Matthew opens his gospel by tracing the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham to David, from David to the deportation to Babylon, and from the deportation to Babylon to Christ. Matthew wants to establish for us up front that Jesus is the seed of Abraham through whom all the nations would be blessed. Furthermore, he wants us to see that Jesus is an heir of David the king. Yet when Jesus enters the scene it is not against the backdrop set by the prosperity of Abraham’s seed, but against the brokenness of a people still feeling the effects of Babylonian conquest and exile. When Jesus enters the scene the throne of David is almost forgotten and a Gentile rules of Israel.

However, as you read Matthew 1, don’t miss the importance of Joseph. The entire genealogy of Jesus account in the opening 16 verse traces from Abraham to Christ through “Joseph, the husband of Mary.” So let me observe 4 things from Matthew 1:18-25 that highlight just how significant Joseph’s role in coming of Christ.

  • First, Jesus is conceived while betrothed to Joseph. (1:18). Matthew is quick to qualify the conception by indicated that the conception occurred after the formal betrothal, but before they had become intimate. In other words, there was a formal, possibly even legal, aspect to their relationship when Mary got pregnant. They were not just friends or acquaintances. They were more like an engage couple, though our modern engages carry with them far less commitment.
  • Second, we should observe that Joseph was a “just man.” He feared God and had compassion for others. When he discovers that Mary is pregnant, he understands the sinfulness and shame that would have accompanied the announcement that the child was not his. Yet rather than make a public spectacle of her, Joseph “resolved to divorce her quietly.” Maybe we can all learn something from Joseph about how to deal with sins against us by trying to deal with them privately rather than publicly.
  • Third, God goes out of his way to convince Joseph to stay. God sends and angel to explain the situation to him in a dream. Joseph is addressed as a “Son of David.” In one sense this is why Joseph is important. If Jesus is to be a son of David, then his “father” must be a son of David. So while Jesus may have been conceived by the Holy Spirit,” he would be regarded as a son of Joseph, son of David.
  • Finally, we notice Joseph’s response; he obeys God. He takes Mary as his wife, yet does not consummate the marriage until after Mary had given birth. And Joseph assumes his proper place as Jesus father by exercising his fatherly rights in naming the child, Jesus. We may miss this in our modern culture, but in 1st century Israel, the practice was for fathers to name their children, so by naming Jesus, Joseph places a final stamp on recognizing Jesus as his son and therefore a son of David and an offspring of Abraham.