But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto you Mary your wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
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Also observe the mercifulness of Joseph, that he imparted his suspicions to none, not even to her whom he suspected, but kept them within himself.
He did not appear so openly to Joseph as to the Shepherds, because he was faithful; the shepherds needed it, because they were ignorant. The Virgin also needed it, as she had first to be instructed in these mighty wonders. In like manner Zacharias needed the wonderful vision before the conception of his son.
But by saying, “Be not afraid,” he shows him to be in fear that he had offended God, by having an adulteress; for only as such would he have ever thought of putting her away.
As her betrothed husband also he is admonished not to be afraid; for the mind that compassionates has most fear; as though he were to say, Here is no cause of death, but of life; she that brings forth life, does not deserve death.
Also by the words, “Fear not,” he desired to show that he knew the heart; that by this he might have the more faith in those good things to come, which he was about to speak concerning Christ.
He says, “Fear not to take unto thee;” that is, to keep at home; for in thought she was already dismissed.
There were three reasons why the Angel appeared to Joseph with this message. First, that a just man might not be led into an unjust action, with just intentions. Secondly, for the honour of the mother herself, for had she been put away, she could not have been free from evil suspicion among the unbelievers. Thirdly, that Joseph, understanding the holy conception, might keep himself from her with more care than before. He did not appear to Joseph before the conception, that he should not think those things that Zacharias thought, nor suffer what he suffered in falling into the sin of unbelief concerning the conception of his wife in her old age. For it was yet more incredible that a virgin should conceive, than that a woman past the age should conceive. Also the account of the Evangelist is beyond suspicion, as he describes Joseph feeling all that a husband was likely to feel. The Virgin also by this was more removed from suspicion, in that her husband had felt jealousy, yet took her home, and kept her with him after her conception. She had not told Joseph the things that the Angel had said to her, because she did not suppose that she should be believed by her husband, especially as he had begun to have suspicions concerning her. But to the Virgin the Angel announced her conception before it took place, lest if he should defer it till afterwards she should be in straits. And it behoved that Mother who was to receive the Maker of all things to be kept free from all trouble. Not only does the Angel vindicate the Virgin from all impurity, but shows that the conception was supernatural, not removing his fears only, but adding matter of joy; saying, “That which isborn in her is of the Holy Spirit.”