Every Child Needs a Mom and a Dad—and so Did Jesus, Part 2

Integrity, Strength, and Safety: The Legacy of a Father

Joseph, although not the natural father [of Jesus], was the legal father and responsible for Jesus’ safety and well-being.
Sharon Beth Brani

Key point: The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth and early years demonstrate forcefully that even though Jesus was God in the flesh, He needed an earthly father. Every other child born into this world is unlike Jesus in that he or she isn’t, and never will be, God. Yet each one, like Jesus, needs a dad.

All the articles in this series are available here.

“Joseph! Get up and take Jesus and His mother to Egypt, and remain there until you receive further instructions! King Herod is out to kill him!” The tone of the angel’s voice—not just his words—carried a special sense of urgency.1 Joseph was asleep when he received this message, because the angel appeared to him in a dream; but the young carpenter, who now also was a new husband and father, wasted no time in heeding it. Matthew, the Gospel writer who penned the Christmas story from Joseph’s perspective, tells us Joseph “took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt,” and they stayed there until Herod had died. Then, significantly and somewhat surprisingly, Matthew added, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called My Son.’”

Dream of Flight by Daniele Crespi, c. 1625

A Prophecy Fulfilled

The passage Matthew quoted is Hosea 11:1:

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.

Noting that “Hosea 11:1…does not seem to be a prophecy in the sense of a prediction,” Bible scholar Louis A. Barbieri, Jr. observes that Matthew gave Hosea’s words a deeper understanding. Originally, Hosea was not speaking of—or was not aware that he was speaking of—the Messiah, but only of the nation of Israel. Matthew indicates that Hosea wrote of both. The Gospel writer

viewed this experience [of the flight to and return from Egypt] as Messiah being identified with the nation. There were similarities between the nation and the Son. Israel was God’s chosen “son” by adoption (Ex. 4:22), and Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Son. In both cases the descent into Egypt was to escape danger and the return was important to the nation’s providential history. While Hosea’s statement was a historical reference to Israel’s deliverance, Matthew related it more fully to the call of the Son, the Messiah, from Egypt. In that sense, as Matthew “heightened” Hosea’s words to a more significant event—the Messiah’s return from Egypt, they were “fulfilled.”2

Let us not miss the truth that God used Joseph to bring about the fulfillment of Hosea’s prophetic word. As significant as this was, it represents only a small portion of Joseph’s contribution to the Christmas story and to the life of Jesus, his adopted Son.

A Child-King Protected—in One Instance After Another

This wasn’t the only time Joseph received a divine message in a dream; it actually was the second of four. Here are all four instances. With the dreams, we mark the phases of Joseph’s journey and his contributions of leadership and strength to his fugitive family.

The First Appearance: “Go Ahead and Marry Mary”

Matthew 1:20-21:

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.”

Luke 1:26-38 and Matthew 1:18-25 provide the context for this appearance. Having become engaged or betrothed to Mary, Joseph discovered she was going to have a baby. Mary hadn’t been unfaithful to Joseph but was pregnant by the Holy Spirit—a once-in-history occurrence. Joseph, however, did not know this, although he knew he wasn’t the father. Thinking Mary must have become pregnant by another man, Joseph resolved to call off the wedding; but as a righteous and caring man he didn’t want to make things any harder for Mary than they already would be. He decided to divorce her quietly.

Joseph was in for a surprise! As “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. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”


All of this was happening, Matthew states, to fulfill Isaiah’s prophetic word that a “virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” While Isaiah’s prophecy could have had an immediate fulfillment that didn’t involve a woman who never had been intimate with a man, it clearly had its ultimate fulfillment in Mary, who became pregnant as a virgin in the absolute sense.

Joseph not only married Mary, but he refrained from having sexual relations with her until after Jesus had been born. About this, Matthew is explicit. While only a few would understand this at the time, the details of this couple’s circumstances would testify that, without any question, Jesus had been born of a virgin!

The Second Appearance: “Flee to Egypt!”

Matthew 2:13:

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

Luke 2:1-38 and Matthew 2:1-18 provide the context for this second angelic appearance to Joseph. Mary and Joseph had made their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem to participate in the census ordered by Caesar Augustus. Soon after they arrived in Bethlehem, the baby arrived. Angels told nearby shepherds about Jesus’ birth, and they made their way to the stable to pay homage to Him.

The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds by Govert Flinck, 1639

Eight days later, Jesus was circumcised and officially received His name. At least 41 days following His birth, Mary and Joseph took Him to the temple in Jerusalem to complete Mary’s purification ceremony. It was here that Simeon and Anna encountered Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

After these events, the family made their way back to the place they were staying in Bethlehem. Probably several months after that, wise men, following a star, made their way to Jerusalem looking for the newborn King.

