What would growing up in Nazareth be like for Mary and Joseph? What would it have been like living in Nazareth as a child and later as a parent?
Growing up, Mary was a member of a large Jewish peasant family.
She did women's traditional work – preparing food, washing, making clothes, fetching water from the well, working in the
fields, and helping other women raise their children.
Joseph would have helped his father in the fields and in his building trade. He would have gone to school at the local Synagogue. At age twelve he traveled with his parents to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.
As a young Jewish wife, Mary of Nazareth would have lived with her husband's extended family. The construction of the home was either cut in stone in the hillside or constructed of mud and
Although it might not have been beautiful on the outside, inside, it met their needs.
Jesus as the son of Mary and Joseph lived an everyday life in Nazareth.
They were devout, traditional Jews, often traveling to Jerusalem for major religious festivals. Jesus was taught building skills by his father, Joseph, and was expected to continue the family trade.
Their lives were simple, ordinary, and humdrum.
Almost everyone in Nazareth farmed since little food was imported from outside the village. It was heavy, continuous work, and Jesus did his share. He would have worked in the fields as a
boy. During non-farming seasons, he helped his father as a builder.
The people in the day of Jesus entertained themselves through storytelling. They learned the Torah by memorizing it and even acting out the stories.
Jesus was part of a large family. He was the firstborn and the only child when they escaped Egypt to avoid Herod decree to kill all the small boys. They returned when Jesus was probably
around three years of age. Later, however, his half-brothers and sisters were born—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. Jesus had several half-sisters. So Jesus had at least six younger brothers and sisters.
Luke 1:26-38 tells us that God sent Gabriel to Nazareth to visit Mary. He informed her that she had been selected to be the mother of Jesus, the Son of the Most High.
She did not doubt Gabriel and only asked for more information. "Mary said to the angel, 'How will this happen? I have never had a man.'
The angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come on you. The power of the Most High will cover you.
The holy Child you give birth to will be called the Son of God."
Mary is probably around the age of thirteen. This young woman did not fear for her reputation or become upset at the news that she would become pregnant.
She obviously had great faith in God and trust in the Lord.
Verse 18: "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother, Mary, was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit."
Matthew tells the story through the eyes of Joseph. Mary was with child of the Holy Spirit. But, what would the neighbors think? When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant and they were not married, he realized the disgrace they would face in the community.
There were three steps to marriage in the Jewish world of Jesus' time:
First Engagement: This could happen when the bride and groom were relatively young and was often arranged by the parents.
Next the Betrothal: This made the previous engagement official and binding. During the time of betrothal, the couple was known as husband and wife, and a betrothal could only be broken by
divorce. Betrothal typically lasted a year.
Finally Marriage: The wedding took place after the year of the betrothal.
Matthew presents the conception and subsequent birth of Jesus. However, the virgin birth was difficult for people to believe back then; even today, it is hard for many to believe.
We should consider what a great trial this was for a godly young woman like Mary. Her situation was the most distressing and humiliating one could imagine during her young life.
Nothing but her faith in God and her integrity could have carried her through such trying circumstances.
She also had to have been concerned about her reputation, honor, and even her life.
Who would believe her? Who in the community would believe that she had conceived by the Holy Spirit? This would have not been believed by the people of Nazareth.
19 "Then Joseph, her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away (to divorce her) secretly."
This action shows us the character of Joseph. He must have felt betrayed and knew he could not go through with the marriage. But, because he was a just man, he decided to quietly seek a
divorce and save the reputation and embarrassment of Mary. In the Jewish culture of that time, a betrothal was binding and would require a divorce to break it.
20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that
which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins."
Joseph was distraught and had trouble sleeping. Though he had decided to put her away secretly, he was uncomfortable with his decision.
The dream came while he thought about these things. Joseph needed clarity, and the angel brought him the good news and the solution to his problem.
It seems that Mary had told Joseph that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. This would have been confusing to Mary and now to Joseph. How could she explain such a thing? This thirteen-
year-old girl could not have possibly understood what had happened to her. Joseph and Mary needed a message from God. Joseph received it in a dream.
This angelic word to Joseph was persuasive. He now knew his way forward and immediately began taking the necessary steps to handle the situation.
First, he would immediately marry Mary.
22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His
name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us" (Isaiah 7:14).
"That it might be fulfilled" is the first use of this important phrase, a familiar theme throughout Matthew. Matthew rightly understood that the supernatural conception of Jesus was
prophesied in Isaiah 7:14.
This is yet another example of God's mercy on His chosen people.
He selects Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the head of His chosen people. He tucks the Israelites away in Goshen to grow into
a nation of three million people. Then He sent Moses to bring them out of Egypt and gave them the Law of Moses at Mt. Sinai. God watched over His people and always brought them back
whenever they strayed.
Finally, God sent Jesus to be the Savior of all people.
These actions show how much God loved his children and the extent He would go to save man.
This also shows what an incredible miracle it was that God could add human nature to His own and still remain God.
Spurgeon said, "It shows that we can come to Him; if He has come to us, then we can come to Him. "Then, if Jesus Christ be 'God with us,' let us come to God without question or hesitancy.
Whoever you may be, you need no priest or intercessor to introduce you to God, for God has introduced himself to you."
24 "Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he
called His name JESUS."
Joseph's obedience is notable. He did not doubt nor waiver; he instantly understood the truth and the importance of the angelic messenger that came to him in the dream.
And he called His name Jesus. So they did what God told them to do. Though it was a fairly common name, it had a genuinely great meaning and would come to be the greatest name, the name above all names.
After the wise men had seen Jesus and had departed, an angel of the LORD came to Joseph in a dream warning him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape Herod. Herod decreed to kill all
the young baby boys. They immediately left for Egypt and stayed until Herod died. Then they returned to Nazareth.
Mary and Joseph receive three messages from God:
How would these events affect the teachings and trainings of Jesus in the household of Mary and Joseph? How often would they have discussed these events and explained them to Jesus?
Jesus would have grown up with these messages ringing in His ears. His life would have been shaped by these teachings. Much of a child’s life is shaped and directed by what he learns
during the first six or seven years of his life. Jesus would have clearly understood that He had been born into the world to become the savior of the world.
How does this relate to us? These events happened a long time ago.
Even though we will never experience the events Mary and Joseph experienced, we have daily occurrences where we need to trust God.
The key to having a worthwhile life is to strive to do
what God desires us to do.
We do this by trusting in Him and walking with Him.
Do you suppose Mary and Joseph experience fear?
You betcha they did! Probably more than we have ever imagined. The key for Mary and Joseph was not the presence or absence of fear.
That's why Mary could say I am the Lord's Servant
may it be to me as you have said.
That's why Mary could say I am the Lord's Servant may it be to me as you have said.
Mary and Joseph struggled to understand a plan that didn't make any sense from their perspective. Despite the lack of understanding, they chose to trust God.
So they committed to rely on God for divine guidance.
May we be inspired by the faith of Joseph and Mary and walk forward together with our eyes firmly fixed on the Lord.