First, here is the account in the ESV version of Matthew’s gospel.
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered 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 home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’
22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
So I was thinking recently, how was it that one dream was enough for Joseph considering the anguish he will have experienced?
Joseph would become hugely important yet he is given little space in the gospel accounts. It is as though this man stands briefly on the sidelines of the Jesus story, hidden in the shadows. But even if that is how it seems, Joseph is nevertheless a large figure of a man. His words are never recorded in the Gospels. We may not see him but we do see what sort of a family and what sort of marriage he builds. He would live out his life as a husband to Mary and a father to The Saviour.
How was it that a dream was sufficient for him then? Was there still room for faith to be expressed? I have been reflecting upon that mystery.
Joseph did not have the benefit of some waking, visible, phenomenon such as we see on occasions in the Old Testament. He was not even half awake and given the benefit of a revelations such as was had by Peter or the complex and full revelation given to John on Patmos.
I was thinking about these things and kept asking myself the question how it was that one dream was enough.
I eventually came to my conclusion based on hearing the account of countless numbers of people of the years as they have described their personal encounter with Jesus. I think Joseph knew it was not merely a dream but a revelation from God. It was not intended to fuel an argument or convince a third party, it was to speak to that one man. And he heard, and he believed and trusted. An authentic encounter with God is something a person does not forget, but more than that, they will never be the same again.