God, through His Word, the Bible, has provided much information surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ from the gospels of Matthew, Luke and the Old Testament prophets. Yet the scriptures are silent regarding Jesus’ early life, growing up in Nazareth of Galilee. Only one incident is recorded of him during those years, his adventure in Jerusalem at 12 years old.
We can only speculate on Jesus’ early life using what we know of the customs of the day. We see a growing boy helping his mother with her daily tasks, learning from her quiet example, the beauty of godliness and strength of faith. As he grows older we see him with his step-father Joseph in the carpenter shop learning the trade. Joseph would recognize the responsibility of teaching his children the law of the Lord. “These words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children……”Deut 6:7 No child ever listened more carefully to the words of the law than Jesus.
When Jesus was about 6 years old, the spiritual guidance of his home would be supplemented by the synagogue school. We know he did not go on to higher education as he was not considered “learned” a term used against him later when challenged by the scribes. John 7:15
As months lengthened into years, a gradual change would have been discernible in Jesus. We are told he grew in favour with God and man, a slow and beautiful process. The flame of consciousness was kindled, growing to encourage him to study the law and the prophets so that when he was only 12 years old the most learned rabbis in the land marveled at his acquaintance with the scriptures.
At the age of 12 years, a Jewish boy became a “son of the law” with privileges and responsibilities which included a yearly attendance at Jerusalem for the Passover. The significance of Jesus’ first recorded words marks the point in his life when his relationship with God was revealed to him and from then on he dedicated himself to His Father’s will. His knowledge of scripture was growing with an ever clearer perception of God’s requirements. The significance of the slain Passover lamb in God’s beloved city, Jerusalem, for the redemption of his chosen people would stir up deep and moving, even foreboding emotions. Jesus would see his people living in high hope and expectation of the coming Messiah according to God’s word. The intense national feeling was responsible for the Roman troops placed strategically around the city.
We can only speculate that God spoke to the eager waiting spirit of His son, like Samuel many years before. “Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth.” Did Jesus then have a need to go alone seeking out the rabbis to discuss the great issues of the law and of God’s purposes and promises? At the end of 3 days absence, his anxious parents found him, his mother crying out, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us?” We hear his quiet reply, not a rebuke but a declaration that his relationship had changed. A new allegiance had begun. “How is it that you sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” That resolution was to make great demands of him. It was to demand a loyalty in which earthly relationships were to be forgotten.
His Father’s business led him back to the carpenter’s shop in Galilee keeping him there for another 18 years. It was a severe test, a slow discipline of patience and waiting. But we can be sure that as Jesus went about his duties at the carpenter’s bench, subject to his parents, he recognized his Father’s will and gladly submitted to it.
The next 18 years of silence were not lost. Jesus expanded his understanding of God’s law, the purpose, mission and destiny of the Messiah and the price that would be demanded of him. He grew in his appraisal of men, penetrating their hearts and reading their motives. His life grew richer, his communion with his Father deeper and his preparation more complete. He experienced a personal communion with God who was “opening his ear to hear as the learned”. Isa 50: 4 Jesus learned to trust God completely finding solace in prayer with each great crisis in his life.
Much was learned from the carpenter shop. As no mention of Joseph was made after Jesus’ first trip to Jerusalem, it is assumed he had died sometime during those 18 years. Jesus would have the responsibilities of family life bringing understanding of domestic and practical difficulties. Jesus studied human nature by mingling with the people of his village sharing their difficulties, joys and sorrows, victories and failures.
Jesus was waiting for that call to larger service. His mind had been prepared by meditation and prayer. His body had grown strong and vigorous in readiness for the privations and rigors of the years to come. When that call came he went to John the Baptist and passed beneath the waters of the Jordan coming up to hear, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Thus at 30 years of age began his primary mission in life. “Thy will, not mine be done.”
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