned all of the money the Spurgeons raised from the sale of his eggs went to support two poor widows.
Charles Spurgeon was willing to let gossips attack his character rather than reveal the true motive for his egg prices. Joseph was willing to bear dishonor and humiliation rather than to expose Mary to public disgrace.
Are you willing to do the same?
Joseph’s displayed a higher kind of righteousness; he showed mercy. And, in the years to come, Joseph’s son would proclaim that God longs – not to give us what we deserve, but to show us mercy. And Jesus would invite us to both accept and adopt this higher law.
That is why Joseph speaks so clearly without saying a word.