For all the information we have about Jesus’ ministry, we know every little about His early life. In fact, after the wise men visit Him, presumably when He was around two years old, there is only one account recorded for us before Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan river. This lack of evidence has led many to take all sorts of liberties with the life of Jesus between 2 and 30 years old, but the one story we do have provides us with some important detail regarding the rest of Jesus’ early years.
He knew the Word
Luke records in chapter 2 that when Jesus was 12, He and His family went up to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. This was what all Jews did every year at Passover. But this year, something happened. Mary and Joseph forgot Jesus at the temple!
– Now, I don’t know if this is an acceptable application or not, but how many times have we left Jesus at church as well? –
Back to the story.
After about three days, Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the temple talking with the teachers, ” And when his parents saw him, they were astonished (v. 48)” Jesus displayed an incredible understanding of the Scriptures and insight into the things of God, even at 12. And of course we know why: He did write the Book, didn’t he?
He knew who He was
Then when Mary confronts Jesus, He seems to react just like a troubled Jr. High kid. She says:
“Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”
And Jesus replies:
“Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Doesn’t that sound a bit like Jesus is saying, “Joseph isn’t my real dad”? But He’s not. Remember that Jesus is and always has been morally perfect. He would not have shown that kind of disrespect to His mother and father. What we can learn from this is that Jesus already knows who He is and what He is here for. Jesus knew at 12 that He was the Son of God! Most jr. high kids can barely remember to pack their lunch and put on deodorant, but 12 year old Jesus knows that He is God!
He went home and grew up
Luke 2:50-52 says:
And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Jr. high Jesus knew He was God, yet He submitted Himself to the authority of His parents. He was their son as much as He was the Son of God. Being the son of a carpenter, Jesus would have joined in the family business. I don’t know who started this rumor about Jesus becoming an official rabbi, but He was not seminary trained. He was a blue-collar dude who followed in His fathers’ footsteps. He was well respected by His family and community, and He learned and grew to become a man of God.
Some of these things seem contradictory to Jesus being God, but we have to remember that as God, Jesus knew everything, but as a man, He had to learn by doing. Jesus knew how to craft a table, but He had to learn what it was like to build a table with His hands. Likewise, Jesus obeyed God perfectly, but Hebrews 5:8 tells us that “He learned obedience through what He suffered.” He grew up like every other kid. He experienced life and death as a true, real man.
But as God, He saved us by His death and resurrection. He redeemed His people out of darkness by the light of His mercy. 12 year old Jesus was this saving God, He was growing and learning just as we do so that we would have a sympathetic High Priest who was acquainted with sorrows and familiar with temptation. Jesus knew what it was like to be left somewhere by His parents, He knew what it was like to be alone, to be persecuted, to feel pain, and to die.
He experienced all these things for our sake, so that we might know what it is like to be perfect, free from pain, free from temptation and sin, and free to live a life without death forever.