by Carmen Horst, EMS master of divinity student
Joseph- Radical Faithfulness
For three years I lived in a town named after St. Joseph. Each year for a few days in March, the entire town put aside everything else they were involved in to celebrate the life of Joseph the carpenter. Classes let out. There were tamales, parades and processions. Why is this man, whose inside story we see only in Matthew’s gospel, important enough to remember so fervently?
It is Joseph’s radical obedience that is so striking. In the first place, long before the angel comes in his dream, Joseph follows the law. In verse 19, Joseph is noted as righteous, which means he fervently kept Jewish law. For many unglamorous years, day in and day out, Joseph remembered the God who brought his ancestors out of Egypt. Did those days of diligence “pay off”?
On the one hand, no, they didn’t. A culturally sound, righteous Jewish man would have known better than anyone not to marry (or even get close to) a woman pregnant with somebody else’s baby. Her contagious sin might infect him (and his social status).
On the other hand, yes, those days spent trying to do what was meant to be impossible did pay off. Joseph’s years of getting know the God of Israel enabled him to respond to an angel’s strange request with alacrity. He “woke up” and he “did what the angel of the Lord had commanded” (v. 24). He married that girl who was going to have Someone Else’s baby. Joseph became Jesus’ adoptive father who protected Jesus and raised him according to Jewish law.
Joseph’s life is one worthy of celebration. He shows us a life formed by faithfulness to be radically obedient. He was ready to be part of the story of Immanuel, God with us. Are we?