“Joseph… traveled [to Bethlehem] from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.”
Mary and Joseph had not planned on becoming pregnant before the wedding. That might pass in some societies but not in the small Palestinian community of Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. Joseph was good man with integrity flowing from his broken heart. When he discovered his fiancée was “with child”, Joseph would not “disgrace her” and instead “planned to send her away secretly” (Matthew 1.19). However, God had different plans which He made clear in a dream to Mary’s betrothed.
Joseph was more than just a good man. He verged on greatness when he chose to risk shame and public humiliation of marriage plans with “his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant” in his home town of Bethlehem.
Jim Collins, author of best seller Good to Great (2001), observed, “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.” Joseph made a “conscious choice” to do the right thing and mustered the “discipline” to carry it out. He would obey God and raise the child Jesus as his own. That decision elevated the Messiah’s earthly father from good to great.
A good man always tries to do the right thing. But what about the man who stands by his woman, his friend, or his children even when they appear to him and everyone else to have done the wrong thing? Through no fault of his own, the man is considered guilty by his association with wrongdoers. Being pulled in two directions, he endures the risk of substantial financial and social loss for the benefit of those he loves. That’s a great man. A good man tries to do the right thing. A great man will do the right thing even when he must sacrifice his good reputation and hard earned money to do it. Greatness of this kind comes from God...
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing
greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves”
2nd Corinthians 4.7 NASB
Joseph recognized the “treasure” inside of Mary’s “earthen vessel”. After the angel appeared to him in a dream, Joseph found the “treasure” in his “earthen vessel” too. He tapped into his reserve of “surpassing greatness” of the God and resolved to do the right thing no matter what the consequences, and in so doing, made the leap from good to great.