Dec 22, 2010

9 Months Pregnant, 80 Mile Journey on Foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem. What Were Mary and Joseph Thinking?

"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world...And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David..." (Luke 2:1-4).

These are the opening words to the birth narrative of Jesus in Luke.

The distance between Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 70 miles as the crow flies. It would have been at least an 80 mile journey by foot on the dirt roads.

A typical caravan traveled about 20 miles a day. That would have made this journey a four day journey. However, Mary was in her last trimester of her pregnancy when they went on this journey. Tradition says that Mary rode on a donkey while Joseph walked. The Bible never mentions a donkey, but for Mary's sake I hope that there was a donkey for her.

I have four children. My wife and I have experienced four births. My wife is a pretty tough lady. She gave birth to all four children naturally and without pain medication. I know crazy. I pleaded with the doctors to give her some pain meds but my voice doesn't count in the birth room.

Even though my wife is a tough lady, we would have never thought about going on a journey like the one Mary and Joseph took.

  • Mary would have been on the back of a donkey, while fully pregnant, for 5-7 days.
  • There were no rest stops along the way, no fast food places to stop and eat, no motels or hotels. They would have slept on the hard ground, made do with the food they were carrying, and it would have been pretty darn cold.
And the craziest thing is, while it was necessary for Joseph to make this journey, it was totally unnecessary for Mary to do so. Women were not required to show up for the census. Only men were counted. 

So the question has to be asked, "What the heck were Mary and Joseph thinking when they went on this journey together? What possessed them to make to take Mary along?"

Ahh...We forget what it's like to live in a small town, and we cannot forget about the controversial circumstances around Mary's pregnancy.
  • Sure Mary. An angel appeared. 
  • Sure Mary. I'm sure the three months while you disappeared while engaged to Joseph had nothing to do with you showing up pregnant.
You see, the spontaneous whispers that would erupt whenever people saw Mary and Joseph, the finger pointing, and the downright rude comments that were made about them were worse than the thought of a week long journey on foot to Bethlehem. Mary couldn't imagine staying in Nazareth by herself without Joseph there to protect her and shield her. 

Mary insisted on going.

And so was fulfilled what was promised through the prophets: "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel" (Matthew 2:6).

God uses even gossip and cruelty of the smalltown folk of Nazareth to fulfill his promise to send to us a Savior. There is nothing that can stop God from loving us.

That's the story of Christmas.

Merry Christmas!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, I love your picture, may I copy it for Church use?

James Kim said...

Thank you for the comment. Go for it! I got the pic from a public site myself.

ronieric said...

nice blog fr. kim! im a former seminarian. may i borrow your published blog entitled 90 miles?salamat means thank you!

James Kim said...

Please feel free to use the blog.