The Magi Journeying by James Tissot, c. 1890

King Herod heard of their search. He felt threatened by all the talk about a newborn king. Herod learned from Jewish scholars that Bethlehem was to be the place of the Messiah’s birth. He asked the wise men to return to him after they had found the new King so he could go and worship him as well. Needless to say, he was lying! With the aid of an especially bright star, the wise men found Jesus in Bethlehem, and they gave him expensive gifts. The wise men also received a divine message from God in a dream, one in which they were instructed travel home by a way that bypassed Herod. At this point, Joseph also was directed in his sleep to flee with his family down to Egypt.

The wise men heeded their warning, and when Herod realized he’d been ignored, he was livid. He arranged for all the boys in Bethlehem who were two years old and younger to be slaughtered. Talk about feeling threatened! With Herod’s massacre of the boys of Bethlehem, one of Jeremiah’s prophecies was fulfilled. The prophet had written,

A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.

“Scholars” who have been reluctant to believe in the historical accuracy of the Bible have pointed out that no extra-biblical historian records Herod’s murderous tirade against the young boys of Bethlehem. Keep in mind, though, that the absence of a parallel account outside of Scripture does not mean the event did not occur. The truth is that this is exactly the kind of thing that Herod was known for, and it is reasonable to assume other similar actions on Herod’s part overshadowed his slaughter of innocent Bethlehem boys in historians’ accounts.

The Flight to Egypt by Carl Spitzweg, 1875-79

Originally, Jeremiah’s words referred to children’s deaths at the time of the Babylonian captivity centuries earlier. Once again, innocent children were perishing. Moreover, many thought of Rachel as Israel’s mother. She could not be comforted and wept without restraint.3

Against this backdrop, Joseph was told how he, in his specific situation, could most effectively do what men are divinely equipped to do for their wives and children—protect them from impending danger. Joseph obeyed, and considering that we’re talking about his protecting Jesus from life-threatening dangers, the importance of his role cannot be overstated. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) essentially acknowledged this, stating that Joseph was an essential part of God’s plan to send Jesus to earth as a human being, and a baby in particular. Had Mary not been married, she would have been stoned by the Jews. Moreover, Aquinas affirmed, in the years He grew from boyhood to manhood, Jesus needed the love, care, and protection that only a human father could give.

Joseph the Carpenter by Georges de La Tour, sometime in the 1640s

Joseph was told to do the very thing men are divinely equipped to do for their wives and children—protect them from impending danger.

The Third Appearance: “It’s OK to Return to Israel”

Matthew 2:19-20

19 Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.”

The context for this appearance is Matthew 2:16-21. Feeling threatened by the recent birth of the One people were calling the “King of the Jews” and having become angry over the wise men’s failure to return to report to him, Herod, as we have noted, “sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.” Because Joseph had heeded the angel’s warning and had fled with his family to Egypt, Jesus, and Mary as well, were safe. After Herod died in 4 BC, Joseph received divine instructions in a third pivotal dream. The angel told the man who had become Jesus’ father by adoption, “Arise, take the young child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.”

The Return of the Holy Family from Egypt by Jacob Jordaens, around 1616

How long did this special family stay in Egypt before returning to Israel? Putting the pieces together regarding Jesus’ age helps us answer this question. In all likelihood, the Savior was born between 6 and 5 BC, with a time frame of between 6 and 4 BC also possible. This timetable fits, if not with pinpoint accuracy, then loosely; one biblical historian says the family’s flight to Egypt likely took place 2 or 3 years before Herod died (in 4 BC) and that their stay in that land “must have lasted some years.” Certainly Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were in Egypt long enough for their departure to fulfill Hosea 11:1, the prophecy we cited earlier through which God declared, “out of Egypt I called my son.”

Once again, we see Joseph’s strength manifested in his protecting the members of his family, especially his adopted Son. We see his decisive leadership as well, a leadership that put the members of his family first and was dedicated primarily to their well-being. Joseph was a man fulfilling roles given to husbands and fathers by divine design.


Joseph’s strength was manifested in his protecting his adopted Son. It also was manifested in his effective leadership, a leadership that put the members of his family first and was dedicated primarily to their well-being. 

The Fourth Appearance: “Avoid Living too Close to Archelaus”

Matthew 2:22:

But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee.

