Children of the Bible, Part 23 by Allan McGuirl
We have spent a number of weeks looking at interesting stories of children in the Bible. And we have seen that they have had a great impact on the lives of people around them in various ways. However, today’s child cannot be compared to any of these previous ones. We start with Luke chapter 2 – the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The fact that He came into this world as a child is amazing in itself. Philippians 2:5-7 says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” The very Son of God humbled Himself to be born as a helpless child.
The one, who in the beginning spoke the Word and the worlds were formed, now lay in a humble manger speechless. The one who upholds all things by the word of His power was now powerless to care for Himself. The one, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, was now pursued by a king to be annihilated. By the divine plan of God, He was born in Bethlehem as prophesied hundreds of years earlier. His birth announcement was to humble shepherds on the Judean hillside, and to foreign sages studying the skies He created. The angels of heaven marvelled at His birth and lifted praises to God while most of the world slept. And there He laid in a humble manger – truly God and truly man. I have often wondered what happened to those shepherds who first came to visit the newborn Son of God. Were they able to follow his life in any way? Did they know He had to escape to Egypt and live in exile while wicked King Herod still lived? Were they aware that when He returned from Egypt that He and Mary and Joseph found safety in the quiet village of Nazareth? Did they know it was He who returned to Jerusalem 30 years later to challenge the religious leaders of the day with their hypocrisy? Were they there when He was led up Golgotha’s hill to be crucified? Actually, we are told nothing more of these shepherds except that after they saw Jesus, they were filled with joy and told everybody they met about Him.
And how did Simeon and Anna both recognize this baby to be the promised Messiah when He was brought to the temple at just eight days old? What did people think when this news was shared with them? What was it that alerted them to His true identity?
Then we have the wise men travelling from the east seeking the new King. Jesus was no longer in a manger but in a house when they arrived, so He could have been almost two years old. Did they realize that He was not only a King but the King of Kings? When they worshipped Him and laid their gifts before Him, did they know that He had come to give them the gift of eternal life? What did they say when they returned home about this special child? Again, the Scriptures are silent on this matter.
Of course, there is a lot of speculation about Jesus’ early childhood, but the Bible is silent about this. The only comment comes in Luke 2:40 where it says, “And the child grew and became strong; He was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him.” And then when he turned 12, He traveled with Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. Mary and Joseph, like many others, stayed in Jerusalem for the full seven days of celebration.
Then they started the long trek back to Nazareth. The trip is about 167 km or about 100 miles, about three full days of travel from dawn till dusk. They traveled all day and made their way down the hills of Jerusalem. That is the most dangerous stretch: a rocky, sandy, parched descent with many twists and turns in the road as it meanders down through the hills toward Jericho and the Jordan River. The area is noted for bandits and robbers who easily lie in wait in the craggy outcroppings looking for unsuspecting travellers. However, by moving in the company of so many friends and relatives who are also returning to the Galilee there is little likelihood of being attacked. As they reached the lower level and started north following the Jordan, they found a place to camp for the night. As this point, Mary and Joseph expected Jesus to join them, assuming He was keeping company with their relatives. But He didn’t show up. They started searching for Him among their kinfolk and friends, but Jesus was nowhere to be found.
When they finally realized that Jesus was not there, they had no choice but to return to Jerusalem to look for Him. But first they had to find a place to stay for the night. I suspect that it was a restless sleep, especially for Mary, not knowing Jesus’ whereabouts. First thing in the morning they retraced their steps in search of their son. The trip was slower because now they were climbing back up toward Jerusalem, and, most likely, they were not able to cover as much ground on the return trip as they had the previous day. No doubt they were scanning every group of travellers they passed, wondering if Jesus had realized He had been left behind and joined a later group to travel back home. I can visualize them questioning the various groups as they looked for Jesus. As night descended, they were again forced to stop and wait for dawn. Two days had elapsed and they had no idea where Jesus was.
When morning came, they resumed their journey and made their way through Jerusalem’s gate. They found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, and listening and asking questions. Luke 2:47-50 says, “Everyone who heard Him was amazed at His understanding and His answers. 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.’ ‘Why were you searching for me?’ He asked, ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what He was saying to them.” Even Jesus’ parents, although they knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah, did not really comprehend all that that meant.
Further, in Luke 2:51,52 it says, “Then He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” Jesus knew He was God the Son, but still He placed himself under the authority of his parents. He was setting the example to all children that the fifth commandment, honouring father and mother, was to be obeyed.
Well, as we said at the beginning, no other child could ever be compared to the Son of God. We are familiar with the rest of His life, but that is a topic for another day.