Joseph seems to have been a naturally kind and caring man, well-suited to Mary. Like her, he did not fly off the handle when he found things out. He was thoughtful, considering the best way to handle the situation. In his day, a woman could receive lifelong shame for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. He desired to "put her away" as quietly as possible without bringing any further shame upon Mary - or himself, for that matter. While he was still mulling it over, an angel, probably Gabriel again, appeared to him in a dream.
Throughout this episode, Joseph is shown to be a humble, pious, obedient man. He takes what the angel says without complaint or even reply. Once he is aroused from sleep, Joseph does just as the angel commands him. The angel's word was enough. The man was convinced. He would comply.
Gabriel tells Joseph almost the same things he said to Mary. It is somewhat odd, though, since it was through Joseph that Jesus would physically claim David's throne, that the angel does not mention that Jesus would be King. This is also interesting because, throughout his Gospel, Matthew constantly mentions Jesus' royal nature. Instead, Gabriel tells Joseph that Mary's Son, whom everyone would think is his Son, would be named Jesus, "for He will save His people from their sins." He also reiterates that He will be God with us and that He was conceived of the Holy Spirit.
These points hint that Joseph was more interested in spiritual matters than physical ones. Perhaps he had not allowed his Davidic lineage to go to his head. He did not need the spur of his adoptive Son becoming King to make him comply. All he needed to know was that God through the Holy Spirit had accomplished Mary's pregnancy, and that the divine Child, in fulfillment of prophecy, would one day save His people from sin.
In His sovereignty, God prepared the perfect couple to raise His Son. They are wonderful examples of submission to God. Even though His intervention in their lives threw a huge monkey wrench into their personal plans, they selflessly said, "So be it, Lord. What would You like us to do next?"
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Birth of Jesus Christ (Part One): Annunciation
Matthew's account is plain and straightforward, as if he were laying out the facts in a court case, and in a way, he is building a case for the reader—particularly the Jewish reader—to accept Jesus as the Messiah. He takes great pains to present the facts that will show that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 to the letter. What is more, this is an event in which Jesus Himself is passive, having no active part in the fulfillment of the prophecy. This, of course, increases the improbability of its achievement by human manipulation.
Matthew mentions Mary's virginity several times. In Matthew 1:18, he writes, "After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit." In verse 20, the angel verifies this fact by repeating that her conception occurred via supernatural means: "for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." Verse 23 quotes Isaiah 7:14, "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel." Finally, in verse 25, Matthew reports that Joseph "did not know her [a euphemism for sexual intercourse] till she had brought forth her firstborn Son." In just eight verses, the apostle makes four either explicit or implicit references to Mary's virginity, not only at the time of conception, but also throughout her pregnancy and for some time beyond.
In Matthew, this passage does not stand alone; it is only one of several scenes, along with His genealogy, in the first two chapters that together provide overwhelming proof that Jesus fulfilled many of the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament before He was old enough to have a hand in orchestrating their fulfillments. The virgin birth, however, comes first as the most astounding of them all.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'Behold, A Virgin Shall Conceive . . .'
The Son of God became a human being to save people from their sins. Thus, salvation is the process whereby sinners are rescued from the consequences of sin.
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Matthew 1:21: