The Joseph Option


Nativity1Photography by D. Plasman

I share a selection from a forthcoming book of mine to be published in 2015 entitled: Jesus, a Life – Daily Meditations on the Gospel of Luke. The 365 meditations cover the entire third gospel.

This meditation, THE JOSEPH OPTION, is based on Luke 2:4-5 which reads: “Complying with the census, Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was a descendant of David. He traveled with Mary, to whom he was betrothed. She was pregnant.”

With no introduction, Joseph suddenly appears in the biblical narrative. A minor character playing a supportive role, Joseph speaks no words. We could easily conclude that Joseph’s only purpose in the story of Jesus’ birth is to get a very pregnant Mary to Bethlehem on time.

However, a more complete character sketch of Joseph emerges in the opening chapter of Matthew’s gospel. Joseph and Mary were betrothed to each other—engaged, but with legal implications. Jewish law contractually bound them together, though they still lived in the homes of their respective parents. When Mary tells Joseph she’s pregnant and he’s not the father, Joseph takes the high road and is prepared to go back to the rabbi and void the betrothal contract, sparing Mary public humiliation and possible punishment, including stoning.

Then comes a dream, and in it an angel explains to Joseph that God is at work in this messy situation. By taking Mary as his wife, Joseph will acknowledge this Divine activity. What happens next is one of the most amazing miracles recorded in the Bible. Joseph agrees. Going against conventional wisdom, laying aside his wounded manhood, re-evaluating his sense of right and wrong, throwing out the rule book, refusing to punish the one he loves, Joseph opts for the twofold responsibility of husbandhood and fatherhood. He fully commits himself to his pregnant fiancée.

Nowhere in the Bible does Joseph speak, at least not with words. He doesn’t have to. His actions tell all. Joseph reminds us that religious legalism has its limits. Doing what we have a right to do, and doing it to others when they are guilty of one thing or another, often puts us in conflict with the power of love.

Faced with more than one option, Joseph redefines what it means to be a moral person, where love is at the center and religious customs, certainties, and legalities lie on the periphery. No doubt, Joseph will end up modeling and teaching this option to Jesus every chance he gets.

When did someone act like a Joseph to you?

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  1. Lou Bury December 22, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    I love the story of Joseph. In fact, it is among my favorites in all of Scripture. Perhaps because my perspective is that of an adoptive father (though certainly of vastly different circumstances), I have always felt a certain connection to him. Thanks, Dan, for this great Christmas message. Looking forward to reading your book. Blessings of Christmas to you and yours.

  2. Eli December 22, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

    What a blessed reminder to not only see the things a “Joseph” may be doing in our lives, and thank them for it. But it is also a reminder to be a “Joseph” for others.
    And YAHOO!! I’m excited for your book! Write me down for a first print!!

  3. Amy Harris December 22, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    I am looking forward to your book!! Please let me know when and where I may purchase it. I hope you and Jody enjoy a lovely Christmas.

  4. Marge December 27, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    I am struck by the comment about ignoring the man-made laws or traditions to act in love. Basically I am a “rule and regulation” lady. In this case and many cases, the law of love overshadows the rigid human laws. Thank you for encouraging me to take a risk and follow “the law of love.”

  5. Allan Martling December 31, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

    A few years ago, I had the opportunity to act the Joseph story out to a group of men in a medium security prison. What a remarkable story being heard through their various life experiences. One man, a Muslim, eagerly listened to the story after showing me how better to wrap the towel around my head for my makeshift costume. Grace and Peace, Allan