Week 4: Sweet and Sour Obedience

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25


In the Scriptures, Joseph is a very minor character, but as a man his story has always intrigued me. While Mary gets a whole song in Luke, Joseph has no recorded dialogue at all. He is absent from Mark, mentioned once in John, and in Luke the focus is less on him than on the family lineage he contributes to Jesus. It is really only in Matthew where Joseph gets to contribute meaningfully to the story. 

Matthew introduces Joseph as a righteous man. This comment on his character, however, is supported by his actions by how he treats his pregnant fiancée. If you put yourself in the context of the patriarchal first century, Mary’s pregnancy and the assumed adultery is a significant breach of contract and an embarrassment for him as well as her. Joseph was well within his rights to address this indignity in a way that cleared his reputation and laid it all on her. However, even in his betrayal and pain, Joseph still cares about Mary and so has decided to divorce her quietly. His willingness to preserve her reputation demonstrates a degree of forgiveness and love which would have been surprising to Matthew’s readers, but consistent with the ministry of Joseph’s soon-to-be son. 

Joseph’s story, however, has a plot twist when an angel comes to him in a dream. Dreams are a common feature in the Old Testament for God to communicate with particular people (think Jacob, Joseph, and Daniel) and so this act of God puts Joseph is a prophetic position in the story.  In his dream, God reveals the whole plan to Joseph vindicating Mary’s faithfulness and revealing the name he is to give his son. God does not command Joseph to marry, but instead seeks to calm his concerns. Mary is still pregnant out of wedlock, she still has the stigma, and Joseph would still be justified in leaving, however, when he hears what God is doing through Mary, he chooses to join in and be a part of that no matter the costs. 

Joseph will have several more dreams in Matthew’s Gospel. In each, God uses him to protect the infant Christ from the murderous intentions of Herod. The Holy Family first flee to Egypt as refugees and then when they return the family settles not in Bethlehem, but Nazareth, a small backwoods village on the other end of the country. While Scripture focuses on the symbolism of this location and its prophetic fulfillment, if you shift to Joseph’s perspective, both of these moves represent a major upheaval for this young family. 

Details of Joseph’s life are pretty sparse, but we get a hint of his employment later in the Gospel, when someone incredulously refers to Jesus: “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (Matt 13:55) The Greek word here is tekton which is often understood as a woodworker, but can mean also a highly skilled artist or craftsmen with their own business and employees. In choosing to leave the country and then upon returning relocate to a different region means that he has to start over twice. This means new suppliers, new clients, new workspace. I can’t imagine that when Joseph agreed to take on the responsibility of raising Jesus he could have imagined the cost he would pay for it, however he does so willingly and faithfully. 

Years later, his son will make the cost of faithfulness more explicit: ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 16:24). In order for us to be a part of God’s restoration of the world, we must first be willing to be restored ourselves. This means holding our wealth, status, work, priorities, and possessions lightly so that if God asks us to move or give towards the direction that God is working, we are able to respond quickly and join in. This is certainly not promised to be easy, but as Joseph would have said, watching the Lord of the universe grow before his eyes, “It is certainly worth it!” 


God of invitations, I am not sure what I have gotten myself into. You are inviting me to go further down the path with you, but I am not sure where that leads. I have heard from others that it can be hard. I have seen in others that it has cost them a lot. I am not sure I am ready to work that hard or pay that much. Help me to have the confidence that you will help me to do more than I can imagine and the courage to trust that joining in on your work is worth more than anything I will need to surrender. Amen.  

Baking Reflections

This week’s cookies are lime melt aways. These delicious little bites balance tart citrus with melt-in-your-mouth sweetness. And with their size, they are perfect for sharing with neighbors and friends. 

As you prepare the dough, consider the contrast of a life is discipleship. As you include the lime, what are the hard things that God has called you to do in the past? What are you avoiding now because of the cost? 

As you work in the sugar, what sweetness has your relationship with God brought into your life? How has there been a connection between the challenges and cost as well as the benefits and blessings? 

Leaving the dough to set in the fridge is itself a reminder of patience, as well as the fact that we don’t get all the answers at once if ever. God’s leadership calls us from one season to the next. Often, we have to respond to God now, without knowing the cost we will pay later. 

And finally, as you finish the cookies by dusting them in a whirlwind of powdered sugar, ask yourself, what is God wanting to shake up in my life that will open me up for a fuller and more faithful life in the new year? 

Note: This recipe belonged to my grandmother who died earlier this year and were a family favorite. What are the traditions that you will do or bake this year to celebrate and remember loved ones who are not with us anymore?


Lime Meltways

Recipe adapted from Norma Weseman
Before baking, check out our baking tips.

Wet Ingredients

  • 12 T  Butter (softened) (172g)  (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1c (divided in half) Confectioners’ Sugar (114g) 
  • Zest of 2 Limes
  • 2T Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1T Vanilla Extract

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ c All Purpose Flour (150g)
  • 2T Corn Starch
  • ¼ t Salt


  1. Combine the Dry Ingredients. You can sift them all together if you want, but I strongly recommend at least sifting the corn starch to break up the clumps.
  2. Cream together Butter and ½ c Confectioners’ Sugar (57g). It should be fluffy. 
  3. Add the lime zest and juice and mix until combined. 
  4. Add the dry ingredients and stir until the dough comes together.
  5. Empty the bowl onto your working space and divide it into two.
  6. Using a piece of parchment paper, roll each half of the dough into a log 1.5 inch in diameter. 
  7. Chill logs for an hour. 
  8. When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 350°F
  9. Take one log out at a time and cut into ¼ inch discs and place on a parchment lined baking tray a little bit apart. 
  10. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until slightly golden brown. 
  11. Allow them to cool on a wire rack. 
  12. Use a sifter, mesh strainer, or your fingers and generously dust cookies with remaining powdered sugar before eating.
Check out our step by step video!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.