Nazareth to Nazareth
NAZARETH TO NAZARETH
“He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:23 NKJV)
There are many misconceptions about the timeline of Jesus birth and early childhood:
Some have imagined the shepherds and wise men came to the stable on Christmas Day, followed by Jesus at the Temple for His circumcision and blessing by Simeon and Anna, and then the flight of the ‘Holy Family’ into Egypt. Yet Scripture provides a very different and detailed picture of the events that occurred prior to the birth of Jesus until the period when Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned to Nazareth
15+ MONTHS BEFORE THE BIRTH OF JESUS
• Mary appears to have lived in Nazareth when Gabriel visited the husband of her cousin Elizabeth.
• Zechariah the Levite priest served in the temple as part of the priestly rotation (the course of Abijah). The angel Gabriel promised that he would have a son named John. Zechariah returned to his wife and she became pregnant with John the Baptist. Note: Elizabeth did not become pregnant as soon as Gabriel gave this prophecy, for Zechariah first had to finish his priestly rotation, and then return home. Scripture does not state that Elizabeth became pregnant as soon as Zechariah returned home; only that Elizabeth became pregnant “after those days”: “And so it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived.” (Luke 1:23-24 NKJV)
• Elizabeth became pregnant six months before Gabriel announced to Mary that Mary was to bear Jesus: “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth … Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.” (Luke 1:36 NKJV)
9 MONTHS BEFORE THE BIRTH OF JESUS
• Gabriel visited Mary and told her that she would become pregnant: The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary … Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:26-33 NKJV)
• Mary became pregnant shortly after Gabriel spoke to her. Mary left Nazareth to visit Elizabeth “in those days” and “with haste.” The distance between Nazareth, the city where Mary lived, and the hill country of Judah, the place where Elizabeth lived, was at least a week's journey: “Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her. Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.” (Luke 1:38-40 NKJV)
• Sometime between the announcement of Gabriel and the visit to Elizabeth a brief time later, Mary was already pregnant: “[Mary] entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Luke 1:40-42 NKJV)
The Babe traveled from Nazareth to Judah and back to Nazareth while still in the womb of Mary. He would make the trip from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah again when He was about to be born.
6 MONTHS BEFORE THE BIRTH OF JESUS
• Mary left Nazareth to be with Elizabeth the first three months of Mary’s pregnancy. Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s home when Elizabeth was six months pregnant and stayed until shortly after the circumcision of John the Baptist.
• Elizabeth's pregnancy was a full term pregnancy, for John the Baptist was born when it was “Elizabeth’s full time”: “Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son.” (Luke 1:57 NKJV)
• Mary was one of the “relatives” of Elizabeth who “rejoiced with her” at the birth of this son: “And Mary remained with her about three months … When her [Elizabeth's] neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.” (Luke 1:56-58 NKJV)
• Mary may have remained until the circumcision of John and been one of the people who would have called John by the name of his father, Zacharias: “So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. His mother answered and said, ‘No; he shall be called John.’ But they said to her, ‘There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.’” (Luke 1:59-61 NKJV) Mary knew that none of the relatives of Zechariah was named John, as evidenced by the fact that not one of the other brothers of Jesus was named “John”: “Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” (Matthew 13:55 ESV)
5 MONTHS BEFORE THE BIRTH OF JESUS
• Mary spent the first few months after she became pregnant away from Joseph. Mary’s pregnancy would not have been apparent to others when she initially left Nazareth to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
• Mary returned to Nazareth after a three month visit to her cousin’s house: “And Mary remained with her [Elizabeth] about three months, and returned to her house.” (Luke 1:56 NKJV)
• Mary was at least three months pregnant when she returned to Nazareth. It may have been that Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant WHEN she returned to Nazareth: “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 1:18 NKJV)
• The pregnancy would have been noticeable not only to Joseph, but to the other people in Nazareth. The rumor of an “illegitimate” birth of Jesus would be a source of scorn for the rest of His life: “Then they [the Pharisees] said to Him, 'we were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.’” (John 8:41 NKJV) The article “Nazareth for 30 Years” (http://www.3amthoughts.com/article/people-and-places/nazareth-30-years) indicates the debased reputation of Nazareth, which was on a military and trade route and undoubtedly was a place where prostitution and immorality were rampant.