Matthew 2:16-23 showcases the context for this, Joseph’s fourth angelic encounter. The danger had not completely subsided following Herod’s death. Herod’s son Archelaus ascended to the throne, and he, too, was exceedingly cruel. Wisely, having heard of Archelaus’s ascent to power and having received a divine warning in a dream, Joseph returned to Israel—but not to Bethlehem. Instead, he and Mary made their home in Nazareth, a town located in the region of Galilee in the northern part of Israel. This was Joseph’s hometown, the place from which he and Mary had traveled to Bethlehem just before Jesus was born.

The family’s moving to Nazareth fulfilled yet another Old Testament prophecy regarding the Messiah: “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” These specific words

were not directly spoken by any Old Testament prophet, though several prophecies come close to this expression. Isaiah said the Messiah would be “from [Jesse’s] roots” like “a Branch” (Isa. 11:1). “Branch” is the Hebrew Word neser, which has consonants like those in the word “Nazarene” and which carry the idea of having an insignificant beginning.4

Born in a stable and placed in an animal’s feeding trough, Jesus, we can see, did have an insignificant beginning by conventional standards. However, appearances often deceive. He would grow up to live a sinless life and to offer Himself as a sacrifice that would pay the price for human sin. What Jesus would accomplish would be infinitely significant and consequential.

At this point we cannot help but connect the dots! Joseph was involved in Jesus’ life in ways that made it possible for his adopted Son to live beyond childhood. Thus, it’s difficult to see how Jesus’ adopted father’s role could have been any more significant than it was.

Joseph’s Dream by Rembrandt van Rijn, about 1645

Summary and Conclusion

In the New Testament, we hear only a tiny bit more about Joseph after he and Mary returned to Jerusalem in search of Jesus and found Him in the temple conversing with the teachers of the law. This information is contained in the first of these two statements made by Luke. Luke referred to both Mary and Joseph with the pronoun them. He also made an important but sweeping, general statement about the years that remained in Jesus’ life before He entered His public ministry. It would be the last thing Luke would write about Jesus’ youth.

51 Then He [Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

What happened to Joseph between this event and the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry? Most likely, he died at some point during the “silent years” of Jesus’ life. Yet Joseph’s role in God’s plan to pave the way for the salvation of humanity is both critical and foundational. For starters, as we have said, Joseph’s actions protected Jesus from life-threatening dangers. Furthermore, it is crystal clear that “Joseph was a devout follower of the customs of his religion with his observance of Passover.…[It also is apparent that] Joseph made certain of good spiritual training for the children in his family. Joseph proved his integrity and willingness to be obedient to God’s direction and guidance.” Therefore, Joseph’s influence enhanced Jesus’ increase “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).

Holy Family with the Holy Spirit by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1675-1682

That’s just the beginning. Much, much more can be said about both Mary and Joseph and what their roles in Jesus’ life imply about the needs of children everywhere, in every culture.

The events leading up to and surrounding Jesus’ birth demonstrate that even God’s Son needed a male and a female parent when He came into the world and during His early years. Although He was God, Jesus also was a human being who made His entrance into the world, not as a powerful king, but as a helpless baby—in the same way as all of us have made our entrances. Inherent to healthy journeys through babyhood, toddlerhood, and childhood—stages all people go through—are a mother’s loving nurture and a father’s protective strength. We readily acknowledge that in a fallen world not every child can have both of these positive influences. Even so, the Christmas story demonstrates that even Jesus needed them.

Inherent to healthy journeys through babyhood, toddlerhood, and childhood—stages all people go through—are a mother’s loving nurture and a father’s protective strength. We readily acknowledge that in a fallen world not every child can have both of these positive influences. Even so, the Christmas story demonstrates that even Jesus needed them. If He needed them, then so does every child.

If He needed them, then so does every child. To the greatest degree possible, individuals and society must work to affirm and uphold the essential contributions of both moms and dads in parenting—for the benefit of of both children and society at large.

All Word Foundations Christmas posts and articles are available here.


Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


1A few dramatic liberties have been taken in this account, but the substance is true to the original.

2Louis A. Barbieri, Jr., “Matthew” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament edition, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., (Victor Books, 1983), 22-23.

3Barbieri, 23.


top image: In his painting Anno Domini (1883) British artist Edwin Long depicts the arrival of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in Egypt.


Every Child Needs a Mom and a Dad—and so Did Jesus, Part 1


The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
Gabriel to Mary in Luke 1:35, announcing to her she would become Jesus’ mother—

Key point: Only a woman could be Jesus’ mother, and Mary was God’s chosen individual to fill that critical role.

All the articles in this series are available here.

