Believing in the Unbelievable

Believing in the Unbelievable

Matthew 1:18-25

“And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife.”


            Surprisingly Joseph plays a little part in the gospel narratives. He is only mentioned in Matthew and Luke's gospels and only briefly. Despite the brevity of his appearance, we do see, a man of impeccable faith and trust.  In verses 18-19, we find Joseph is engaged to Mary, and before the wedding ceremony, it is revealed that Mary is pregnant.  We cannot fully appreciate how devastating this announcement must have been to Joseph.  It would have turned his world upside down. We can only imagine the thoughts and confusion that must have captured his feelings.  The one to whom he had pledged his love and commitment had been unfaithful and committed adultery! Yet even amid the betrayal he must have felt, we see the character of Joseph.  It would have been easy for him to be angry and bitter.  When we experience such betrayal and hurt, our initial reaction is revenge and indignation.  No doubt Mary tried to explain her side of the story, that an angel had appeared to her and informed her that God himself and impregnated her with this child.  But that would have been beyond belief and seemed like nothing but an outlandish tale.  Yet, for all the emotions and thoughts that must have been crashing through his mind, his thoughts were not on himself, his hurt, or his reputation.  Instead, his thoughts were on Mary.  Instead of wanting to publicly shame her for her indiscretion, his thoughts were how to provide some level of protection for Mary from the wagging tongues of idle gossip.  

            As Joseph lay down to sleep that night, a million thoughts must have been exploding in his mind.  How could she do such a thing?  Why would she make up such a wild story to cover her adultery?  What are the neighbors going to think and say?  What will the Rabbi’s say, for the law stipulates that the penalty for adultery is death?  Would they demand the death penalty?  That night, sleep would be fleeting.  But eventually, even for the tormented mind, exhaustion wins, so he finally falls asleep.  Then the remarkable happens.  In his dreams, an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph and confirms the truthfulness of Mary’s story, and the Angel pronounces that the child will be the long-expected Messiah who was to come.  He would be God himself come in the flesh.  

            Could this be true?  Was it an actual angel or just a dream?   What will people think of me if I go through with the marriage, that I am also an adulterer?  These are thoughts that may have passed through Joseph’s mind.  Yet, despite all the questions, Joseph acts with decisive obedience.  Joseph accepts the message of God and obeys regardless of the consequences.

            Sometimes in our Christian life, God calls us to do what others would consider foolish. Occasionally, our obedience to God’s commands will result in public ridicule.  There are times when we are asked to believe the unbelievable.  But obedience is not measured by our response when it corresponds to our thinking. Obedience and faithfulness are measured by our response to God’s commands when they contradict what we think and what the world demands and expects.  Faith is revealed when we trust and obey God, even when it does not make sense to us or those around us.

            In a world where popular morality contradicts the teaching of the Bible, we are left with the question:  Are we going to obey God regardless of what others will think, or are we going to do what our culture pressures us to do?  Living by faith is to trust God and believe his word, even when it seems unbelievable to the world in which we live.


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