Jesus’ earliest journeys

Dec 18, 2015 by

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Many of us who are parents have at one time or another had the desire to see our children do just what we wanted them to. It happens occasionally, but more often, not. The best example of a son (or daughter) doing exactly what the parent wants is Jesus, the Messiah. He left all of the Father’s riches in glory, traveling from heaven to Nazareth to become a little baby in the womb of a human woman. Now, people have had visions of heaven, but they have never reported where it is, or how far away from Earth it is. But we have to surmise it is at least as far away as our sun, which is calculated to be nearly 93 million miles away. That’s quite a distance for most to travel, but no problem at all for God’s son.

When the angel, Gabriel, announced to Mary of Nazareth that she would become the mother of God’s son — that was the beginning of Christmas as we know it. At the pleasure of God the father, Jesus became “flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” Other than the voyage from heaven, this was perhaps going to be the most significant trip in the history of humankind. Mary asked a few pertinent questions at the Annunciation, but she then accepted the assignment with great joy.

The second journey involved a trip Mary took to visit her cousin, Elizabeth — an old woman, a Levite and the wife of Zachariah — who was also pregnant with John the Baptist. John, while still in his mother’s womb, recognized Jesus, who was in Mary’s womb, and John leapt with joy at his recognition of the Savior. Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and began to prophesy. This is the first mention of a person being filled with the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. And a woman prophesying — that’s quite a journey!

The next journey Jesus embarked on also occurred while he was still in the womb. His parents had to go to Bethlehem, the City of David, to be taxed. Now Bethlehem is about an 80 mile trip from Nazareth, and this family did not have access to any type of vehicle. This trip would be equivalent to going from Bakersfield, Calif. (where I live) to Santa Ynez, through the Grapevine, over the Tejon Pass, across the Angeles National Forest, etc. Of the gospels, Luke gives the most complete record of the birth, and in that record, he never mentions a donkey. The scriptures neither affirm nor deny the presence of one. But we have always interjected one, which is generally portrayed in skits, plays, musicals and movies, and on Christmas cards. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume there was a donkey, in which case we imagine Joseph, being the gallant gentleman, would allow Mary to ride the donkey while he walked beside her. That was a rough and tedious trip! It is amazing Jesus was not born before his time. And I imagine there are many in our world community who could make this journey with no worries, but I don’t think I am one of them!

After the Holy Family arrived in Bethlehem, the trip grew even worse, as Mary and Joseph trudged from inn to inn trying to find a room. That happened to our family one time in Kansas. For some reason, the inns were all booked up, and we drove half the night through various cities and towns trying to find a room. We finally ended up sleeping in our van.

Eventually, the family finds someone who is willing to let them stay in a stable. Interestingly enough, the word ‘Bethlehem’ means ‘house of bread.’ So here we have the one who is to become the Bread of Life being born in the house of bread, and laid in an object designed to be a feeding trough for animals — a manger (from the French: to eat). How phenomenal! How profound!

The fifth journey Jesus made was to the temple at Jerusalem with his parents, to be dedicated, at which time his mother was also purified, and the family offered a modest sacrifice of two turtle doves or two pigeons, which was the custom according to the Law. During this journey, two consecrated prophets, Simeon and Anna, both laid eyes on the child and gave extravagant thanks and praise to God for him. After that, they were both ready to end their earth pilgrimage.

Jesus’s sixth and final journey, as it relates to the time period of his birth, was his family’s flight to Egypt after Joseph had been warned in a dream that the evil monster, Herod, planned to kill all the boy babies in order to eradicate Jesus’s kingship. I am sure the expensive gifts the wise men presented to the family were a great help financially in this great escape.

We know that Jesus became the perfect man, the only one who has ever lived, but was he a perfect baby? Did he cry when he was wet or hungry? Did he have to be changed? Did his parents have to cuddle him to sleep and sing to him? The Scriptures don’t tell us all of that, but we can be reasonably assured that he did all that because he came to live the human experience, although he was and is God.

And we can rejoice with Simeon and Anna that we have the opportunity to relive these most extraordinary adventures each year in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Brenda Isaacs is a retired Mennonite pastor, author and part-time teacher in the Court School System who lives in Bakersfield, Calif.


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