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Jesus As A Kid

Jesus as a Kid – June 25th, 2016

Pastor Steve Schantz  

bible-1089968_1920Like the Holy Land experience in Orlando, summer Vacation Bible School programs sometimes offer children a Home Town Nazareth experience. This often includes costumes and characters from 1st century Galilee, sometimes a taste of the native foods Jesus would have grown up eating – like olives, dates, lentil soups, grapes, flat bread, yogurts and cheeses…   They might also learn about the places he traveled and the people he met and perhaps even a few animals to pet which are native to middle-Eastern culture. (Many are similar to some of our animals native to Florida!- Goats, Sheep, Lama, horses)   All of this is aimed at making the person and life of Christ real in the minds and hearts of the next generation.

John’s gospel account records that if all of the real events of Jesus life were written down, a library full of books couldn’t contain them all. Of course we have detailed accounts of His birth, his ministry, His death and His resurrection. But only in Luke’s gospel do we find a stand-alone story from Jesus youth. Because so little is recorded about his childhood, bible students call these The Hidden Years of Jesus life. Though we lack great personal detail these years, there is plenty of biblical, archaeological, and historical material that reveals what daily life in Hometown Nazareth was like for Jesus growing up. So what can we glean from Luke’s story of Jesus as a twelve year old? Please turn with me to Luke the second chapter, and let’s read the first part of the story.

Luke 2: 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Passover season in Jerusalem would bring more than 60,000 visitors to a city whose normal population was closer to 25,000. Families caravanned in large groups for companionship as well as security, so it’s not surprising that Mary and Joseph didn’t worry about Jesus their first day on the road. If you’ve ever taken a road trip with family or chaperoned a class room of children on a field trip, you know how easily one or two can disappear momentarily before the bus pulls out! As we’ll see in a few minutes, Jesus parents were concerned for his welfare, and they were certainly in tune with his needs. Joseph’s family would have been nothing like the McCallisters from the original Home Alone movie. Remember how young Kevin (Mcauley Kaulkin) was left behind while the rest of the family flew to Europe for Christmas vacation?  When he realized his plight, Keven’s lonely lines said it all: “Maybe they’re just too busy. Maybe they don’t forget about you, but they forget to remember you.” While on his own he had plenty of time to wonder whether he really mattered to anyone!

When Jesus family traveled from their backwater home in Nazareth to Jerusalem, everyone knew his family, his aunts, and uncles, and his cousins. They would have known that Joseph was a carpenter, because Nazareth was tiny village, barely on the map, with an estimated population of a whopping 200-400 people. [1]   (Like Two Egg Florida in the pan-handle, heading North off I-10 toward the Alabama line.) Anyone here ever heard of Two Egg? Nazareth was so small it was the brunt of jokes. Roman roads didn’t even reach the town until the 200’s AD according to archeological records. And yet Jesus grew up there in a real family, with real brothers and sisters, a real mother and father who loved him, cared for him, taught him, and who watched him grow to maturity. Good things could and would come out of Nazareth! Jesus knew what every child needs to know to the depth of their being… Jesus knew that He mattered!

     “Do I matter?” is a question every child cries out to hear answered by a parent, family member, friends, and ultimately by God. In order to live with purpose and a God given destiny, a child needs to know that his or her life matters! Jesus had earned His parents’ confidence and trust. By this time they had learned that their oldest child was a reliable, capable and dependable youth. Had He been unpredictable or immature, they would have felt the need to oversee His whereabouts more closely. (Like the wary teacher who assigns a personal chaperone to keep an eye on a certain child for the whole field trip.)

Jesus intelligent discussion with the teachers in Jerusalem was an indication of the wisdom that he would grow into. Years later during His ministry he returned to his home town in Nazareth.   After having traveled and taught and worked many miracles as he went, the community of His childhood refused to respect the truth that he shared, saying: “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?  Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. (Matt 13:55-57)

Our text in Luke reminds us that Jesus listened and asked questions. It doesn’t say that Jesus was trying to instruct them as a 12 year old, but rather that they were impressed by his unusual promise as a pupil. Rabbis were taught by other Rabbis, and Jesus had begun his training. This passage can also help our understanding of the divinity of Christ. The Apostle Paul would later write about our Savior, “Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6, 7). One of the things Christ emptied himself of was omniscience. Jesus didn’t know-it-all as a child. Even as an adult He revealed His limited knowledge concerning the timing of his return. Matthew records him saying: “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36) In the same way here in Luke’s account, Jesus isn’t playing games with the scribes. He was asking sincere questions to gain insight, for verse 52 tells us that “He increased in wisdom.

God’s word teaches the full humanity of Jesus as well as His divinity. In being fully human, Jesus would grow up learning about the world like every other child. From birth, and even before, the synapse in his brain would fire and wire together between the neurons as his early memory was scripted. The left and right hemispheres of his brain would learn to work in concert, to be integrated, so that he could walk and talk at the same time. Everything he saw, heard, touched, tasted, and felt became a part of his ability to function and recall. Jesus as a human child would know the smell and touch of his mother, and the feel of His father’s carpentry tools – the smell of wood being worked and stone being shaped even before he learned to use these tools with Joseph. As His memories were stored important bonding relationships were formed with people who cared for and loved him, and a healthy child grew.


Humans require more time than any other mammal to reach adulthood, relative to our life span. Compared to other mammals we seem born prematurely. A foal born to a miniature horse like the one our youth enjoyed this week on campus will be up and running a few minutes after birth. Blue whales can live to 80 years, (None were available to pet this year due to budget constraint J) After birth this baby whale is ready to leave its mother within one to two years, and can reproduce within 5-8 years.   Sometimes it’s good to remember this when we wonder if our child will ever grow up! It was Mary’s bond with her son which moved her to ask questions of him when he stayed behind. Somebody cared where he was and what he was doing all through his childhood!

