Friday, September 7, 2012

When a dream convinces you to marry your cheating girlfriend

We now come to Matthew 1:18-25, which explains the birth of Jesus from Joseph's point of view. In summary, Joseph found out that his fiancee, with whom he had never had sex, was pregnant, so he was going to break up with her, but he had a dream which said to marry her because the baby was totally from God. So he did.

Seems legit. Image source.

Here are my thoughts and questions:

What was Mary and Joseph's relationship like? There seems to be a serious lack of communication.

How did Joseph find out Mary was pregnant? Did he hear it from other people, or did she tell him herself? Communication is perhaps the most important thing in a relationship- shouldn't there be at least some conversation between them before he makes the decision to divorce her?

You'd think Mary would know that this is a situation where she needs to explain everything to Joseph. Does she not know what he's going to think if he hears through the grapevine that she's pregnant? Or did she know there was no chance he'd believe her (because, seriously, that is not how abstinence works) so she just assumed it was over, so no use trying to explain to him?

The way it's worded, it sounds like Joseph just heard about it secondhand. Maybe my criticism is completely invalid because "dating" back then was not at all like "dating" now, but ... dude, COMMUNICATION.

Joseph is a good guy.

It's amazing how much respect he has for Mary. He knows that since she's pregnant, they have to break up, but he's not interested in getting revenge on her.

Actually, I don't know the typical procedure for this situation- was stoning an actual possibility?

Is this because dating then was different than dating now, and it was more about arranged marriage and economic/social reasons to get married, rather than the high emotions that come with dating as we know it today? Like, was Joseph heartbroken over Mary's (supposed) cheating, or was he just like "meh"?

Here's another aspect to consider: he's a great guy, and he's acting out of love and respect for Mary- but his plan to divorce her is actually the "wrong" choice. You could say it's "against God's plan." Joseph is trying his best to do the right thing- and given the information he has (including his knowledge of sex ed), breaking up with Mary in a respectful way, without humiliating her, is the best thing to do.

But it's not what God wants. But there was no way Joseph could have known that. God had to tell him. And since his relationship with Mary seemed to be suffering from terrible communication skills, God had to tell him in a dream.

Does this mean that if we try our best to follow God and do what's right, but we make a wrong conclusion because of our own lack of information (or whatever other weaknesses we may have), God understands and will help us out?

Because that would be awesome- that would give me a lot less to worry about in terms of my plans for the future.

Okay, how often do you base major life decisions on dreams?

It seems like in the bible everyone knows when God is talking to them. In my life, sometimes a thought pops into my head and I wonder "was that from God, or did I just think it up?" So how does Joseph know whether this dream is a message from God, or whether he's just crazy?

Which is more likely: Mary cheated on him OR she is the one person in the history of the world who was specially chosen by God and got pregnant without having sex?

And perhaps Joseph's judgment on this is a little off because of all the emotion involved. Doesn't it seem like he's a little bit in denial? Like he's looking for any excuse not to accept the fact that it's over, she's cheating on him, she's having someone else's baby.

My point is, this must have been a super-legit type of dream in order for him to take it so seriously.

I really hope the angel explained more than what Matthew wrote down.

According to Joseph's dream, "what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." Sooooo... I really hope it was more explicit than that. Because the message for Joseph is actually "Mary is TOTALLY NOT cheating on you- God just made her magically pregnant- she is still a virgin though."

Can Joseph reasonably draw that conclusion from the abstract, bible-y language "what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit"?

I think there was more to it- somehow, God communicated to him the completely bizarre circumstances.

Joseph's obedience.

But somehow, Joseph did know this was from God. And he was obedient- he married Mary and raised the kid as his own. And that's a big deal.

Maybe it was the hardest thing he'd ever done.

Because people probably judged him. And maybe there were times Joseph doubted. And maybe sometimes Jesus was a bratty little kid and said "you're not my REAL father!"

Summary/ take-home message:

Sometimes God asks us to do things that are incredibly hard, things that redirect the whole course of our life- like raising someone else's kid. 

Also, God knows and appreciates our good intentions. Matthew points out that Joseph was righteous and that's why he wanted to divorce Mary "quietly." However, it was the wrong choice, so God spoke to him to clarify what he should do.

It seems like the message is: If you honestly are trying to do the right thing, God knows, and God's not going to punish you for making "the wrong choice" if it comes from good intentions- but remember, part of those "good intentions" include being open to hearing God's voice, and being humble enough to realize you misjudged the situation and you need to change your plans in order to obey God.

One last thing: The passage mentions that Jesus would also be known as Immanuel, which means "God with us." That's beautiful- don't ever forget this promise.

Disclaimer: Yes I believe in the virgin birth, but a few times in this post I mentioned how Mary was cheating on Joseph, and I didn't qualify it with a "supposedly." That's because the passage focuses on Joseph, and from his point of view, he can't possibly conclude anything else, until God shows up and clarifies it for him.

Seriously, is Joseph going to think "She's probably cheating on me, but the other possibility is that God made her magically pregnant, which has happened exactly 0 times in history"? No. She's totally cheating on him. You know, until God steps in and clears up everything.


This post is part of a series on the gospel of Matthew.

Previous post: A Bunch of Names (Matthew 1:1-17)

Next post: The Wise Men Found Jesus In Another Religion (Matthew 2:1-12)

Click here to go to the beginning of the series.


  1. Does this mean that if we try our best to follow God and do what's right, but we make a wrong conclusion because of our own lack of information (or whatever other weaknesses we may have), God understands and will help us out?

    The answer is yes. God is always with us and he won't leave us hangin when we follow him.
    Also, when God is talking to you, you will know it. That is why Joseph accepted the dream. Like you, I have had a hard time knowing when God is talking to me. I distinguish his voice by the way it made me feel. If it was confusing, gave me anxiety , or was going against his word it wasn't him. His voice is more warm, loving, persistent, and doesn't go against him. I hope rhis helped 😊

  2. Mary's pregnacy was not "magical". Why? Because God is not magical; he is 100% real. Also, he is against sorcery and witchcraft (which uses magic).
    Therefore, Mary's pregnacy was completely from God. Therefore, she did not cheat. Also, yes, this is the first time in history for a pregnancy to occur like this. However, we can't go by what is likely or easy to believe in the bible. That is what makes the bible so special and our relationship with God stronger.