The consolation at the birth of Jesus (Matthew 2:18-25)

We can see from the account that Joseph had very good character features – we are told about his righteous attitude, his compassion (he did not want to embarrass Mary) and his carefulness (he thought about the situation). He did not happen to become like that only at the moment he discovered the problem. A lifetime of godliness had gone into the producing of his character. Imagine what he would have been like if he had not become such a man. Probably he would have been furious, self-righteous and rash. A crisis usually reveals the kind of person we are.

The Lord chose to reveal the situation to Joseph through a dream. Many people wonder about what they dreamt, but if you need to wonder about such dreams, I would not pay much heed to them. Joseph did not have to work out if an angel had appeared to him, and neither would we, since it would be obvious. Anyway, it was not the appearance of the angel that was most important, it was his message.

In his announcement, the angel explained the situation to Joseph and informed him about his place in God’s plan of salvation. He would only have a small role, which was to ensure that the right name would be given to the infant. We know that Joseph would have rejoiced at discovering the truth of the situation, and of playing a small role in helping identify the Saviour to others.

It is worthwhile for us to consider briefly what the angel said about Jesus and his work. The first point is that the angel did not say to Joseph that his people would be saved by Jesus. If the angel had said that, then he would have been referring to the Jews exclusively. Instead, Jesus had another people to save.

Second, the mission of Jesus was one of deliverance – his people would be delivered from their sins. This is more than him bearing the punishment for our sins, although that is included. It is more than us receiving the pardon for our sins, although that is also included. And it is more than us experiencing purification, although that is part of it. In addition, Jesus is going to separate his people from their sins. This will take place, we now know, at his second coming when all of them will enter with him into the new heavens and earth. Sin will be gone.

Third, the saving mission of Jesus was one of intent because he would save a specific people. They were given to him by the Father to save, and it was their salvation that caused him to become a man. He did not merely come to make salvation possible, as many believe; rather he came to make it certain. The Saviour had a specific mission to perform, which was to deliver those entrusted to him by the Father. Having said that, we are not to assume that the number of his people is low in comparison to those who are not. We are told in the Book of Revelation that when God’s people gather together at the end they will be a number that no one can count.

Joseph here was commanded by God to become the adopted father of Jesus. He was asked to live with Mary, whom the neighbours would know was already pregnant. They would assume that Joseph was the father or else that he did not care too much about the morals of Mary. Either way, the calling of God on his life was one that led him into difficulty. We see here a common reality in the experience of those who are called to serve God. There may be misunderstandings. Yet Joseph had the assurance of knowing that he was obeying God.

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