As we looked at Matthew 1 again, we approached it from the standpoint of “vocation.” Vocation refers to any area of life in which God has placed us in relationship to others and God. Thus, a job is the work (and place of employment) to earn a pay check. Vocation refers to our status as employees. We also have vocations of husband, wife, son, daughter, etc.
In the genealogy of Jesus, only one person is described by vocation, namely David, the king (1:6). With Joseph, we see his vocation clearly marked in the text:
1:18 When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph. Joseph is in a vocational role with Mary, “her betrothed,” which now carries specific obligations. But circumstances seem to intervene to prevent him from fulfilling his role.
1:19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. As one who is righteous before the Lord, like Abraham and David (Matt. 1:1 and Rom. 4:3–6), Joseph considers his options under Deut. 22. The only recourses seemed to be either public disgrace before the entire city as her parents prove her virginity or stoning her to death for unfaithfulness (Deut. 22:13–21). In light of all this, Joseph’s best course of action in his vocation as husband is to spare Mary both outcomes, namely “send her away secretly.”
1:20 behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. The angel appears to Joseph with the words “son of David,” emphasizing the continuity of what the genealogy had already established, there is more than the individual involved here. He is part of the chain in bringing about God’s saving work. The angel reaffirms Joseph’s vocation (do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife), and then reveals to Joseph something almost beyond belief: (for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit). Mary has not been unfaithful at all. Rather God himself is involved in this.
1:24–25 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son And he named Him Jesus. Joseph then responds in faith doing as he was commanded, in other words fulfilling his vocation. But there is an added element here: now Joseph fulfills the vocation of “father” by naming the son.” This will receive even more clarity in Matthew 2.
This leads Matthew now to emphasize the vocation of this son.
1:21 [The angel tells Joseph:] you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins. His name describes his vocation of saving people from sins. In fact, the rest of Matthew’s Gospel is an unveiling of what exactly that means and how he Jesus will accomplish his vocation. But there is more…
1:22–23 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: see, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.” Interestingly, that specific name/title (Immanuel) is not used anywhere else in the Gospels (or the NT). So why is it included here? Matthew seems to emphasize Jesus’ vocation once again, namely what Jesus does in carrying out what the name/title reveals. Jesus is “God with us” even when it appears not to be so, but He is “God with us” especially when He is accomplishing his saving work.
When Jesus gives instruction on how to deal with sin in the community (Matt. 18:15–20), he concludes with these words: For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them. Note that this is not a generic promise of his presence, but specifically linked to his saving work, namely forgiving sins. Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.
And finally, when Jesus gives the Great Commission in Matthew 28, he concludes with these words: I am with you always. Even his ascension into heaven does not change the reality of his vocation, “God with us … to save.”
This gives us at least some food for thought concerning Matthew’s Gospel and how it unfolds. And it gives us something to consider in regard to vocation.