Our last study concerned the birth of Jesus Christ. We showed his birth was miraculous. Jesus was born of a virgin. God did not have sexual intercourse with Mary, his mother, but caused her to become pregnant miraculously—she did not sleep with anyone.
We have also shown the fact that Jesus, who has existed eternally in the glory of Heaven, not only accepted becoming a simple man but also he was born into a very poor family. It was the beginning of a life where Jesus would be exposed to all the different kinds of tests that men can know—a difficult life. He accepted all this out of love for you and me.
So he knows the way we feel when we are hungry, when we have worked hard, when our bodies are ill, when others disappoint us, when we are tempted. He became one of us.
Now we are going to talk about the childhood of Jesus; what happened to him when he was a baby and how he grew up.
The arrival of Jesus on earth did not go completely unnoticed, and the king who had just been born was not completely without honors. According to Luke 2, it was to shepherds that God sent angels to announce the birth of Jesus.
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Luke 2:8-14)
After the angels left them, the shepherds hurried to Bethlehem where they found Mary and Joseph, with the baby lying in the manger. “Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds” (Luke 2:17-18).
Forty days later, Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem to present their child to the Lord, conforming to the Torah, the Jewish law, which required a special sacrifice for the birth of a first-born son. As they entered the temple with Jesus, a man named Simeon came to meet them. He had been warned some time before that he would not die before having seen the Messiah, that is to say “the Christ.” When he saw the little baby Jesus, he took him in his arms and said to God, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32).
On that same occasion, an 84-year-old prophetess who lived in the temple also noticed the baby Jesus. The Bible said that she “gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).
According to the gospel of Matthew, there were other people who came a great distance to give homage to the baby Jesus. They are called magi of the Orient. Their country of origin is not specified, and the Bible does not tell how many magi came. The word “magi” could refer to a sort of priest in the ancient country of Persia, now known as Iran. The magi studied the stars, and these men discovered that a new king was born among the Jews.
So they went to Jerusalem, the Jewish capital, to offer homage to him. Having learned that, according to the prophet Micah, the king had to be born in Bethlehem, the magi were able to find the child, who was now 18 months to two years old. He was now no longer in the stable where he was born, but in a house. According to Matthew 2:11, “And when they [the magi] had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
The honors given to Jesus by the shepherds, Simeon, Anna and the magi did not last. The old king Herod, in his fear of losing power, had already killed one of his wives and some of his own sons. He was very worried when the magi told him that one had been born who would become king of the Jews. Knowing that a future king had been born in Bethlehem, “he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men” (Matthew 2:16).
God warned Joseph in a dream that the life of the infant was in danger. Joseph, or Yusuf, the husband of Mary (Miryam), took his small family and fled to Egypt, which was outside the territory governed by Herod. Some time later, Herod died and an angel told Joseph to return to Israel. They settled in the north of the country in the region of Galilee.
After having been the object of so much attention at first, from pious people who praised God for his birth, and then from a jealous king, Herod the Great, who sought to kill him, Jesus seems to have been forgotten by the public for many years. His parents certainly kept the memory of all the special things that had happened at the time of his birth, but it seems that the people in the small village of Nazareth did not realize that Jesus was an exceptional person.
The Visit to the Temple at Age 12
We have a single glimpse of Jesus during his youth, before he began his ministry at 30 years of age. We find this story in Luke 2:41-51:
“His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.’
“And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart.”
To sum up what we have just read, Jesus had accompanied his parents to Jerusalem to observe a Jewish feast. The pilgrims—that is, those who traveled from afar to participate in the event—traveled in large groups, and Jesus’ parents did not realize he was not in the group. They returned to Jerusalem and searched for him. After three days, they found him in the company of teachers of the law of God, asking them questions and talking with them about the scriptures. Although we can sympathize with the anxiety Joseph and Mary had felt, we can also understand the surprise of Jesus. Knowing him, his parents should have had the idea that they would find him where people were talking about God. He had to be dealing with the concerns of the One who had sent him. It was only natural.
Christians must take Jesus as their example in all things. This story shows us that, at a very tender age, Jesus was already giving us an example to follow. Although he was very young, he was already interested in the Word of God. Later, when he was an adult, he said to his disciples, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). Jesus knew why he was in the world, and this is shown by the things with which he occupied himself.
When one considers the things that fascinate most people, it seems most of them do not know the reason for their own existence. They think that the goal of life is to make money, play football, to indulge in as many pleasures as possible, to be admired by others or to simply live as long as possible. In reality, we exist to glorify our Creator, to seek to know Him, to obey His will, to accept the spiritual, eternal life He offers us.
The story of Jesus’ visit to the temple at the age of 12 years old shows us that we must not wait until a certain age, an age where the pleasures of the world do not interest us, before giving our lives to God. God wants us to give ourselves to His service, whether in the strength and energy of youth, the responsibility and influence of maturity or the experience and wisdom of old age. A young boy or girl of 12 years should already be interested in knowing the will of God and should continue to be interested until the end of their days.