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A Hard Obedience Mary And Joseph Travel To Bethlehem
February 9, 2020
A Hard Obedience: Joseph and Mary Travel to Bethlehem Introduction
● In order to understand today’s message, there is a certain amount of background you need: engagement and weddings at the time of Christ. ● Finger in Luke 2:4-6. I need to throw a lot of Scripture at you, so let me put it on the screen. We’ll get to Luke 2 in a few minutes.
● Shot through the NT. Actually, the motif of engagement and wedding is shot through the NT. Unless you understand how they did engagements and weddings, you’ll miss it when the motif bubbles up.
● Symbols of Christ and the Church. As we go through this, see the symbols with Christ the bridegroom and the Church as His bride.
● Everything is done according to the father of the groom. In the west, once a couple is engaged, it’s the bride’s family that runs everything. But in Jesus’ day, it was up to the family of the groom, and the father of the groom controlled everything. 1 2 Prologue: a Jewish Engagement & Wedding Betrothal = Married
● First stage of marriage. Once a proposal has been accepted, the couple has entered the first stage of marriage. Can speak equally of being engaged and being married. Much more formal and serious than an engagement. ○ Calling off a wedding required a formal divorce. ○ NO SLIDE Matt 1:18-19. Betrothed, yet her husband. Also, would need a divorce to end the betrothal. απολύω = divorce Pledge/Deposit (vs. Dowry)
● Earnest money. Finalizing a betrothal included the family of the groom providing a deposit. This was a sum of money to show the seriousness of the groom’s family to see this wedding through.
● Not a dowry. In the west, we call giving the bride’s family money a dowry. However, this was not a dowry. The money was given to the bride, not the family. In the event that the wedding did not take place, she got to keep the money. The money is a pledge, a promise, that the wedding will happen.
● << Slide >> Eph 1:13-14. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. 2 3
● << Slide >> 2 Cor 1:21-22. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge. Separation
● Once the betrothal has been agreed upon by the two families, the bride and groom are separated. They are not supposed to see each other. ○ Reality check: of course people would send messages back and forth. These were towns where everyone was in everyone’s business, so getting messages back and forth during this separation would have been both normal and expected. ○ Prayer. Going back to Christ and His Church: prayer
● How long? Entirely up to the father of the groom. When the bride and groom separate, they have no idea how long it will be until the wedding. They get married when the groom’s father says they get married.
● About a year. Time to mature them up, and time to make sure they were both serious about getting married. ○ << Slide >> Acts 1:6-8a. So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you ○ << Slide >> Col. 1:28. And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ. 3 4 ■ Complete: grown up, matured in the faith, ready to be brought face-to-face with God.
● Groom’s job: prepare the place where they will live. Typically, this meant building an addition onto his father’s house. ○ << Slide >> John 14:2-3. “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
■ Mansions (KJV). Misleading translation. ○ << Slide >> John 16:5-8. “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
■ Can you see the wedding motif of separation?
● Bride’s job: Prepare herself for the wedding day. ○ Coins in dress. Prepare her best dress for the day. She would often work the coins of the pledge into the dress or in her head gear.
■ << Slide >> Luke 15:8-10. “Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” 4 5
■ Not just any coins, but the coins of the pledge. Huge sentimental value.
■ Imagine a woman who lost the diamond from her wedding ring. She’d tear the house part looking for it. ○ Make herself ready because she never knew when the day of the wedding would be
■ << Slide >> Matthew 25:1-13. “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight [strange time for a wedding!] there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.
● An unusual example of 10 virgins, but Jesus is using the example of brides waiting for their wedding as 5 6 an example of how expectantly we are to wait for Jesus’ return.
■ << Slide >> Rev 19:7-8. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
● For Christians preparing for the return of Jesus, it is the works we do in Christ that prepare us for his return. The Wedding Day
● The father’s pronouncement. One day the father of the groom decides that today is the day his son will get married. It was a sudden thing. We can’t plan for it to occur at a specific time; we need to be ready always.
