Jesus: Preparing for Manhood

This is part 2 of the meditation on Young Jesus. The first part contained the passage from the Gospel According to Luke that this meditation is based on. You can see that post here.

Jesus ran to his father.

“Father!” he exclaimed, “Supper is ready!”

Joseph put his tool down and wiped his hands on a nearby rag. He walked up the stairs and into the house. He washed his hands and took his seat at the table.

“Thank you, Lord, for these provisions for us, your people. Amen.”

As Joseph sat on his cushion eating his bread, he looked around the table. There was Mary, his wife. “My how she has grown into a wonderful woman!” he thought. A smile came to his face. He saw his sons James, Joses, and Judas sitting on his left. On his right was Jesus, the eldest. Joseph thought about their life together as a family. Jesus had been born, what, 12 years ago now. “I remember him helping his Mother with chores. Setting the table and cleaning up after meals.” When James came along, Jesus, although still a babe himself, tried to help care for him. He has always had a heart to help others.

Through the years Jesus had indeed shown himself helpful. He studied hard at the synagogue. He helped his friends with the lessons. That is, when they weren’t wrestling and playing in the street! As the eldest, he was expected to follow in his fathers footsteps. So, he spent his days learning woodcraft at Joseph’s side. He learned how to cut and fashion wood into plows, tables, and chairs as well as wood structures and buildings. In fact, Rome was planning to renovate and fortify a town about 4 miles north of Nazareth. Sepphoris! There would be good work for Joseph and Sons.

Jesus grew up with a keen sense of empathy. He did not compete with his brothers for the affections of Mom and Dad. He was a quick learner. But, instead of saying, “Look at me! I’m so smart!” he would always strive to help others to learn. This was especially true during this, his 12th year. He and the other 12 year old boys in the area were preparing to become “Sons of the Commandment,” or B’nai Mizvah. They would officially come of age. All of the responsibilities for them that their parents had held during childhood would come to rest on them.

It was spring again. Time to go up to Jerusalem for Pesach. The festival when the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob gathered to celebrate the night that the destroying angel had ‘passed over’ the homes of the Hebrews when they were slaves in Egypt. That night when their firstborn lived and those of Egypt were taken. It was the festival that marked the day Pharaoh, king of all Egypt, was humbled before the One True God. He had been forced to free God’s people.

So, Joseph and the family joined with other families in a caravan. Family, friends and neighbors all giddy with excitement got ready to set out on this yearly adventure. They all walked, rode, and sang their way south to Jerusalem. When they arrived, they set up camp outside of the city near the Mount of Olives. Pilgrims from all over Palestine, from all over the world, were gathered. Friendships were renewed. They sang the words of Miriam’s song and danced. Ah, the festival had arrived!

While the adults prepared the camp, the boys ran off to play among the olive trees. They chased each other and climbed the trees. Some of them took off their shirts and wrestled. Kids will be kids!

On the day of the festival they all walked across the valley and up to the temple mount. The head of each household went to buy their family’s portion of the lamb that had been sacrificed and prepared in remembrance of that night so many centuries ago. Joseph and his family took their portion back to the camp to celebrate. Jesus’ youngest brother began the ceremony and asked, “How is this night different from all other nights?” The story of God’s act to free Israel from slavery would then be told. This was the heart of Judaism as it continued to beat day after day, year after year, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord, our God, took us out from there with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm….

Joseph and the others remained in Jerusalem the following day so they could celebrate the Sabbath. The day after the Sabbath they began to pack up to head back to Nazareth. The caravan began the long journey home.

That evening they stopped and prepared the evening meal. When all was ready, Mary called for the family. Joseph and the youngest boys returned. But, where was Jesus?

“Jesus!” Mary called.

No response.

Joseph and James got up to look for him. “He’s probably with some of his friends where he can’t hear us,” Joseph said.

They looked all over for Jesus. No one had seen him since early morning.

Finally, they realized that Jesus had been left behind.

“He’ll be OK,” Joseph reassured Mary. “He’s nearly a man. He can take care of himself until we get back.” (At least Joseph hoped so.)

The next morning Joseph and Mary left the three youngest with a relative and started back to Jerusalem. When they arrived they searched the area where they had camped. No Jesus. They went into the city and searched through the market and at the houses of people they knew. Still, no sign of the boy.

Finally, they decided to go to the temple to inquire of God for their son. When they arrived, they found Jesus sitting with the elders and teachers. He was questioning them and answering their questions. The elders were astonished that this young boy had such wisdom and insight. Mary went to him and said, “What are you doing? Don’t you know that your father and I have been worried sick about you? We have been searching all over Jerusalem for you!”

Jesus looked at her and said, “Why were you looking all over Jerusalem? Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house?”

The teachers and elders looked approvingly at the boy. Mary, on the other hand, was not so approving. She took him by the hand and they left the temple and returned to Nazareth.

We forget that Jesus was a kid from a back-water town in Roman Palestine called Nazareth. It’s all too easy to deify him. We see the paintings and statuary with the Babe Jesus blessing people. There is an account in one the the so-called Gnostic Gospels where Jesus transforms clay animals into real ones.

This story, however, shows Jesus acting like a typical 12 year old boy fitted perfectly into his time.

Jewish custom taught that at age 13 a boy came of age. He was now responsible for himself in the eyes of the community. He became a ‘bar Mizvah,’ a son of the Commandment. To prepare for this a child would spend his 12th year learning the Scriptures and the Law. In my story that training happened in the local synagogue. The writer of Luke doesn’t mention that. But, he does write that Jesus was found at the Temple with the teachers and elders. He was preparing for his passage from childhood to manhood.

At the end of the passage that Mary “treasured these things in her heart.”

Jesus continued to mature and grow in wisdom and stature among his people. Soon it would be time for him to leave and find his own way. But, that’s a story for another time.

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