Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
The birth of Jesus was extraordinary in the extreme. In fact, nothing like it has occurred in all of human history. In considering the supernatural conception of Jesus, we should remember that Joseph and Mary were normal young people, living ordinary but godly lives. In the first century, when a couple became engaged, the woman would continue to live with her parents for a year to prove she had not been sexually active prior the engagement. When Mary was discovered pregnant, naturally, Joseph was ready to divorce her. He planned to get rid of her, yet he wanted to do it in a discreet way that would protect her dignity (v. 19). He clearly knew her character and certainly an unexpected pregnancy made no sense to him. God intervened and sent an angel to tell Joseph that Mary’s pregnancy was an act of the Holy Spirit and not the result of extramarital sex, encouraging him not to fear. Joseph believed God’s message and took Mary as his wife. Why the virgin birth? It seems a bit odd. Was it really necessary that Jesus be conceived without a natural father? It was. Since Jesus was unlike any other human, in order for him to be fully man and at the same time fully God, his conception had to bypass the sin nature passed on to all born after the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden.
So Mary knew that she was pregnant, although she was a virgin. And Joseph was made aware of this too. But what about everyone else? As the young couple obeyed God’s plan for their lives, imagine the ridicule and mockery they must have endured from friends, neighbors, and even family. From everyone else’s perspective, Mary, Jesus’ mother, had been sexually active, and Joseph was therefore marrying an unclean woman. Like Mary and Joseph, when we are obedient to God, we can end up misunderstood and mocked by those around us. Let’s keep in mind that when we do things God’s way, we often forfeit the approval of the world. A lot of what we do and don’t do out of allegiance to Jesus can seem strange to those who aren’t “on the same page” with us. When trusting in God’s plan becomes tough, let’s not forget his charge to Joseph: “do not fear.” God watches over all those who belong to him.