Journeys of Jesus: Jerusalem to Nazareth

Up to this point in following Jesus’ journeys, I’ve been able to take a chronological approach with pretty high confidence. We can be pretty sure of the order of events at the beginning and end of His life, but the way the different gospels order the telling of stories in the middle of his life, I can’t be confident of the specific order of the different journeys Jesus took between those first and last days.

This week and next week we will deal with two journeys that are both very early in Jesus’ life. It’s not clear from the gospel accounts which came first.

Both the gospel of Mark and the gospel of John start by describing the ministry of John the baptist and then Jesus’ baptism, marking the beginning of his ministry. Matthew and Luke both include the birth of Jesus and a few stories from His early life, so it’s from these two gospels that we have already seen Jesus’ earliest journeys.

In the last journey that we looked at, from Luke 2, Joseph and Mary took Jesus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem.  Today, we’re going to continue in Luke 2.

When they had accomplished all things that were according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. (Luke 2:39)

I believe that the next journey that Jesus took was from Jerusalem to Nazareth, still as a tiny baby. As I’ve said in previous posts, Jerusalem was in Judea in the south of Israel, while Nazareth was in Galilee in the north.

According to Google Maps, the distance from Nazareth to Jerusalem is 149 km (93 miles) and today (with modern roads and walkways) it would take 31 hours to walk between the two cities. So this was not an inconsequential journey. And yet it was one that Jesus and His family would take many times (Luke 2:41).

In the game Journeys with Jesus, I have only included one journey card for any given city pair, so the one card with Jerusalem and Nazareth represents many actual journeys that Jesus took between these two towns. And similarly, I’ll use this one post to talk about all those journeys over the same geography.

Israel’s topography is rather unique. As you move from west to east, you start with the gentle coastal plains by the Mediterranean Sea. You then cross the rolling hills of the Shephalah, before reaching a range of mountains running north-south through the middle of the country. As clouds roll west to east, they run into these mountains and tend to drop all their rain on the west side of the range, leaving the eastern slopes dry as they drop down into the Jordan rift (which includes the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea).

Jerusalem is along that central mountain range and traveling north to Nazareth would largely be along that range along the “Patriarch’s Way”. Along the way, the travelers would’ve seen the mountains so important in Israel’s history, Mount Gerizim (Deuteronomy 11:29), Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:33), Mount Tabor (Judges 4:14), and when turning to the west for the final stretch to Nazareth, Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-21) in the distance. On these long journeys, these sights would be an encouragement and reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people.

It was on one of these journeys from Nazareth to Jerusalem that we are told the only story of what Jesus was like as a boy.

When he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast, 43 and when they had fulfilled the days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. Joseph and his mother didn’t know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the company, they went a day’s journey, and they looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 When they didn’t find him, they returned to Jerusalem, looking for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the middle of the teachers, both listening to them, and asking them questions. 47 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When they saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, your father and I were anxiously looking for you.”

49 He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 They didn’t understand the saying which he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth. He was subject to them, and his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2: 42-52)

May we be so blessed, to be increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. 

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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