Matthew 1:18–25 tells how “the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way,” and Joseph’s dream is a significant part of this passage. He had just discovered that Mary was pregnant and made a natural but incorrect conclusion that Mary had become pregnant through another man (Matthew 1:18–19).
Joseph was probably heartbroken. Mary seemed to have been unfaithful, shattering their future plans together. As Joseph slept, however, an angel delivered a message from God that completely changed his outlook for the days ahead.
20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20–21 ESV)
Let’s break this angelic message into its parts to see just why it made such an impact on Joseph.
First, Joseph was reminded that he was a royal descendant, a “son of David.” Second, the angel commanded him to “not fear” and to “take Mary as your wife.” This was a direct change of course from what he had planned to do. Third, the angel reoriented Joseph’s thinking as to how Mary became pregnant—“that which is conceived in her from the Holy Spirit.” The explanation for her pregnancy was an amazing act of God, not an adulterous act of Mary. Fourth, Joseph was told the gender of the child—“She will bear a son.” Knowing the gender ahead of time of a child was only for a few people up to this time and always by the promise of God and somehow related to redemptive history (e.g., the promise of Isaac, John the Baptist). Fifth, the angel commanded Joseph to “call his name Jesus,” which means “Yahweh saves,” which ties into the angel’s reason for the name—“for he will save his people from their sins.” Jesus saves us from sin when we repent and believe in Him. The penalty of death that He paid on the cross was not for His own sins but for all those place their trust in Him. And, the righteousness that He merited in living a perfect life is attributed to us at faith as well. When Jesus comes again, we will be resurrected, sinless, and glorified! Jesus certainly saves His people from their sins.
Joseph overcame his fears, married Mary, and even abstained from relations during her pregnancy. As promised, she had a son, and Joseph named this son Jesus, showing us that he believed that this Child would save His people, Joseph included, from their sins (Matthew 1:24–25). May we be like Joseph who overcame all doubts to believe in Jesus and be faithful to Him!