Luke 2:48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house? 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Yes, there was something very special about Jesus as a child. He was endowed with God’s Spirit and grace from birth so that He was far advanced beyond other 12-year-olds when it came to grasping the Word of God and spiritual truths. Did you notice how Mary questioned her son’s reasoning and action in staying back at the temple without condemning him?   His opinion mattered, His reason mattered, and His decisions mattered to them. His gifts and aptitudes mattered. His obedience mattered! Jesus was raised knowing that He mattered!   How do we raise a child to know that he or she matters? To feed a sense of destiny in them from conception? As adults learners we need to know something about how children actually learn.

“From the moment of birth, the infant brain seeks connection. It is like a miniature radar system, scanning the surrounding environment, searching for something – someone – to help bring coherence to its emerging sense of life.”[2]   Children are born looking for and needing DIRECTION!   Even as adults we need good directions in life. Sometimes it takes a car insurance commercial to remind us that we don’t know where we are going on our own… 

When babies are born, they don’t yet have an independent sense of their own mind. They acquire a sense of who they are through seeing themselves in a mother or father’s eyes. (Referred to as mirroring). Connection, (or attachment), begins with a newborn’s first breath. “She wails into a universe that she hopes will respond to her with comfort and strength to reverse the course of her distress, whether from cold, hunger, pain, or exhaustion. The parent who is attuned to this piercing cry moves to touch, soothe, search for, and quell the discomfort.– even at 3 a.m.” [3]

Her brain will begin to register the general level of safety, tranquility, or chaos generated in the presence of each primary figure with whom she connects. Ever notice how no two siblings ever grow up in the same home? Even identical twins differ in who they are and how they are experienced by their parents. Each child born into this world has a certain genetically predetermined temperament to which the parent reacts. The parental reaction then elicits a particular attachment pattern that the child tends to develop with each parent. No two children have exactly the same temperament, so each elicits different emotional reactions from his or her parents. (Years later parents marvel at this – “Wow, she’s just like you in that way”, or “He’s just like his mother”.   We notice these kinds of relational fits and corresponding habits.

If you are the closest adult to a child relationally and emotionally, your Heavenly Father intends that you share His love and purpose for the child’s life. They can begin to receive from us their foundation of committed love. That they learn from us, “Yes, you matter!” From us they learn not only who they are, but also whose they are. Jesus knew He mattered, and Jesus Knew Whose He was.

Emotional and social proximity will trump biological DNA in a child, and nearly all infants attach only to a few people. Ever reach out to a beautiful baby who is just learning a deeper sense of self-awareness?   We think that because we consider ourselves friendly and harmless, of course this child will feel the same way and smile back at me, feel comfortable in my presence, and want me to hold him! You know what happens next – your unknown face is up in his, and unknown hands are reaching out to hold him- NOT! When we do this we are actually still the child exploring our universe. We are thinking more about how the child affects us than how we are affecting the child. It should come as no surprise that the single most important factor for a child to grow up with a healthy self-concept is whether or not the parent has made sense of his or her own life!

Jesus parents went up to Jerusalem to worship at Passover time because they knew where they were going in life. Joseph and Mary weren’t wandering lost souls, they were committed to the God who had revealed himself to their ancestors and the God they would come to know even more deeply through their Son. His parents gave him purpose and direction and validation. They had given heed to God’s call on their lives in that culture, and under that covenant. They taught Him to pray “Thy Will be done” because they had lived it and believed it since His conception! Remember Mary’s words spoken to the angel from the birth narratives in Luke chapter 1? “I am the Lord’s servant,” …”May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38) She reflected a submission to the will of God which was part of their family spiritual DNA.   When this happens a child senses purpose to his life which is connected to his creator.   He learns to bow his will to someone greater… First to us as the parent, but also to our Father who desires to guide and direct and bless our lives! Jesus had this sense of calling and destiny toward His unique purpose on earth. Jesus knew he belonged to a particular family, within a particular nation and culture, and from that secure place he knew he belonged with all of humanity. He knew that he could serve and love others, even to the point of being vulnerable to their jealousy, hate, and crucifixion as the Son of Man, without forgetting who He was!

Luke 2:40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.  

Luke 2:52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

If we want to raise children that matter, then important things have to matter to us as well as we allow God to give us our direction in life through his word and Spirit. Jesus had a strong grasp of His own purpose for being on earth and a zeal to please His Heavenly Father. The desire to do the work of God burned in Him even as a youth. It would be another 18 years before He began his unique public ministry. By then He would be ready to face the greatest challenge any human could ever face. He was and is truly one of us! And He was and is truly God, the Father’s only begotten Son. Part of Jesus response affirms that His knowledge of who He was continued to grow on Him, and in Him.

Luke 2:49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them. 51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.

Jesus Knew He Mattered. Jesus Knew Whose He Was. Jesus Knew He Had a Destiny

   When our children experience with us that they truly matter, and they know who they are and whose they are, that they have a God given destiny, then they are free to lead lives which explore their own aptitudes, their skill sets, and their gifts which will surprise and delight us as parents! Though we help to make them who they are, we really can’t take credit for everything they become. God’s hand is in it, and His plan for them will come to pass. What we can do is play our God given role in helping to launch them.

[1] Jesus, A Pilgrimage, James Martin, SJ, Nazareth, Harper-Collins, 2014, p. 74

[2] Anatomy of The Soul – Surprising connections between neuroscience and spiritual practices that can transform your life and relationships, Curt Thompson, M.D., 2010, Attachment: The Connections of Life, chpt. 7, p. 112

[3] Anatomy of The Soul – chpt. 7, p. 110

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