The city of David was a place of promise. Mary and Joseph, though they were of the family of David, did not actually live in Bethlehem anymore. They lived a 10-day journey away.
How would it come about that Mary and Joseph would be traveling at the tail end of pregnancy? Not just any journey, but a 10-day, uphill journey…with birth pangs.
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Last week we began our Inductive Study of the Story of the Birth of Jesus. We have been looking primarily at two couples – Elizabeth and Zacharias and Mary and Joseph. We have met a lot of the characters of our story, but we haven’t necessarily talked about the setting very much. Today, we will look at the place of Jesus’ birth and what we can learn about it from Scripture.
Let’s dig in!
Where do Joseph and Mary Live?
Note: It may be helpful to pull this map up on your computer or phone. Or you can print it out so you can mark the map, if you like.
Throughout our study of the Story of the Birth of Jesus, we have seen a few different locations. We have seen Zacharias doing his service in the temple (in Jerusalem, Luke 1:8-9). This was very specific information about the setting. We know exactly where Jerusalem is and where the temple was at this time in history. What we do not know is exactly the town where Zacharias and Elizabeth lived. What does Luke 1:39-40 say about their home? (the hill country, to a city of Judah). Can you locate Judah on our map? (it is labeled Judea)
Then we moved on the map to a new town – Nazareth – and met Mary (Luke 1:26-27). Nazareth is north of Jerusalem and Judah. Let’s locate Nazareth on the map.
Yesterday, we looked at the map for the area of Syria, ruled by Quirinius, which was part of the Roman Empire. And we looked briefly at Luke 2:1-5. Let’s read that again to get a good idea of where Joseph and Mary were living before the birth of Jesus.
Where are they Going?
Do you remember the reason Mary and Joseph are travelling from their home? (the census) Yes, apparently this census required them to go back their tribal home. They are both of the house and family of David (verse 4) and they are required to go to the city of David.
The city of David was a place of promise. Remember when we talked about the prophets who told God’s people what was going to happen in the future? And do you remember what it is called when what the prophets said comes true? (a fulfillment). Well, God had made some specific promises about the city of David – Bethlehem – in the Old Testament. These promises are mentioned in Matthew 2:5-6. Let’s look at that passage and note the words shall and will. Make a note of what shall and will happen:
- out of you (Bethelehem) shall come forth a Ruler (6)
- Who will shepherd My people Israel (6)
Why are they Going to Bethlehem?
Here we see something special, which is important in Scripture. It is so exciting that I don’t want you to miss it. But first let me ask you a question: Who is in charge of Mary and Joseph? (God!)
That’s right. But does that mean that God sent an angel every morning to wake Mary and Joseph up and tell them what to do? Did He speak right out loud to them and give them orders? (No!)
There were a few recorded times where an angel visited them to tell them something truly special. But otherwise, they were just like us.
Then how can we know what to God wants us to do when He doesn’t send an angel and His Word doesn’t say anything about a particular circumstance?
God is in Charge
God, Who is really in charge, put some rulers (some kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers) in charge of men. And guess what…He is in charge of them, too! Let’s look at a couple of verses that talk about rulers and kings.
First let’s look at Daniel 2:20-21. Let’s note what we learn about God and what we learn about kings.
Daniel answered and said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men, and knowledge to men of understanding.Daniel 2:20-21
- blessed forever and ever
- wisdom and power belong to Him
- changes times and epochs
- removes kings and establishes kings
- gives wisdom to wise men
- gives knowledge to men of understanding
- removed by God
- established by God
And in Romans 13, let’s look at what we learn about God and governing authorities:
Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good…Romans 13:1-4a
- no authority except God
- authorities are established by God
- authorities are a minister of God to you for your good
- we are told to be in subjection to them
- they get their authority from God
- they are established by God
- not a cause to fear for good behavior
- have cause to fear for evil
- do good and authorities will praise you
- a minister of God to you for good
What about Caesar Augustus?
Wait a minute – but we just looked at Caesar Augustus yesterday and learned he was not a good man. In fact, he said he was a god and the son of a god. Do these verses apply to him, too? (yes!)
And what does that mean about the authorities in Mary and Joseph’s life? Were they doing good by travelling for the census? Was this a minister of God to them for good? (discussion questions)
Ok, now let’s get back to Luke 2. Let’s read verses 4-6 one more time. Does this passage say anything particular about the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem? (they went up to Bethlehem, from the city of Nazareth).
Let’s look at our map. Why do you think the Scriptures say “up” here? Does it look like they are going north? (No.) The Scriptures say “up” because the path to Bethlehem from Nazareth was uphill. This was no small journey. It would have taken Mary and Joseph around 10 days to travel there. And it was not at the best time for a pregnant woman to be travelling.
Can you imagine how they must have been feeling about this decree from Caesar Augustus? Do you think they thought it was for their good to travel there? Or do you think they knew the verses about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem and realized just how special that decree had been?
Tomorrow we will we will finally see the birth of Jesus!! I am so excited to talk about it with you. Stay tuned!