Living in the Image of God M04S19
God called Mary-Joseph to accept pregnancy with Jesus and begin a husband-wife ministry of parenting the Messiah, thus fulfilling his promise by sending the Messiah through a natural human family. Mary was called to be the Mother of the Messiah and Joseph called to be the earthly father. They would face difficulties due to the unusual pregnancy, but their love for each other and love of God prepared them to understand and accept responsibilities regarding the ministry. This two-part study of the ministry begins with Mary as the leader and Joseph the supporter. Mary’s initial responsibility was to accept pregnancy with Jesus and Joseph’s was to support Mary by accepting her as his wife despite the extraneous pregnancy. Subsequently, the second part of the study will show that Joseph’s support for Mary began his responsibility as overall leader of the husband-wife ministry.
We discuss the call of Mary-Joseph as earthly parents of the Messiah, in continuation of the bible study series on understanding the individual responsibility regarding family leadership. The series is based on bible examples of husband-wife interactions and relationships: including the Shunammite couple, Adam and Eve, Abraham-Sarah and Isaac-Rebekah.
Previous Studies in the Series
Previous studies in the series led to understanding that God created marriage to combine a man and woman into a union of seamless complements for a mission of representing him among all creation. The man and woman constitute a husband-wife union or family with a leadership structure based on the husband as overall leader and the wife as spiritual gateway and occasional leader in specific matters. God uses the family leadership structure to communicate his will to the family, calls on the husband-wife union to honor and support each other’s contributions to family leadership, and blesses those that do.
Please see the Isaac-Rebekah segment (Isaac-Rebekah Individual Responsibility Honor-Support Family Leadership) for a more-detailed summary of lessons learned.
Current Study in the Series
The current study begins a two-part segment on the Mary-Joseph union. God called Mary-Joseph to a ministry of parenting the Messiah through pregnancy, childhood care, and transition to adulthood. Through the call, he fulfills his promise by sending the Messiah through a natural human family. At the time of their call to the ministry, Mary and Joseph were engaged to be married but not yet married.
God called the Mary-Joseph union by speaking to Mary first: to guide her to understand the pregnancy and accept her call to be the Mother of the Messiah. Thereafter, he spoke to Joseph to guide him to understand Mary’s pregnancy and accept to be the earthly father of the Messiah. Thus, Mary was called as leader initially and Joseph as supporter. Joseph’s support for Mary at the initial stage would prepare him for his responsibility as overall leader of the husband-wife ministry. Later events discussed in the second part show Joseph as overall leader and Mary as occasional leader in specific matters; consistent with overall understanding of the family leadership structure.
Call of Mary
God called Mary to the ministry through an encounter with Angel Gabriel. The angel appeared to Mary and delivered the message, Mary requested clarification, the angel responded with more information, Mary accepted and surrendered, and the angel left her.
The account indicates that the angel appeared to Mary in human form [Luke 1:26–28]: “God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’” Mary was puzzled by the greeting, coming from someone that she initially thought was a regular person. She wondered what kind of greeting this might be: “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be” [Luke 1:29].
The angel recognized her concern and proceeded to deliver the message, using the message to introduce himself as a messenger of God [Luke 1:30–33]: “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’”
Mary understood that the message was from God but was troubled by the human implications. Therefore, she requested clarification: “‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin’” [Luke 1:34]? Her request for clarification reveals a desire for human understanding that conveys her concern for Joseph and for herself. Her single question could be expanded to include several questions, such as: How would she explain her pregnancy? How about the existing laws against extraneous pregnancy? How about her commitment to marry Joseph? How would he hold up against his fiancée being inexplicably pregnant?
The angel did not address Mary’s concerns directly. Instead, he responded with more information to assure her that the message was of God and that the word of God will be fulfilled even if humanly inexplicable [Luke 1:35–37]: “The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’” The information regarding Elizabeth’s pregnancy at old age conveys a message that the word of God will be fulfilled even if humanly inexplicable.
Mary accepted. Although the angel had not addressed her concern directly, Mary understood the message was from God and surrendered all her concern to God based on the understanding [Luke 1:38]: “‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.” The essence of the message was that God appointed her to be Mother of the Messiah. She will become pregnant with the Messiah through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Having secured Mary’s acceptance, the angel left her without saying another word.
Call of Joseph
News of Mary’s pregnancy began to spread. People heard that she was pregnant through the Holy Spirit but did not know what to make of the information [Matthew 1:18]: “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.”
Joseph became aware that Mary was pregnant and he knew that he had no part in her pregnancy. He decided he would obey the Jewish law that required him to end the engagement because of the extraneous pregnancy. However, he was concerned about Mary and decided he would divorce her quietly to avoid subjecting her to public disgrace: “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” [Matthew 1:19].
While Joseph contemplated his potential response, an angel appeared to him in a dream and informed him that Mary’s pregnancy was of the Holy Spirit. The angel urged him to support Mary by accepting her pregnancy and taking her home as his wife: “But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’” [Matthew 1:20]. Further, the angel informed Joseph that he (Joseph) has been appointed the child’s earthly father: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” [Matthew 1:21].
The phrase “you are to give him the name Jesus” means Joseph will be the child’s earthly father. We know this based on interactions at the naming of John the Baptist (Luke 1:59–63), which indicate that the responsibility of naming a child was reserved for the child’s father.
Joseph’s concerns regarding Mary’s pregnancy were addressed by the angel’s message. The message also addressed Mary’s concern regarding Joseph understanding her pregnancy. Joseph accepted without any question. He took Mary home and they began their husband-wife ministry: “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” [Matthew 1:24].
However, they did not complete the process of getting married until Mary gave birth to Jesus [Matthew 1:25]: “But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” Their marital status remained as “engaged but not married” approximately nine months later when they went to Bethlehem to register for census: “He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child” [Luke 2:5].
Summary of What We Learned
God called Mary-Joseph to accept pregnancy with Jesus and begin a husband-wife ministry of parenting the Messiah, thus fulfilling his promise by sending the Messiah through a natural human family. Mary was called to be the Mother of the Messiah and Joseph called to be the earthly father. They would face difficulties due to the unusual pregnancy, but their love for each other and love of God prepared them to understand and accept responsibilities regarding the ministry.
This two-part study of the ministry begins with Mary as the leader and Joseph the supporter. Mary’s initial responsibility was to accept pregnancy with Jesus and Joseph’s was to support Mary by accepting her as his wife despite the extraneous pregnancy. Subsequently, the second part of the study will show that Joseph’s support for Mary began his responsibility as overall leader of the husband-wife ministry.