At first Joseph didn’t believe

Posted Dec 6, 2021

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Daily Scripture

Matthew 1:18-19

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly.

Reflection Questions

“The story of Jesus’ birth in Matthew’s gospel is seen through the eyes of Joseph; in Luke’s gospel, we see it through Mary’s. No attempt is made to bring them into line. The central fact is the same; but instead of Luke’s picture of an excited Galilean girl, learning that she is to give birth to God’s Messiah, Matthew shows us the more sober Joseph, discovering that his fiancée is pregnant.”* Matthew didn’t have to say Joseph didn’t believe Mary. That was clear—Joseph was ready to call off the betrothal.

  • This was probably an arranged marriage (Joseph in Bethlehem, Mary in Nazareth). Even if they were both in Nazareth, “in conservative Galilean families the couple could not be together alone before the wedding, so Joseph may not have known Mary very well.”** What would you have thought if you had been Joseph as Mary told you she was having a baby, not by another man, but by the Holy Spirit? Are there faith issues that leave you with serious belief questions today?
  • Joseph was far from alone in doubting. The Hebrew patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah didn’t always trust God’s promise (cf. Genesis 15:2-4, 16:1-3, 17:15-18, 18:9-12). It was hard for John the Baptist’s father Zechariah to believe (cf. Luke 1:18). Mary herself had to ask the angel Gabriel how his news could possibly be (cf. Luke 1:34). Doubt is not the same as disbelief. How can you keep your heart and mind open to the possibility of faith even when you have doubts?

Prayer

Lord God, you created what we call the “natural order of things.” You usually work through that, yet not always. Keep me open to all the natural or exceptional ways you may choose to work in my life. Amen.


* N. T. Wright, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1–15. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p. 8.

** NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook (Kindle Locations 218742-218743). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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