Summary: What did it cost Joseph to support Mary when she became pregnant with Jesus? Mary would have been in disgrace -- in danger of being stoned -- but Joseph chose to stand by her. He tells his story in this monologue.
Style: Dramatic. Duration: 10min
Note: You are welcome to change geographical and topical references to fit your own situation.
My name is Yosef ben Eli… or as you would say, Joseph the son of Eli. But perhaps you know me better as Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. You notice that I don't call myself the father of Jesus, and that is both my greatest sadness and my greatest joy. Let me explain.
Mary and I lived in the village of Nazareth, which is in the north of Israel. Now Israel is only about the size of the Canterbury Plains where you live, so there's not a great distance between north and south. From Nazareth to the capital city Jerusalem is about 100 kilometres, less than the distance from Christchurch to Timaru. That's a pretty tiny country, particularly one that seems to have been a crossroads for trouble right through history. Just like in my time, when we were over-run by Romans.
But even if Israel was occupied, we had to try and make life go on as best we could, and that included earning a living, marrying and having children and raising a family. And Nazareth was not greatly bothered by the Romans for the most part, as long as we toed the line. I earned an okay living, as a carpenter. It's in our family… my father was a carpenter, and I was one, too. Good enough that I was hired to work on King Herod's new palace over at Sephoris. This was good money, but it was hard because I had to spend a lot of time away from Nazareth, and that meant time away from Mary.
Ah, Mary! I thought I was the most blessed of men to win her father's agreement to our marriage. Yes, she was quite a bit younger than me … only 14 when our engagement was announced … but I loved her, I'm fit, and I knew we would be well suited. But more importantly, she was a young woman of beautiful character and devoted to Yahweh, our God. That mattered more than anything.
So everything was going well … until the day my world fell apart. While I was working at Sephoris, Mary had taken the opportunity to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who lived in Hebron. Mary had heard that Elizabeth had miraculously become pregnant in old age, and wanted to support her. She was there three months, and it was when she returned that she dropped the bombshell. Mary was also pregnant! And worse, she claimed an angel had told her she was to have a baby, and God himself would be the father. Talk about the most outrageous attempt at cover-up for immoral behaviour anyone could try and pull. I was dumbfounded, outraged, devastated. Here we were not yet married, we had not slept together, and she was pregnant! How could she betray me like this? A woman I thought to be the model of integrity. Someone I had put all my hopes in for having children, and now this one was not mine.
I decided to make sure that it would not be mine. I loved Mary, yes, but the shame of this was more than I could bear. Love can only cover so much. So I decided to have our engagement cancelled, which is just the same as getting divorced in your terms. After all, I had righteousness and the law on my side. She could be thankful that I didn't expose her publicly… at least I kept her from being stoned to death.
You can probably imagine the rather frank “discussion” that I had with Mary to announce this. The tears flowed long and hard, and not just on her side. But she was in the wrong and I was in the right, and that was all that mattered. I was exercising tough love.
How wrong could I be! I could barely sleep that night, I was so devastated. I raged, I reasoned, I justified myself … but there was also a knot inside me that wouldn't go away, and I didn't know what to do about it. On the one hand I loved Mary, on the other I felt utterly betrayed. And then again there was the puzzle that up to now I had known Mary to be only a woman of virtue, not someone who would lie. I could not reconcile the conflicting feelings. I must have slept though, even in the midst of the turmoil, because I had the most incredible dream. I dreamed that an angel calling himself Gabriel came to me … the same angel that Mary said had appeared to her.
Gabriel said Mary had told the truth ... this truly was God's son growing in her, and I was not to be afraid to take her as my wife. Not only that, we were to name the child Jesus … because he would be the saviour of our people. Suddenly all my certainties were shown up for the judgemental self-righteousness that they really were.
When I woke up, I was dumbfounded, and totally ashamed at my behaviour of the previous day. I had been truly humbled, and it was a very different man who paid a visit to Mary that day. Tears flowed again, but of the right kind this time.
You might think it was happy ever after from there on. Far from it. As Mary's pregnancy became obvious, people in the village started doing the maths, and it quickly became the talk of the town that she had become pregnant while visiting her cousin Elizabeth. A Roman soldier, some said in very nasty tones. Mary's parents wanted to send her off to Elizabeth again, to hide her away. But I said no, I had some rights in this because in our culture being engaged was as binding as marriage. I would protect her. I hoped that my name and acceptance of the situation would be enough to carry the day.
It was touch and go, I might tell you. People began avoiding me, too, or stopping their conversation when I approached. I could see the hard looks sent my way. And the work dried up, too. I was paying a hard price for supporting Mary, but because of the love I had for her it was one I was prepared to pay. We both also had the security of God's word that this was His plan.
I won't bore you with the details of the trip to Bethlehem we were forced to make when Mary was in her ninth month of pregnancy. I did my best to ease the journey for her, but it was a huge strain. But she had amazing stamina, and in the end the hardest part of the journey was trying to find somewhere to stay, with the town being packed with visitors. Can you imagine what it would be like if they tried to hold an All Blacks-Australia rugby test in Ashburton? Yeah, rather like that.
And then came the miracle of the birth of Jesus. Despite my dream visit from the angel, there was a part of me that sorrowed that Mary's first-born would not be my child. In dark moments I questioned whether I would ever have a child of my own, and that was a sorrow I did not know how to face. But when I held Jesus in my own hands for the first time, I broke down once again. I've seen a lot of babies, but there was something in him that touched me in places that up to time I did not know existed. Love had come full circle, and with it a deep knowing that Jesus was the greatest gift anyone had been given, and we were beginning a journey that would touch the world in unimaginable ways.
© Copyright John McNeil 2016, all rights reserved. The script may not be reproduced, translated or copied in any medium, including books, CDs and on the Internet, without written permission of the author.