Here we have a young couple, probably in their teens, in love, betrothed, pledged/contracted to be married. Both have high moral standards and a love for God. There's is a chaste relationship that will be consummated only when they are wed.
Imagine Joseph's shock when he discovered that his future wife was with child and that it definitely wasn't his child? There is nothing worse than loving someone, putting your faith and trust in someone, only to discover they have deceived you.
With such unexpected infidelity and betrayal, Joseph must have been shocked and much distressed by it all. How could he ever marry someone who could be so deceitful and unfaithful? He, being a righteous man, had no choice but to divorce her.
Betrothal was much more than an engagement. The couple were legally bound to each other. Mary had in fact committed adultery, or so it appeared. Strictly speaking she should be stoned to death according to the law. Though such a sentence was rarely carried out, the fact that it was embedded in the law revealed the seriousness with which adultery was considered.
Now if Joseph told the world the reason why he was divorcing Mary, he would have been seen as the innocent party and she, a wicked woman of questionable morals. She definitely would have been ostracised by her community. He must have really loved her, despite what he thought she had done. Yes, he would have to divorce her, but still he did not want her to suffer for the rest of her life.
In deciding to divorce her secretly and not point his finger at her, he knew that he would leave himself open to the accusation of him deserting this lovely young girl having first won her trust and got her into the family way. Yet, out of what must have been a very deep love for Mary, he was prepared to do that. I think Joseph was a remarkable man, willing to take upon himself the blame for the sin of another. Doesn't that remind you of someone?
Obviously, Joseph wasn't convinced by Mary's implausible story. Why else would God have had to send an angel in a dream to convince him? However, following the angel's message, Joseph was convinced and did exactly what the angel told him to do. He married Mary.
But I'm sure that even although he married Mary, Joseph would still not have escaped the wagging tongues and wagging fingers. Undoubtedly there would be those in Nazareth who would have worked out that Mary must have conceived before she and Joseph were married.
We know very little of Joseph, but what we do know reveals him to be a truly remarkable man.
Howard Webber, Major
Lives in retirement in Bournemouth UK
Major Webber is a weekly contributor the FSAOF blog through his 'It's Thursday' series.