The Bible doesn’t have many weddings or wedding ceremonies to examine. What we do know about marriage in Bible times is mostly from other history books.
Although the rough sketch of Mary and Joseph’s courtship, betrothal, and marriage is extremely rough, we can still discover what God wanted us to know about Joseph and Mary by examining the Scriptures that mention them together.
Since our sketch is so rough, it can be tempting to push motives and emotions onto their story. But at its very core, the relationship of Joseph and Mary is likely similar to most other courtships – boy meets girl, boy fancies girl, boy pursues, girl demurs, and so forth.
Well, at least that is likely how it started. The course the relationship took was truly extraordinary.
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Last week we began our Inductive Study of the Story of the Birth of Jesus. Along the way, we looked at various characters. We met Zacharias and Elizabeth. Then we met Mary and Joseph. Today we will will look at Mary and Joseph together and we will create a simple timeline to give our story structure.
Let’s dig in!
Joseph and Mary
Joseph and Mary had a most unlikely courtship. While they were still betrothed to be married, Mary was found to be with child. And Joseph had an encounter with an angel that affected his behavior in this circumstance. Do you remember the promises the angel had given to Mary? And to Joseph? Read Luke 1:30-35 and Matthew 1: 20-21 to refresh your memory.
- Mary will conceive a child (Lk 1:31)
- Mary will bear a son (Lk 1:31)
- Mary will name Him Jesus (Lk 1:31)
- Jesus will be great (Lk 1:31)
- the Holy Spirit will come upon Mary (Lk 1:31)
- the power of the Most High will overshadow Mary (Lk 1:31)
- nothing will be impossible with God (Lk 1:31)
- she will bear a Son (Mt 1:21)
- you shall call His name Jesus (Mt 1:21)
These promises and their trust in God were all Joseph and Mary had to hold onto for the intervening time before Jesus was born.
A Simple Timeline
Creating simple timelines, based on close readings of Scripture, help us to order events in our minds. Having things in the right order helps us to tell the story of the birth of Jesus accurately.
Let’s use our memory (and check the Scriptures) to create a simple timeline of Jesus’ birth. Let’s also ask questions of the text to find out when events took place. Look for “time” words (after, before, then, next, then, days, months, etc.) and use them as your guide.
Teacher/Leader – Ask these questions to get started:
How long is a pregnancy? Have we talked about only one pregnancy? Do these pregnancies overlap? Where do we want to put Jesus’ birth on the timeline (on the far right or the far left)? What occurred first in the timeline? Where does Joseph’s dream from Matthew fit in?
Use a piece of paper or a chalkboard to make a simple timeline. When you are done, it should look a little bit like this:
Let’s examine what God wants us to know about the relationship between Joseph and Mary. Read Matthew 1:24-25 and note what is said about Joseph and Mary, together.
- Joseph took Mary as His wife (24)
- Joseph kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son (25)
Now let’s read a little more of the story – Luke 2:1-6 and note what is going on with this couple. Add any new details to your timeline.
- Joseph went up from Galilee to Judea to register (4)
- Joseph took Mary (5)
- Mary was engaged to him (5)
- Mary was with child (5)
- while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth (6)
What do you learn about Joseph and Mary’s relationship in these passages? Did you notice what caused Joseph to take Mary to Bethlehem? Do you think this was a coincidence or do you think Someone was in charge?
Tomorrow we will we will return to Zacharias and Elizabeth to talk about their son of promise.