Journeys of Jesus: Bethlehem to Jerusalem

Last week we looked at Jesus’ second journey — from Nazareth to Bethlehem and then His glorious birth.

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent out his Son, born to a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as children. Galatians 4:4-5

Today we will look at his first journey outside the womb.

You know that he was revealed to take away our sins, and no sin is in him. 1 John 3:5

1 John 3:5 describes what some theologians call Jesus’ passive obedience and His active obedience. His passive obedience was His willing suffering and death on behalf of His people “to take away our sins.” His active obedience was his perfect keeping throughout His whole life of the law that He was born under so that “no sin is in him.”

Although it’s hard to think of acts done by His earthly parents when he was a helpless babe as Christ’s “active” obedience, by the grace of God, Joseph and Mary did complete the steps required by the Jewish law for Jewish babies, and thus Jesus began His life in perfect obedience to the law.

Leviticus 12
Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘If a woman conceives, and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her monthly period she shall be unclean. In the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. She shall continue in the blood of purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any holy thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed. But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her period; and she shall continue in the blood of purification sixty-six days.

“‘When the days of her purification are completed for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the door of the Tent of Meeting, a year old lamb for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove, for a sin offering. He shall offer it before Yahweh, and make atonement for her; then she shall be cleansed from the fountain of her blood.

“‘This is the law for her who bears, whether a male or a female. If she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons: the one for a burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering. The priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.’”

This is the Jewish law concerning the birth of a child. And Joseph and Mary obeyed it with the birth of Jesus.

When eight days were fulfilled for the circumcision of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. Luke 2:21

We are not told otherwise, so presumably, this circumcision happened in Bethlehem. And then, after 33 days, they traveled to Jerusalem. In the days of King Solomon the Tent of Meeting had been replaced with a permanent Temple in that city. 

When the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”),24 and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Luke 2:22-24

Bethlehem was not far from Jerusalem, just 8 km or 5 miles (less than a 2 hour walk according to Google Maps). Although the elevation of Bethlehem and Jerusalem are similar, they would’ve passed through a couple of dips, with the final climb into the royal city being fairly steep.

From Google Maps

When they arrived, they were greeted by two very interesting characters with prophetic messages that would especially stick with young Mary.

Luke 2:25-35
Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 He came in the Spirit into the temple. When the parents brought in the child, Jesus, that they might do concerning him according to the custom of the law, 28 then he received him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 “Now you are releasing your servant, Master,
    according to your word, in peace;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared before the face of all peoples;
32 a light for revelation to the nations,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 Joseph and his [Jesus’] mother were marveling at the things which were spoken concerning him, 34 and Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. 35 Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:36-38
There was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (she was of a great age, having lived with a husband seven years from her virginity, 37 and she had been a widow for about eighty-four years), who didn’t depart from the temple, worshiping with fastings and petitions night and day. 38 Coming up at that very hour, she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of him to all those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem.

There is much we could unpack from these messages, but I leave that to more capable men. Suffice it to say that these two rejoiced at seeing their savior and redeemer. May we rejoice as well!

The map above is from the current prototype of the Journeys with Jesus game board showing the journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem.

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Note: all scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the World English Bible which is in the public domain.

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