● Trumpeteers ahead of the groom. The groom would send his friends ahead of him to shout and blow trumpets and basically to create a racket. This was to let the town know that today was the wedding day. They would go through the town and finally end up at the home of the bride followed by the bridegroom.
● Two examples using the motif of the sudden announcement of the wedding day. ○ << Slide >> 1 Thess 4:16. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. ○ << Slide >> Matt 24:31. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. 6 7 The Wedding Feast. ● A block party. A huge, festive celebration. ○ << Slide >> John 2:6. Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.
■ 20-30 gallons after they had already run out of wine!
■ 120-180 gallons of wine. This is a huge party! ○ << Slide >> Rev 19:9. Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” That’s It
● << Blank Slide >> Recap: ○ Engagement = 1st stage of marriage ○ Pledge, separation, preparation, celebration.
● Ok, none of that was the actual sermon. That’s just what you need to know in order to understand the sermon. It’s bonus material. You’re welcome! The Trip to Bethlehem We’ll focus on Luke 2:4-6, but let’s read those verses in context. Luke 2:1-7 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, 7 8 because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
● This sounds like the Christmas story. However, it’s February, so leave Christmas for December.
● Speaking of which, there’s only 319 shopping days left until next Christmas. You’re welcome! Married or Engaged?
● Are Joseph and Mary married or engaged? The biblical writers don’t say the same thing. ● << Slide >> Matt 1:19. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. ○ Matthew writing to a Jewish audience who would have understood the Jewish custom of betrothal. They understood Joseph and Mary were basically married at this point.
● << Slide >> Luke 2:5. in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him. ○ Luke writing to a Greek audience who would not have understood Jewish betrothal. Luke is careful not to introduce something that would have needed a ton of explanation.
● Interesting questions. This passage raises some very interesting and very beneficial questions. 8 9 << Slide >> Why is Mary with Joseph?
● Luke is careful to note that Joseph and Mary are engaged, not married, yet they are together. They are supposed to be separated during their engagement. So why are they now together?
● Mary got kicked out. Mary’s parents did not believe her story about the angel Gabriel. BTW, their relatives Zacharias and Elizabeth had a miraculous pregnancy, so clearly God was doing something. Yet Mary’s parents did not believe her and kicked her out. ○ An unwed mother in these days was a life of grinding poverty. Kicking her out had serious consequences. ○ An unwed mother was a complete disgrace. ○ What are the names of Mary’s parents? We don’t know. The genealogy in Luke 3 traces Jesus’ lineage through Mary’s side of the family, but it switches over to Joseph. Mary and Joseph were cousins (illegal in most countries today, but very common then). Luke throwing shade at Mary’s parents for kicking the mother of the Lord Jesus out right when she needed them most. << Slide >> Why is Mary not at Joseph’s house?
● Mary gets kicked out, she turns up on Joseph’s doorstep (most obvious place to go since Joseph has already determined not to put her away).
● Why take Mary? For the census, why not leave your uber-pregnant wife/fiancee at home? She would have been 8 ½-9 months pregnant. Going to Bethlehem would have been a brutal trip for her. Why take her?
● Joseph’s family did not accept Mary. They weren’t going to have this disgraced woman living with them while Joseph was on a trip. 9 10 ● But the issue is deeper than that. << Slide >> Why was Joseph going to Bethlehem at all?
● Only the patriarch was needed to register the family. Why was Joseph going to Bethlehem at all?
● Joseph got kicked out, too. In Matt 1, Joseph determined to take Mary as his wife regardless of the circumstance. The family objected, so they kicked him out, too. ○ The pledge money is all they would have had to start a new life together. ○ The three wise men bringing frankincense, gold, and myrrh was God’s provision for Joseph and Mary.
● << Slide >> Matt 19:29. "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life." ○ Pure speculation, but I wonder if Jesus was looking right at Mary when He said this. Minimally, I’ll bet He was thinking about her, because this is exactly what she lived out. << can cut for >> The Trip Itself
● 8 ½ months. Mary would have been roughly 8 ½ months pregnant. This was not an easy trip.
● 70 or 80 miles. 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem by the most direct route, but that would mean going through Samaria (not likely). Skirting that would make it an 80 mile trip.
