Those two words have the power to elicit stronger emotions than almost any other others. Joy. Excitement. Fear. Wonder. Anxiety. Elation. Doubt. Glee.
As Christmas approaches, I can’t help but wonder what emotions swept over Joseph when Mary told him those words, because “I’m pregnant” meant something different to him than it did any other man in history.
Let’s get some context here. Joseph and Mary were betrothed to be married, (basically the equivalent of modern-day engagement). During this time, they weren’t allowed to have sexual relations and Mary was a virgin.
Mary was then famously greeted by an angel who informed her that she had found favor with God and would be conceived and give birth a baby to be named Jesus, and this child would be the Son of the Most High and would reign over the Kingdom forever (Luke 1:26-38). Mary’s response is one of the most powerful, faith-filled answers in the Bible:
“I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”
Think about what Mary just heard! Her entire life and any plans for it just got completely flipped on their head. Whatever hopes and dreams she had for her future with Joseph were just drastically changed in a moment, and her immediate response was to obey the Lord’s will.
Only, now she has a huge problem. She has to explain this situation to Joseph, but she doesn’t have the supernatural presence on an angel to back her up.
Can you even imagine what that conversation must’ve been like?
“Hey babe, so I have some news, and please don’t get made when I tell you this… but I’m pregnant. I swear I didn’t cheat on you! I’m actually carrying God’s baby, and He’s going to be the Son of God. So… we’re cool, right?”
Here’s where I would love spend a few minutes in Joseph’s head. What was he thinking in that moment? While I’m sure he was dumbfounded by this revelation, he knew two truths:
- His soon-to-be wife was pregnant.
- He wasn’t the father.
With that information, he could believe one of two things:
- This tale of miraculous conception, completely unprecedented at that time and since, is true.
- Mary slept with another man and, embarrassed, made up a wild tale to try and save her skin.
Which one seems more likely?
Understandably, Joseph didn’t buy the fantastical tale. And while he could’ve publicly shamed his, (seemingly), unfaithful wife, he did the honorable thing and chose to divorce her quietly (Matthew 1:18-19). This would still be embarrassing for Mary, but it made life much easier than if Joseph brought a civil suit against her.
Then came the dream.
An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream with this message:
“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Can you imagine waking up from that dream?
I don’t know about you, but I have some wild dreams. Recently, I dreamt that I had to protect our home from a horde of invading beavers. Our minds go to places in our dreams that are so wild and fantastical that we can’t even help but laugh when we wake up.
So, did Joseph know as soon as he woke that this dream was the truth and he had to trust Mary? Did he waver and wonder if he’d simply slept funny? Was the dream clear to him, or was it, like many dreams are, murky and hard to remember?
Whatever the case, the dream emboldened Joseph to make the impossible choice: to stick with Mary.
This is where I don’t think we give Joseph nearly enough credit. Staying with Mary was basically a death sentence to his reputation. Nazareth was a small town where everybody knew everybody’s business. Gossip likely ran rampant about Mary, the unfaithful wife with the crazy story, and Joseph, her cuckold husband who was too cowardly to divorce her. Men would call him a fool for sticking with her. Women would look down on his promiscuous wife and judge a child that wasn’t his. What did his parents say to him? His friends?
Like Mary, Joseph’s entire life was altered by the arrival of this baby. All his dreams and plans are completely rearranged.
And the only proof Joseph had was his fiancé’s word and a dream.
That’s all Joseph needed. Matthew 1:24 said he awoke from his dream and took Mary home to be his wife. No questions asked.
What faith Joseph had! When we think about faithful Biblical characters, heroes like David, Paul, Abraham, Ruth, and Moses get a lot of the attention. I think the faith Joseph displayed here puts him in that discussion. He gave up the vision and plan he had for his life, along with his reputation and standing in the community, to obey God and be faithful to his wife.
In what ways have you been challenged like Joseph? Most of us will never face this impactful of a decision, but we all come to points where we can take the easy road or the honorable one.
You probably won’t get a heavenly message like Joseph did, but the Holy Spirit usually gives us nudges to let us know which choice we’re supposed to make. I encourage you to be like Joseph and follow that nudge, even if it’s uncomfortable in the short term.
Because while we don’t know how Joseph responded when Mary told him she was pregnant, we know his ultimate answer: “I’ll be faithful to God.” And though that choice came with consequences, Joseph also got to raise the Son of God and change the course of history.