A Big Role With Few Lines David Tullock September 1, 2004 Matthew 1:18-25 The adult characters of the Christmas story are worth some attention, especially Joseph and Mary. They were called to perceive this strange thing that God was doing in history and then to participate at no small cost to themselves in the fulfillment of that purpose. Joseph had a part to play, yet he had very few lines in the birth narratives. It is disappointing to discover how little we know about Joseph. However, we do know that he was a descendent of David from the village of Bethlehem, and he was a carpenter by trade. He seems to have migrated north to the hill country to a town called Nazareth and there became engaged to a young woman named Mary. It can be inferred that he was older than Mary, maybe a widower. It also appears that he died before Jesus began his public ministry. We know Joseph was alive when Jesus was at Jerusalem at age twelve. He was not mentioned in the biblical narrative. Even though there is little known about Joseph, we do know enough to make certain claims about him. First, he was a man of amazing compassion. He could easily have entered into a rage against Mary when he heard the incredulous story of her pregnancy. He had every reason the believe that she had been unfaithful to him. When we hurt, our first impulse is usually to want to hurt back in return, and Joseph would have been “right” to humiliate Mary. In fact, legally he could have had her stoned. Yet, this is not what Joseph decided to do. He decided to “put her away privately.” As a just man, he operated by a set of Laws – stone her. He exercised the law of love and demonstrated an amazing compassion. How much of Jesus’ compassion for the “down” was initially shaped by Joseph’s? Second, he was a man of incredible openness. As Joseph went about doing what he had to do, Mary undoubtedly convinced him the story she had told him was true. It was almost more than his mind could handle but he chose to consider the story – to ponder, turn it over in his mind. In his narrow limits, he could have said, “If I cannot conceive it, it cannot be.” He believed that all thing were possible with God. He did not place limits on God’s activity in the world around him and the world inside him. Third, he was a man of decisive action. We don’t need to think for a moment that what Joseph decided to do in his situation with Mary was an easy thing to do. This is the path Joseph decided to take – as outlandish as it must have seemed to common sense. With nothing more substantial than Mary’s words to him and the testimony of the dream he had, he took Mary as his wife and he followed God into an unknown future. John Claypool tells a story of a friend of his, Bob Benson, and how Bob’s son wanted to take speech lessons and worked hard all year at it. The grand finale of the course was a play to be given by all the pupils, and Mike was obviously disappointed because he was assigned a “bit part” – only three lines close to the end. At the performance, the father told how they labored through two hours of fits and starts, and at last, Mike’s moment came: “And he said his lines – not too soon, not too late, not too slow – he said his lines just right.” This can be said of Joseph, and I hope it can be said of me. That at the close of the curtains that he said his lines – not too soon, not too late, not too loud, not too soft, not too fast, not too slow – he said his lines just right. May the example of Joseph inspire us, that in our time and place we may not only accept our lines, but we will say them just right. _____________ Sermon brief provided by: David Tullock, Pastor, First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Cleveland, TN; Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.