The Gospel of Mathew: Extraordinary Circumstances.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:18-19 ESV)

In several ways, Matthew’s account of Jesus’ incarnation parallels the birth narrative found in Luke 1:26ff. However, Matthew’s narrative focus in not on Mary but rather on Joseph.

Matthew mentions the one-year betrothal period of engagement known as the Kuddushin. The actual wedding ceremony, referred to as the Huppa, had yet to take place.

Matthew also mentions that this betrothal period occurred “before they came together.” In other words, Mary and Joseph had not consummated their relationship (Luke 1:27-38). However, in a restricted sense theirs was essentially a marriage.

“The fact that Jesus was born “of Mary” only, as indicated in the genealogical record (Matthew 1:16), demanded further explanation. Matthew’s explanation can best be understood in the light of Hebrew marriage customs. Marriages were arranged for individuals by parents, and contracts were negotiated. After this was accomplished, the individuals were considered married and were called husband and wife. They did not, however, begin to live together. Instead, the woman continued to live with her parents and the man with his for one year. The waiting period was to demonstrate the faithfulness of the pledge of purity given concerning the bride. If she was found to be with child in this period, she obviously was not pure, but had been involved in an unfaithful sexual relationship. Therefore, the marriage could be annulled. If, however, the one-year waiting period demonstrated the purity of the bride, the husband would then go to the house of the bride’s parents and in a grand processional march lead his bride back to his home. There they would begin to live together as husband and wife and consummate their marriage physically. Matthew’s story should be read with this background in mind,” explains Dr. John Walvoord.

It was at this time that Mary was pregnant. The text says she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. Mary became pregnant while remaining a virgin. The pregnancy occurred through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. The immediate cause of her condition was the powerful-life imparting creative work of God the Holy Spirit. Mary knew this pregnancy occurred because the angel told her this would happen (Luke 1:26-35). She knew Joseph was not the biological father because they had not consummated their relationship. Joseph knew this too. What an extraordinary set of circumstances Joseph was also facing.

“Mary and Joseph were in the one-year waiting period when Mary was found to be with child. They had never had sexual intercourse and Mary herself had been faithful (vv. 20, 23). While little is said about Joseph, one can imagine how his heart must have broken. He genuinely loved Mary, and yet the word came that she was pregnant,” concludes Dr. Walvoord.

What would Joseph do in light of these extraordinary circumstances? That is what we will examine next time. Suffice to say that Joseph will do that which is right and biblical. How about us?

May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

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