I’ve always loved the glimpses of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, that we see in Scripture. He is only mentioned or described in a few places, but I like what I read when I read about Joseph. I like this man. Joseph is my kind of saint. I have little of Peter or Paul in me; no one has ever said “Bill reminds me of John the Baptist”. I’m not a son of thunder, I’m not a zealot, I don’t much resemble James, Philip or Stephen.
But I can aspire to be a Barnabas, or a Silas, or a Joseph.
Christmas meant that Joseph practiced a rare combination: both righteousness and mercifulness (1:19)
The text says Joseph was “righteous.” Now this translates a Greek term (dikaios) which translates a Hebrew term (tsadiq) — and all these terms point to one thing: Joseph was known for doing whatever the Torah said. To do it, he had to know it. So, he was a man who had studied the Torah — either by listening and memorizing or by reading and memorizing. But, he knew it.
And that means he knew that he could take Mary to court for what was now known: she was pregnant, and Joseph knows that he is not the father. He immediately thought of the laws in Deuteronomy 22 — stone both the seducer and the one seduced or stone the rapist — the laws are clear and they are unavoidably clear. Here’s the text and its rulings that he would have known – and I’m asking that you read this carefully because following this text is exactly what Joseph would have equated with doing God’s will.
[Scott here quotes Deuteronomy 22:23-30]
Joseph is a tsadiq (I make much of this in Jesus Creed). This means his reputation is at stake: if he follows the Torah, and puts Mary away, he will uphold his reputation. If he does not, he will lose his reputation. (I like to say that the claims of the Cross were faced by Joseph [and Mary] before Jesus was born.)
Joseph, however, chooses another option — an option that must have set the agenda for Jesus learning how to respond to those stuck on the horns of a legal ruling that called for mercy. Joseph decides to put her away quietly — that is, instead of disgracing her (which he could have done) he chooses to be kind to her by divorcing her without publicly disgracing her.
Joseph must have impressed the same upon Jesus and the rest of his family: act in mercy; avoid humiliating others; you never know, you may be wrong in your discernments and judgments.
Scott writes “I like to say that the claims of the Cross were faced by Joseph [and Mary] before Jesus was born”. I hadn’t ever considered that and I think that’s a great point.
And his last statement is wonderful: “. . . act in mercy; avoid humiliating others; you never know, you may be wrong in your discernments and judgments.”
So true. May I live that out.