Tuesday: 19 March, 2013 –– Fifth Week in Lent
2 Samuel7:4–5a, 12–12a, 16 / Romans 4:13, 16–18, 22 / Matthew 1:16, 18–21, 24a
St Joseph – Second String (in a First String World)
Have you thought much about Joseph? Could anyone have stood in with Mary at the manger? One line of thought would say yes. I mean, what did Joseph have to do with things? Mary was the one who carried the Child, and it was God himself who was the Father. All Joseph had to do was be a lackey. Isn't that right? That is not right according to Matthew's story. Before everything else, Joseph was a righteous man. Even in a minor role, Joseph had to be God's man to have a part in the greatest drama of history. Otherwise, the pressures would have been too much.
What were those pressures? One would have been the ridicule he must have endured by those who thought Mary's pregnancy was what it naturally seemed. It was as though Joseph was a flunky. In the eyes of those looking on, Joseph was a man who needed to settle for "used goods." Today we get so caught up in the glory of the Christmas story that it is easy to forget Jesus was born under the cloud of a scandal. Another pressure was sexual. It seems most men today cannot even wait until marriage to bed their partners; Joseph went ahead with the marriage, but he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son (v25). Church Tradition says there was no sexual activity at all between Joseph and Mary. That is incomprehensible to contemporary mentality.
So what kind of person does it take to be a Joseph? It takes someone who is so committed to God and his ways that it does not matter if his or her lot in life is in some non-glorious role. There is a story that someone once asked a famous conductor what the most difficult instrument in the orchestra was. His answer said more about human nature than musical instruments; his answer was, "Second fiddle, because everyone always wants the solo or to be first chair." If you think about that, it's true. We live in a "first-string" world. Dads want their sons to be on the starting line-up in little league. We want our children to be in the top ten percent academically. The culture sends the clear message that success comes to the most beautiful and well-dressed. What does God have for second string people in a first string world? One answer to that question comes when we look to Joseph.
How did Joseph handle his seemingly inglorious task? Note: he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded (v24). There is a simple word for that –– obedience. Obedience is what God is looking for in those who would be his people. He wants a heart that will say “second string” in the world's eyes is fine if that is where his plans and pleasure can be done.
For Joseph, obedience meant God had the right man to be the support for bringing his Son into the world. All it takes for you and me to be a Joseph is to have that same heart of obedience. It may look "second-string" to a watching world, but God does things his own way. One of the great truths of Christian Faith is that God needs and uses people like Joseph –– people like you and me.