4th Sunday of Advent, – 22nd December 2019 — Gospel: Mt 1,18-24
Icon of obedience
The Scriptures presents to us many personalities who did what the Lord wanted them to do. Joseph was one of them who faithfully adhered to God’s word which came to him through the angel. We need to appreciate Joseph’s obedience in the background of the Jewish society at that time. Joseph’s obedience manifests his tremendous trust and confidence in God besides his wife Mary. He was a faithful man of God (1,19), who concerned himself with honouring God even when all the facts were not initially known. God used his obedience to work out His plans, in order to deliver the message of peace to a lost and frenzied world.
Matthew 1,18-25 highlights Joseph’s obedience in four ways. 1) The predicament of Joseph (1,18-19): He had no sexual relations with his wife and yet she was found pregnant. He presumed that she must be guilty of adultery (since Mary had not told Joseph of Gabriel’s visit or Joseph did not believe her story). He was in a dilemma, either to turn her over to be stoned or show her mercy by quietly putting her away. Joseph planned to do the latter. 2) The point to Joseph (1,20-21): The angel appeared to him to explain the reason for Mary’s pregnancy and to comfort him. The angel instructed him and revealed to him the name by which Mary’s child should be called. To reinforce the encouraging words, the angel addressed Joseph as “Son of David”. At this juncture, Joseph did not act hastily or act driven by emotions but sought to act in a righteous manner.
3) The prophecy for Joseph (1,22-23): Twelve times Matthew identifies OT prophecies being fulfilled in Jesus (2,15.23; 3,15; 4,14; 5,17; 8,17; 12,17; 13,14.35; 21,4; 27,9 ). At this point he explains that Jesus’ virgin birth was predicted by God in the OT and here it is fulfillment of God’s promise. Based on this, Isaian prophecy is predicted for virgin birth of Jesus Christ. 4) The Performance of Joseph (1,24-25): Joseph immediately obeyed to take Mary as his wife, doing as the angel of the Lord had commanded him. As a final act of obedience, Joseph named his son as Jesus, indicating that He was to be the Saviour. Joseph is the first person in the Gospel called upon to commit himself to the significance of Jesus in unfolding God’s purposes. His action revealed four admirable qualities: righteous (1,19), discretion and sensitivity (1,19), responsiveness to God (1,24) and self-discipline (1,25). Indeed the Scriptures picture his obedience as being glad, instant and full. It presents him as an icon of obedience, who sacrificed his personal desires to bringing to realization God’s will on earth.