What the Gospels Teach #2 – Matthew 1:19 – Compassion
We finish the genealogy of Christ and then we hit Matthew 1:18-19
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.” (Matthew 1:18-19 NASB)
Now Joseph understandably was ready to put Mary away, but why? Well it is pretty obvious, she was pregnant and he never had relations with her therefore as far as he could see she had relations with another man. Now I imagine this was an arranged marriage, they did not date like modern culture does, so to assume that Joseph and Mary had this close intimate friendship at this point is not a safe assumption. At the same time we must understand that a young man getting ready to be married ought to be pretty steamed if he believes his wife to be has been messing around. Moreover, the simple fact (as he saw it) that his wife to be was not a virgin, especially in a society that still remembered the importance of virginity, had to have been devastating.
“Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly...” If what Joseph had thought was true, then the Law required the stoning of this woman. The righteous man should have sought the law to be enacted, right? The righteous man does not seek to duck the law does he? Should not justice have been done? But look at the verse 19, it is clear that Joseph’s righteousness was the very characteristic that caused him to plan to put her away secretly. Now we know what happens next, the angel gives Joseph a heads up about what is going on, so he remains faithful and acts as the earthly father of Jesus, nonetheless we should not overlook verse 19 too quickly.
So what about your righteousness? When you are sinned against, what is your response? Is it compassion, forgiveness, and a desire that the one who sinned against you be sent away secretly in order that they be not disgraced? Or do you feel the need to expose the sinner in order that justice be served, and they feel the shame of their sin? Righteousness results in compassion. Now in the next segment I will write about John the Baptist, and you will find an entirely different thing, John is exposing the Pharisees publicly... so what is the difference? The difference is simple, the Pharisees were righteous with regard to the law, but unlike Joseph, they, in their zeal sought to expose all sin. The Pharisees being brazen and public in their lack of compassion needed to be addressed in such a way. Unrepentant sin eventually must be addressed publicly, but the repentant sinner should receive nothing but compassion.