One aspect of the Christmas story that sermons and Bible studies often overlook is the contrast between the responses of Mary and Joseph to the birth of Jesus and the differing roles that each individual filled. Such information is extremely insightful in light of our current series on myths that led to the Supreme Court’s redefining marriage in the United States. One overarching myth is that gender differences are irrelevant in parenting. The biblical account of Jesus’ arrival on earth as a helpless baby, as well as Joseph’s responses to subsequent efforts to kill Him, demonstrate that even God’s Son needed both a mother and a father—just as all children do.

What do Mary’s and Joseph’s unique roles in Jesus’ arrival and earliest years teach us? In this post we will consider Mary; next time, Joseph. In all but one instance—Mary’s Quiet Reflections—we’ll mark Mary’s journey with the names of individuals who played important roles in her life.

Gabriel and Elizabeth

The Annunciation by Eustache Le Sueur

Mary was taken aback when, in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel appeared to her suddenly and announced that she was highly favored and would become the mother of the Messiah. Luke records the events from Mary’s perspective.

Mary was submissive to God’s plan, readily expressing a willingness to fulfill her role in it—as awesome as that role was. In fact, she rejoiced in being given both the responsibility and the privilege of being mother to God’s Son.

La Visitation by Philippe de Champaigne

The woman who could understand her situation best was her relative, Elizabeth, of whom Gabriel had declared, “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. For with God nothing will be impossible.” While it was true that Mary’s and Elizabeth’s situations were more different than alike, they were similar enough to provide the foundation for a special bond between the two women.

Mary was indeed favored by God, but her situation also involved great risk. She was certain to be misunderstood. Pregnancies occur as a result of intimacy between a man and a woman. This was going to be a once-in-history exception—but only Mary and a select few in her life would have to understand this. Of course, Joseph, Mary’s husband-to-be, would have to be one of those select few. Many people never came to understand. Years later, the Pharisees would subtly accuse Jesus of having been conceived illegitimately (see John 8:41; context vv. 31-41).


Joseph would believe and support Mary and marry her as planned, but understandably, God had to intervene to confirm to him what actually had happened. Joseph would be used of God to meet some very critical needs that arose in the early years of his adopted Son’s childhood.

We’ll consider Joseph’s roles of husband and father next time. For now, let’s reflect the swirl of events that culminated in Jesus’ birth and the arrival of shepherds at His bedside. The events we recount here are recorded in Luke 2:1-52.

Robert Campin, 1425-1428

Caesar Augustus issued a decree that the Roman world would be registered, and residents had to travel to the places from which their ancestors came. Joseph, who had descended from David’s line, traveled with Mary, his wife, to David’s hometown, Bethlehem. Mary was quite far along in her pregnancy by this time, so the journey had to be difficult. After arriving in Bethlehem, the couple faced an urgent situation. The time for Jesus’ arrival had come! Unable to find lodging in a local inn, they had to settle for a stable, and there God’s Son was born into the world as an innocent, helpless baby. Let’s put it another way. Mary became the “doorway” through which Jesus, God’s Messiah, entered the world. Only a woman could be used of God in this way.

The Shepherds

That same night, as shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks in nearby fields, a messenger from God—an angel—suddenly appeared! The shepherds were astonished, but the angel reassured them,

10 “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

The Shepherds and the Angel by Carl Bloch, 1879

After making his announcement, the angel no longer was alone, but joined by an army of angels who praised God and spoke of peace on earth “to those on whom his favor rests” (vv. 13-14, NIV). The shepherds wasted no time in making their way to Bethlehem and finding Mary, Joseph, and the Baby, who was lying in an animal’s feeding trough, just as the shepherds had been told.

The shepherds’ lives were forever changed! Surely they talked for the rest of their lives about this otherwise ordinary night when the sky had split open and an angel announced the birth of the One who was the Savior, the Christ, and the Lord. Momentarily, we’ll see evidence of their inability to keep quiet. “Lying in a manger,” He Himself would be a sign to them!

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerald van Honthorst, 1622

The shepherds found things exactly as the angel had described them. After seeing Him, they “made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds” (vv. 17-18). In addition, Luke tells us, “Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them” (v. 20).

Mary’s Quiet Reflections

“But Mary,” Luke writes in verse 19, “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” The translators of the New International Version render this verse this way: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

I believe Mary was doing something here that’s is especially characteristic of women. Their ability to do this is such a wonderful trait! It isn’t that men never reflect on things; but, generally speaking, men are practical—action oriented. Joseph had to be. Next time we will see this when we consider him.

Mary, of course, had a great deal to ponder. Author and Bible teacher Beth Moore writes this of her reflection.

