About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.
Poor Joseph. No sooner has Mary come back from visiting Elizabeth, the angel told him she was carrying the Messiah & to marry her, which he did, and they have just settled into their new home, than the government calls for a mandatory road trip.
In those days, a census meant you had to travel to your documented ancestral home…in Joseph’s case, Bethlehem, as he was of David’s lineage.
Not going was not an option.
When the Romans said go, you had to go. The good news? The Romans had built up the main roads, which likely cut back a bit on the rough terrain. The bad news? Mary was getting close to the end of her pregnancy.
But, duty called.
Not drawing any more attention to themselves than necessary, as they likely knew via the Spirit they would need to keep the coming Messiah safe, they prepared for the long journey. Joseph would have had to finish his current carpentry jobs, maybe buy a donkey, and Mary prepare the food & bedding they would need.
Now by today’s standards, the distance between Nazareth & Bethlehem, approx. 102-147 kilometers (minimum 63.43 miles) could be driven in a few hours depending on the traffic & speed limit.
A pregnant woman on foot (or more likely donkey, as too much walking could bring on early childbirth, and Joseph seems like a kind man) would need to stop often to relieve herself, so we are guessing they didn’t walk more than 5-10km a day, meaning this was likely a 20-30 day trip.
Not necessarily the honeymoon expected for these newlyweds.
Sleeping outdoors, picnic food, jostle jostle jostle, blisters, bad weather, rough terrain, bugs, potential bandits, traffic…. this was not a fun excursion.
I am sure they had a lot of time to talk about the miracle of John, the prophecies of the Messiah, and how on earth were they going to raise Him?
Its interesting to note that in this book, Luke refers to Mary still as Joseph’s fiancee. Until the marriage bed is consummated, the marriage was in name only. I am sure Joseph would have felt too funny/uncomfortable about lying with Mary until after the Messiah
was born, which both birth accounts mention slightly differently.
So not only do we learn from these verses that Joseph was married to Mary, he was a caring (considering her physical wellbeing) and honorable man (following his duty) who likely was very concerned about the timing of this trip.
After all, traveling with a very pregnant woman could be filled with the unexpected. Especially one carrying such precious cargo!
To be honest, this narrative also shows me something I suspected earlier.
The fact that Joseph brought Mary along demonstrates his great love for her. I think he would have missed her too much to leave her behind at home.
There would have been no shame in going on his own for the census. I believe these two were spiritually knit together by their common experiences with the angel, and daily seeing the baby grow. Not wanting to spend any time apart, they had already become a close team at this point.
God chose well.
Jesus was in good hands with both His earthly parents.
The #AdventuresinAdvent continue….