She was pregnant and he knew the baby wasn’t his.
She had promised to be faithful. He was busily preparing their home to receive her as his wife when he heard through the grapevine that his bride was pregnant. He must have been so hurt. Embarrassed. Angry…
Matthew 1:20 says he “considered” the situation. The word seems a bit sterile and stoic for a young man who finds his new bride is pregnant with a baby he knows doesn’t belong to him. Perhaps not. In Dr. Kenneth Bailey’s book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, he explains that the Greek word translated “considered” here is “enthymeomai”. One meaning of the word is indeed to consider or think about a matter, but another translation is be “very angry”.
Of course, Joseph was angry and upset. Who wouldn’t be?
This is why it is all the more remarkable when we see him choose grace over vengeance.
The norm in this day for divorce would be for the husband to hire a scribe to announce his bride’s indiscretion in the streets. In addition, the law of Moses required the stoning of the adulteress. Joseph knew this of course and we see him do a remarkable thing. He chooses to offer a measure of protection to the girl who had shamed him and broken his heart. There will be no scribe, no stoning. He will end the matter quietly.
Matthew 1:19 lauds him for his choice, calling him a “just man”.
And so we see justice redefined not as one who callously enforces the letter of the law, but one who lives his life with compassion and grace.
Joseph, is not only just, he is a man of profound faith and committment to God for when the angel comes to him in Matthew 1:20-21 he responds in obedience by taking Mary as his wife despite the insurmountable social price tag that comes with that decision. With his obedience to God, he joins Mary in her precarious social position. He, like she, is blameless but everyone will now assume…the baby is his.