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June 2nd, 2010

Joseph and Nicodemus

What do these two people have in common?

This past Sunday, my dad taught from Matthew chapter 1. Matthew tells the history of the birth of Jesus Christ from the perspective of Joseph. (Luke, on the other hand tells the story from the perspective of Mary.) In Matthew 1:19, we came to see that Joseph exemplified those two complementary characteristics of God - righteousness and compassion. Joseph demonstrated righteousness by his respect for the law ("being a righteousness man") and his compassion by caring about Mary even when it seemed that she had been unfaithful to him ("not wanting to disgrace her"). These two phrases are joined with the word "and". While righteousness and compassion may seem contradictory to our eyes, they appear complementary in the word of God in Matthew 1:19 (at least in my English translations).

Joseph also had another characteristic that held the others together. He was humble. He did not act rashly, but patiently allowed some time to pass before acting on his decision. When he was commanded to take Mary as his wife, he obeyed. This was probably quite risky to his reputation, but he obeyed the word of God anyway (by faith rather than sight). He did not protest or complain. If this occasion is representative of his character, he lived like the man described in Micah 6:8, "He has showed you, O man, what is good... To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Joseph acted justly, loved mercy, and humbly obeyed God.

In the course of the sermon, dad also highlighted Nicodemus. I couldn't help but smile. For some reason, Nicodemus is dear to my heart. He first appears in John chapter 3. He was a religious teacher, a man concerned about religion. Nicodemus was also a man with a humble heart. He came to Jesus at night to talk with him one on one. Later in John's Gospel, in chapter 7, we see Nicodemus trying to encourage the other Pharisees to consider Jesus' testimony, even though doing so was no doubt risky to his reputation. In chapter 19, we see him helping a man from Arimathea to treat and bury the body of Jesus - an act which made him "ceremonially unclean" toward the end of the celebration of the Passover and the day before a high Sabbath. Nicodemus, like Joseph, sought righteousness, acted compassionately, and displayed that jewel of character - humility.

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