I have written on the topic of obedience many times. That is because obedience is intrinsic to the Christian’s relationship with God. It is obedience by which our love for Jesus is measured. Jesus Himself set this standard: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15), and “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).
The Christmas story, the story of Jesus birth, is saturated with examples of obedience. On Tuesday I wrote about the obedience of the Magi, and tomorrow’s post will be about the obedience of Christ. Today I want to take a look at the obedience of Joseph and Mary.
Matthew, in his gospel, records the account of Joseph:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (1:18-23)
In the culture of that time, a betrothal was a legal and binding contract, similar to our modern-day marriage license. Adultery was punishable by death, which is what most onlookers would have likely assumed in this particular situation. This was no small matter for Joseph. I imagine it would have been very painful for him, and embarrassing.
Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus. (v.24-25, emphasis mine)
With the very real potential for shame and the social consequences that this unconventional situation presented, Joseph obeyed. I cannot emphasize enough how contrary to cultural custom this obedient action by Joseph was.
Luke gives us the account of Mary in his gospel, chapter 1:26-56. Mary was a young maiden at the time. We do not know her exact age, but Bible scholars have speculated that it could be anywhere from 14-16. She is visited by an angel who proceeds to tell her that God has chosen her to become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine, especially with the cultural norms of her time, hearing this information? And yet here is her immediate response:
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (v.38, emphasis mine)
There is no doubt in my mind that it was the power of the Holy Spirit that enabled Joseph and Mary to respond in humble obedience. Even so, God is glorified in that! Everything He does is for His own glory. I love reading the accounts of Mary and Joseph and contemplating what they might have been feeling and thinking, and then seeing their immediate and humble obedience. What an example for us! We can see through their obedience that they had genuine love for God. How wonderful! To God be the glory!
Soli Deo Gloria!