Joseph's Testimony
Matthew 1:18 -25
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together…

After giving the genealogy of Jesus, the evangelist proceeds to furnish important particulars of the history of his generation and birth. In these he brings out prominently the notable testimony of Joseph in proof of the Christship of Jesus. We note -


1. He was a righteous man.

(1) This is the character claimed for him by Matthew at a time when, if it were not a fact, it might have been challenged; for Joseph was well known (see Matthew 13:55; Luke 4:22; John 6:42). According to Eusebius, this Gospel was written in the third year of Caligula, i.e. A.D. 41, when many of Joseph's contemporaries were still living.

(2) Everything recorded of Joseph is consistent with this character. It is in particular well sustained by his conduct towards Mary, under the trying circumstances detailed in the text. He might have prosecuted her for adultery (see Deuteronomy 22:23, 24). But he had an option of mercy, which he preferred. He resolved accordingly "to put her away privily," viz. by giving her, in presence of two witnesses, a bill of divorcement, without assigning any cause (see Deuteronomy 24:1). Thus her life would be spared. Note:

(a) True righteousness is merciful. Of this the gospel of our salvation furnishes glorious illustration.

(b) Leniency devoid of justice is not true mercy. The terrors of the Lord," as well as those of the Law, are necessary to the public good of the universe.

(3) As a righteous man Joseph could not be guilty of falsehood. This must hold under ordinary conditions, but especially in this case, where the subject of testimony is momentous, involving everlasting issues.

2. He was a sensible man.

(1) He certainly was not over-credulous, else he might have listened without demurrer to Mary's story. There is no mention here of Gabriel's message to Mary (see Luke 1:26-38). The omission suggests that Matthew's design was to bring out prominently the evidence of Joseph. Yet that Mary had communicated these things to Joseph may be reasonably presumed. She made no secret of them (see Luke 1:46-55).

(2) There were not wanting good reasons by which he might have been inclined to listen to this wonderful story.

(a) He had sufficient knowledge of Mary's previous piety to have disposed him to credit her testimony; but the circumstances are unprecedented, and he is not satisfied.

(b) He had the testimony of Elisabeth (see Luke 1:39-56), which was weighty when taken in connection with the vision of Zacharias, the remarkable event of the Baptist's birth, and Zacharias's prophecy (see Luke 1:67-79). Still, he was not satisfied. Note: Never was mother so honoured and so tried as Mary. Let not those who aspire to honours think to escape trials. As Mary suffered with Christ and for his sake, so shall we if Christ be formed in us (cf. Acts 5:41; Acts 9:16; Romans 8:17; Philippians 1:29).

3. He had the best opportunities of knowledge.

(1) As espoused to Mary he was in the best position to be acquainted with the matter of her testimony.

(2) He was therefore in the best position to he convinced by the complementary evidence furnished in the vision vouchsafed to himself.

(3) Of this vision he was, of course, a first-rate witness, for he was himself the subject of it.


1. Because of the importance of the subject.

(1) The subject is stupendous. The incarnation of Deity in human nature. "Immanuel."

(2) Such an event must be of the utmost moment to humanity. It presages the beatification of humanity. In this all "partakers of flesh and blood" must have the deepest interest.

(3) This is wonderful news for sinners. And such are we all. Note: Not only was the incarnation of Jehovah necessary for redemption, but faith in Jesus as Jehovah is necessary for salvation. The very name of Jesus associates Jehovah and salvation (cf. Acts 3:16; Acts 4:10; Acts 9:14; Romans 10:13).

2. Because of the nature of its authentication.

(1) An angel appeared to Joseph. Superhuman intelligence alone could reveal the subject.

(2) He appeared to him in a dream. Not an ordinary, but a Divine, dream. Such dreams carried with them convincing evidence. Else they could not serve their purpose (cf. Numbers 12:6; Deuteronomy 13:1-3; 1 Samuel 28:6, 15; Joel 2:28). The evidence was convincing to Joseph. It reassured him of the innocence of Mary, and certified the truth of her wonderful story. It let in also the evidence of Elisabeth in its full force. The whole was confirmed by the correspondence of prophetic times, which had now awakened a general expectation.

(3) The sequel proved that Joseph was not misled.

(a) He had the "sign" that Mary should "bring forth a Son." God alone could certainly forecast this.

(b) That Son was to support the character of a Divine Saviour of sinners. Who but God could have foreseen that this Child would ever claim to be such a Saviour, much less that he should behave miraculously consistently with that most difficult and lofty claim?

3. Because of its consistency with Scripture.

(1) The miracle of the virgin-mother was a prominent subject of ancient prophecy.

(a) It dawned in the first promise (Genesis 3:15), that the "Seed of the woman," viz. without the man - the issue therefore of a virgin - should "bruise the serpent's head."

(b) It is explicitly set forth by Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14) in the passage cited in the text. Here we note the definite article - not "a virgin," but "the virgin (העלמה)." One only such occurrence was ever to take place.

(2) Another notable circumstance is that, according to Isaiah, the house of David was not to fair until this wonder should be accomplished. The sign was given expressly to reassure that house, now fearing extinction, when, after the slaughter perpetrated by Pekah, Judah was again invaded by Rezin. But, excepting in Jesus, the family of David is now difficult to trace. Surely this ought to convince the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. The certainty of our faith is established by many infallible proofs. Unreasonableness is with unbelief.


1. Wisely ordered was the espousal of Mary to Joseph, not only to give value to his testimony, but also to shield the reputation of the virgin, and to afford her and her infant a needful earthly guardianship. Note: A providence that is equal to all emergencies may well be trusted by Christians.

2. It is also a significant circumstance that Jesus received his name at the time of his circumcision. To give the name at such a time was the common custom (Luke 1:59, 60). But in this case the name of Jesus was most appropriately given when that blood was first shed without which there is no remission of sins. The sign of circumcision had its perfect accomplishment in the shedding of the blood of the covenant upon the cross.

3. This Name, with its reason, are a blessed revelation. There is no salvation but from sin. Sin carries its own punishment. The removal of sin is the remission of punishment. Infinite mercy can only save sinners from punishment by saving them from sin.

4. Jesus becomes incarnate again in every regenerate spirit. The reconciliation of the human to the Divine was first effected in the Person of Christ. As Christ is formed in us we become reconciled to God. Christ grows up in us as we grow up into him. The life of faith is a life of miracle. - J.A.M.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

WEB: Now the birth of Jesus Christ was like this; for after his mother, Mary, was engaged to Joseph, before they came together, she was found pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

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