Pondered. It is a wonderful word. It is the practice of casting many things together, combining them, and considering them as one. In that moment, a host of memories must have been dancing in Mary’s head. The angel’s appearance. His words. Her flight to the hill country of Judea. Elizabeth’s greeting. Their late-night conversations. The first time she noticed her tummy was rounding. Joseph’s face when he saw her. The way she felt when he believed. The whispers of neighbors. The doubts of her parents. The first time she felt the baby move inside of her. The dread of the long trip. The reality of being full-term. The first pain. The fear of having no place to bear a child. The horror of the nursery. The way it looked. The way it smelled.

The way He looked. God so frail. So tiny. So perfect. Love so abounding. Grace so amazing. Wise men bowed down. Shepherds made haste. Each memory like treasures in a box. She gathered the jewels, held them to her breast, and engraved them on her heart forever.

Soon Jesus’ mother would have even more on which to reflect—some very heavy realities, indeed.


Mary would be called by God to endure a much, and she soon would hear an aged man of God speak of her burden. The Lord had promised Simeon that he would not die before seeing God’s Anointed One. When he saw Jesus at the temple following His birth, Simeon rejoiced and declared to the Lord he was ready to “depart in peace.” He’d now seen God’s salvation, prepared for people everywhere,

“A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Simeon in the Temple by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1631

Mary and Joseph marveled at what was said about Him. Simeon blessed them both, but then he spoke directly to Mary. “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

How would Simeon’s prophecy be fulfilled? Bible scholar John A. Martin writes,

Throughout His ministry Jesus proclaimed that the only way to the kingdom, something the nation had long sought, was to follow Him. The ones who did so would receive salvation; they would “rise.” But the ones who did not believe Him would not receive salvation; they would “fall.” These consequences would reveal what they thought about Mary’s Son.1

Lamentation by Pietro Lorenzetti, about 1310-1329

New Testament scholar William A. Hendricksen observes,

In a parenthesis Simeon, in addressing Mary, states that a sword would pierce her soul; in fact, as the original indicates, a large and broad sword, the symbol of intense pain, of frightful and piercing anguish. For the fulfillment see John 19:25-27.…

What Simeon said was true. But he did not see everything. He did not see that even in the midst of Mary’s sorrow she would receive a measure of comfort. At the suggestion of the crucified Savior the disciple whom Jesus loved would take her to his home. Is it not possible that the very memory of Simeon’s prophecy strengthened Mary in the moments of her deepest agony, proving to her that this too was included in God’s plan and would therefore work together for good? Best of all, because of the resurrection on the third day Mary’s sorrow would subsequently be changed to rejoicing and strengthening of faith.2

There was much that neither Mary nor Joseph understood. Yet Jesus’ parents—His mother and his father by adoption—sought to be the parents to Jesus God wanted them to be. When “they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (vv. 39-40).

Jesus as a 12-Year Old Boy


The family made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to participate in the Feast of the Passover. When Jesus was 12, Mary and Joseph discovered Jesus was missing on the journey back. Returning to Jerusalem and finding Him in the temple actively engaged with the teachers there, Joseph and Mary were amazed. Mary asked Him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously” (v. 48).

Luke records, And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them” (vv. 49-50).

Had Mary and Joseph not been bewildered enough already, they sure were now. But the time for the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry was still years away. Scripture implies that even then, Mary would not fully understand her Son. Yet for now, He “went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but his mother [—again—] kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (vv. 51-52).

Living with His parents, Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature, and win favor worth God and man” (Luke 2:52).

Virgin Mary by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, 1640-1650

It’s important to understand that we cannot be faithful to the Scriptures and attribute any divine characteristics to Mary. She was a sinner in need of a Savior like every other human being. Yet she was God’s instrument to bring Jesus into the world and to provide the nurture and assistance only a mother could provide. God needed her in this sense, and He used her to accomplish these wonderful purposes.

Moreover, as the Anointed One of God who came to earth as a human being to die to pay the penalty for human sin, Jesus needed Mary as well.

Mary was God’s instrument to bring Jesus into the world and to provide the nurture and assistance only a mother could provide.

Next time, we’ll consider Joseph. As a man and as Jesus’ adopted father, he was well-equipped to protect and provide for his family. And he did these very things in this real-life, cliffhanger drama.

All Word Foundations Christmas posts and articles are available here.


Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise noted,  Scripture passages are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture passages marked NIV or New International Version are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


1John A. Martin, “Luke” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament edition, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., (Victor Books, 1983), 209.

2William Hendriksen, The Gospel of Luke, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978), 170, 171.

top image: Holy Family with Bird, c. 1650, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo