Monday, December 16, 2013

Joseph: More Mystery

I just finished shovelling the snow off the driveway. As I worked, I thought more about Joseph, following yesterday's sermon.

Joseph was a dreamer. Each of his actions followed a word from God sent by an angel in a dream we know Joseph the dreamer in the OT too. Joseph, son of Jacob, appears in Genesis 30 as one whose birth means that God is adding to Jacob's family. He begins life as part of a bizarre contest (bizarre at least to our way of thinking) between Leah and Rachel to see who can have more children. But he begins known as the dreamer, the one whose dreams--and whose ability to interpret dreams--lead to the salvation of Jacob's family, "the Children of Israel".

Joseph, husband of Mary, appears in Matthew 1:16, as the son of Jacob. So when he starts hearing from God in dreams, we can expect salvation to come to Israel. Here is where the story changes from its clear OT parallel.

Matthew likes to make subtle points through simple stylistic variations. So in Matthew 2 he makes the point that King Jesus supplants King Herod with a simple stylistic change in the way he refers to Herod. He calls Herod "King", until the magi find and worship the baby Jesus. After that he refers to Herod only as "Herod". Jesus is king, and Herod is dethroned.

So when Matthew never records any words from Joseph's mouth, we can assume that is an important point of style. Matthew sets Joseph up to be important--son of Jacob; God's words in dreams. We expect Joseph to do something! But he says nothing. He does what he is told, like a servant who hears and obeys. He has added the family into which Jesus is born, and then fades into obscurity.

Why? Because the focus is on Jesus--the one who saves, not on Joseph--the one who is added. Think of what happens to the light bulb when the sun comes up. It almost disappears in the light of the sun. Jesus is the light of the world, and all other sources of power fade into obscurity.

There's much more in the story than this; but I was done shovelling the driveway, and that's enough for now.

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