● 20 miles/day? Most people can walk 2.5 miles an hour, so roughly 20 miles per day. It would be 4 days of travel under good conditions. But 10 11 Mary is very pregnant and stopping every 20 minutes to go to the bathroom. So figure roughly 6 days to get there.
● Walk/donkey/cart. She had three options for travelling. ○ Walking. Again, 8 ½ months pregnant. ○ Donkey. Uncomfortable (saddles had not been invented yet), and she would have to be lifted up on it. Plus, Donkeys are slow and temperamental, so this would have lengthened the travel time. ○ Cart. No suspension and no seat. Brutal on a person’s back. ○ Mary was a tough woman! All those pictures of gentle Mary, the thin, delicate woman--spare me. This was give birth in the morning and plow the field in the afternoon, don’t worry about the dog, beware of the wife, put the spitoon on her side of the bed old-school womanhood right here, baby--boo yah!
■ They just don’t make a lot of women like this anymore. So What? Transition
● Why would Joseph and Mary go through all this?
● Joseph could have walked away. “Hey, Mary, there’s too much drama swirling around you--never mind.” Would you have blamed him? But he was willing to follow God no matter the cost.
● In this case, God richly rewarded Joseph. How many people got to kiss the forehead of Jesus in this life?
● Luke is showing us that following God requires a radical obedience, an obedience that is “all in.” 11 12 << Slide >> Sometimes following God is hard.
● Sometimes it’s easy. It’s easy to follow God when you think He’s leading you down the path of happiness, prosperity, and well-being.
● Sometimes, it’s really, really hard. It’s hard to follow God when it looks like He’s leading you down the path of ruin, misery, and loneliness.
● God calls on us to follow Him no matter where He may lead.
God never promises anyone that their lives will be prosperous, happy, or enjoyable. In fact, many of the greatest saints suffered terribly and often suffered alone in order to follow God in obedience. This world is in rebellion against Him. He gives you no promises that following Him always leads to good things. His promise is that His reward for you is worth the suffering He leads you to.
● What is this reward? It’s him. Jesus. You get Jesus.
● Is Jesus enough for you? If Jesus is all you get, is that enough? Can you be supremely satisfied in Him? If you are not supremely satisfied in Jesus, then it’s highly unlikely you will follow Him in obedience. And if you do, it will be begrudging obedience that leads to resentment. << Slide >> Sometimes obeying God means letting your reputation get destroyed.
● Destroyed Reputations. God called Mary to have her reputation destroyed. Good Jewish girls don’t get pregnant out of wedlock. And God called Joseph to something similar: good Jewish boys don’t marry women who are pregnant with a child not their own.
● Reputation belongs to Him. To say Jesus is Lord means my reputation belongs to Him, not me. God is free to dispose of my reputation in any manner that He sees fit. 12 13
● “That’s not how a good Christian should act!” Or, “That’s not how a mature Christian should act!” Don’t let these words escape your lips. Better yet, guard your heart from ever thinking this. ○ You don’t know what God is doing in someone else’s life. ○ You probably don’t have all the facts, either. ○ Let’s each of us worry about our own walk before God and let God deal with the other person. He may be doing something surprising! << Slide, can cut >> Sometimes obeying God means letting God do the unexpected.
● If you were going to bring a savior into the world, is this how you would do it? Not me. This wouldn’t even enter into my head.
● God’s ways are not our ways.
● Let God do the unexpected. << Slide >> Sometimes obeying God means following Him when it makes absolutely no sense.
● God’s plans often make no sense whatsoever in the moment.
● We have the benefit of reading this long after it happened. We know how this story ends. But they didn’t. ○ All they knew was that this baby was really special, and that He was part of God’s plan. But that’s all they had. ○ They stepped out in faith that God was working in this and it was all in His hands.
● Radical Obedience for Good. When God calls us to follow Him through difficult times, He means it for good. This is not random or capricious: He intends to use it for good, but you may not see that good until long after the events in question. 13 14
● One of my favorite passages. Rom 8:28-39. << Just read it >>
● Amen. << Close in prayer >> 14
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