HIS EARLY YEARS
Matthew 2:13-23, Luke 2:39-52
We know very little about the early years of Jesus’ life. We know that he spent some of these years growing up as an exile in Egypt. We know that after the death of Herod the Great, his family returned to Israel and settled in Nazareth of Galilee. We know that he grew up there, the son of a carpenter, living in relative obscurity from the rest of the world. We know that he was raised to know the law and to love the God of Israel, just like every other normal Jewish boy growing up in Palestine. We know that at least once his family made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. And other than these things we don’t know very much.
Throughout the centuries people have been intrigued with this part of Jesus’ life. What was he like as a boy? What was he like as a teenager? Did his parents ever have to teach him anything? How did he relate to his brothers and sister? These questions have led some to create stories about these years of Jesus’ life. In one story the boy Jesus makes clay pigeons and then brings them to life. In another story, some neighbors complain about Jesus’ family and he curses them with blindness. And in another, Jesus heals his brother James who is bitten by a poisonous snake. [These are all stories from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. To see why it is not part of the Bible read this article: “Who Decided Which Books Should Go in the Bible“]
These stories are at best entertainment and are quite different than the picture of the boy Jesus we see in the gospels. Luke says this of him: “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him,” (Luke 2:40 ESV). This is about all that we have describing what Jesus was like. We see a story of him when he was twelve, but it just further displays this truth. He wasn’t some boy wizard turning tricks to impress his friends. He wasn’t a testy child who could summons disease and aliments at will. He wasn’t just someone handy to have with you when you went hiking were snakes were found. No, he was a child – just like every other child – who grew in wisdom and was loved by God.
I think that this absence of material on the life of Jesus is meant to show us how normal Jesus was. Sure he was unique. Who else can boast of being both God and man? Yet, he was profoundly one of us. In every way he was one of us. He learned how to walk. He learned the trade of his father. He had friends. He was a big brother. He went to the Synagogue on the Sabbath. He loved his mother. The author of Hebrews tells us that he was made like us in every respect (Hebrews 2:17). How amazing is it that in order to save us, God become one of us. He didn’t just visit us. He didn’t just appear like us. No. He became, in the very truest sense of the word, human.