One of the points of disagreement between the Catholic Church and Protestants is how to view Mary. The Catholic Church views Mary as sinless, a virgin for all her life, and a person who intercedes for us before God and who's a proper object of prayer. Protestants reject all this, so the mother of Jesus is a source of a lot of controversy.
In the midst of all this disagreement, Jesus’ legal father gets practically unnoticed. Part of the reason for this, of course, is because little is known about him. What is known, however, is worth looking at, so I’d like to spend a day honoring him.
We know his genealogy, since that’s the point of 1:1-16. Why would we care about Joseph’s ancestry if he wasn’t physically related to Jesus? Because he was Jesus’ legal father, even if he wasn't his biological one, which in that time would still make Jesus a “son of David” on both sides of his family.
By the way, I love how people try to characterize the people of Bible times as hopelessly naïve when it came to miracles. “Oh, they'd believe anything! Just some magic tricks like David Copperfield, and they'd swallow whatever some huckster tells them!” Friend, the people of the Bible were not as scientifically knowledgeable as we are, but they knew enough. Joseph, for example, couldn't give a lecture on the process of how sperm meets egg and turns into a fetus, but he knew darn good and well that if your betrothed tells you that her pregnancy is a result of the Holy Spirit, she’s probably lying. If my beloved told me this, I'd have to count myself pretty skeptical too.
Here’s where his character comes into play. He cared for Mary and didn’t want to expose her to public disgrace (or even the death penalty, which was a possibility), so he had decided to cover the whole thing up as quietly as possible in order to spare her all the trouble he could.
But God intervened in the form of a dream, and told Joseph that Mary was telling the truth. Here’s another point in his favor: Even if she was telling the truth, he was setting himself up to be the laughingstock of all their friends and neighbors. But he was obedient to what the Lord told him to do, and went ahead with the wedding plans, even as the bride-to-be was showing more and more.
So he took Mary as his wife as they originally planned, and he welcomed her into his home and life, knowing that he'd be raising a son that was not his flesh and blood. On a side note, I'd like to point out that today’s passage says that he had no sexual relations with her “until she gave birth to a son.” This notion that Mary stayed a virgin for the rest of her life isn’t supported by Scripture.
We don’t know a whole lot about this man, but we do know this: Jesus was raised in a godly and Law-abiding household, which apparently was led by this man. So he was compassionate, discrete, and obedient to God’s direction (even when it cost him). He wasn’t sinless, but what we do know about him is pretty positive.
Now here's Michael Card's tribute to this godly man, "Joseph's Song."
Father God, when you tell me to do something that makes no sense, that goes against what my brain is telling me, please also give me listening ears and a soft heart.