The New Testament’s unsung hero (1 of 3) – Rod Anderson

Imagine the situation, where a man has been essential in the success of a program. He has stood foremast in the cast of characters during the embryonic period of its development. He has protected it, guided it, supplied the necessities for its survival, provided a role model for all involved, yet no one acknowledges him or understands the sacrifices he made for its success. However, could it be that we are guilty of doing that very thing to the great unsung hero of the New Testament?

One of the handful of men identified in the Bible as a just man is Joseph, the husband of Mary (Matthew 1:19). Upon the realization that Mary was pregnant, the only course of action for a just man to take was divorce her. Separate himself from the sin and the sinner.

Remember Joseph’s dreams have been shattered, his plans ruined, yet he was unwilling to bring public disgrace upon Mary, which would have resulted in public punishment. The only other means at his disposal legally, was to hand her a letter of divorcement in the presence of two witnesses, in this method he was not required to give reasons for the divorce. This was the course of action Joseph chose to take.

As already noted, the Scripture describes Joseph as a just man, and the phrase, “just man” occurs only ten times in the Bible. Noah is the first person in the Bible described as a just man (Genesis 6:9). In the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes the phrase ‘just man’ is used on five occasions to describe a person who is faithful to God, with a strong devotional life and a good parent.

Turning to the New Testament in Mark chapter six, John the Baptist is described as a just man, Cornelius the first Gentile convert (that we are aware of ) is described in the same manner (Acts10:22). Above every other person of whom the adjective is ascribed too, we read this in Matthew 27:19

While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.”

 Pilate’s wife is referring to Jesus Christ. In fact in the entire Bible there are ten texts referring to a just man, but only five are linked to a particular individual. Therefore Joseph the husband of Mary stands in good company.

From this we learn Joseph is a God fearing man, a man of prayer and a man of faith, whose commitment to the Hebrew Scriptures may have been seen as outdated and anachronistic, considering the corrupting influences the Alexandrian Schools of philosophy were having upon Jewish religion, as is witnessed by the teachings espoused by the Sadducees and Pharisees. Nevertheless, in this period of religious turmoil and syncretism, Joseph is one of five inspiration ascribes as “just.” In Matthew 1:20 we read

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

 After Mary’s explanation, Joseph was later informed in a dream that Mary’s pregnancy was of a supernatural origin, but here lies the puzzling fragment of this episode. Why wasn’t Joseph warned earlier or told immediately? The explanation for Mary’s pregnancy didn’t come straight away because the Bible says, “While he was thinking on these things.” We don’t know how long it was before the angel came to Joseph. Was it a day? Was it a week or even a month? We just don’t know.  To be continued . .

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