God the Father knew he was going to use Mary to be the mother of Jesus. He also knew that Joseph was going to be her husband and the earthly father of Jesus. He knew this back before he created the world or so the story goes.
The birth of Jesus is celebrated on December 25. It takes nine months for a baby to grow inside the womb of the mother. March 25 therefore is designated the Annunciation of the Lord, which is tomorrow as this article is written.
Joseph and Mary followed the Jewish custom of Betrothal and Marriage. It was a two-step process separated by up to three months between Betrothal and Marriage. But in the culture of the time, once the Betrothal took place the couple were considered vowed to each other and sexual relations with another person would be considered Adultery.
The sequence of events as detailed in the Bible are:
1) Joseph and Mary agree to be married to each other
3) Joseph takes Mary as his wife.
The Bible tells us that Mary was found to be pregnant before she was with Joseph and that Joseph learns in a dream that the child is the Messiah. He then takes Mary into his home which is final act of the Betrothal – Marriage sequence.
But since Joseph and Mary were vowed to each other before Mary was overshadowed does it not seem proper that Joseph should have had a say in the decision of his future wife becoming pregnant?
Consider a modern engaged couple. The woman agrees to bear another man’s child without the consent of her fiancé. How would that work out?
In the case of Joseph and Mary we must remember that this was all part of God’s plan. Was Joseph’s rights disrespected in this matter?
The short answer is no but requires a bit of explanation.
First, God asked Mary to become the mother of Jesus. She could have said no and God would respect her decision.
Second, God reassured Joseph that Mary had not been unfaithful to him and that the child she was carrying was the fulfillment of the prophecy.
Third, during the time of the early church, the Church Fathers believed that both Mary and Joseph had each taken a vow of celibacy when they were both young, before their engagement to each other, so they could dedicate their entire life to God. For each of them the most important thing was to carry out God’s will in their lives.
Fourth, because of her vow of celibacy, Mary never intended to get married, however the death of her father while she was still young necessitated that she have a husband to be her guardian.
Sixth, Joseph and Mary both understood that their earlier vows to dedicate their lives to God gave God a prior claim over both their lives.
Seventh, by taking Mary as his wife, Joseph was freely obeying God’s will which was his deepest desire. Mary, consenting to bear Jesus, also freely obeyed God’s will which was her deepest desire.
The final result is two perpetual virgins married to each other and experiencing the deepest longing of their souls which was to serve God totally and completely.
So Joseph did not need to be consulted when Mary, his fiancée, was overshadowed as he had given God total control over his life previously. God not only did not disrespect Joseph but actually granted Joseph his most ardent wish.