Matthew and Luke tell us the Christmas story--the drama and circumstances of the birth of Jesus. These accounts are rich in detail and paint a vivid picture of the Nativity. We know so much about the baby Jesus: his ancestry, his conception, his birth and the those who marked that birth. These events cover no more than a year.
What we know about the next thirty years can fit into a few spare words: Joseph and Mary took their child to Egypt for a time before returning to Nazareth, their home. In Nazareth Jesus grew both physically and spiritually, and participated in his family’s life, including their pilgrimages to Jerusalem year after year. In those years only one event captures the notice of the scriptures: as a twelve year-old his curiosity caused him to lose himself in the Temple grounds, seeking answers for his questions.
That’s it. We know little of his upbringing. We are given one snapshot event and a summary statement (Luke 2:52). And yet, these years must have been important. How did they contribute to the man he became?
Some might think the child Christ knew his identity from the beginning, in which case his childhood and adolescence were utterly unlike any life ever lived. Apocryphal literature from the second century contains fantastic stories of a wonder-working boy Jesus, capable of raising the dead and changing stones into living creatures. If these stories (which are not in the scripture) are true, then his life cannot be a model for ours.
The other possibility is that Jesus grew in awareness and understanding of his identity, discovering God’s call and destiny upon his life. How does any child find his God-given purpose? How did he find his? How do we find ours? And how can we meditate on these possibilities with so little guidance from the scripture?
If you are willing to wade into deep water this week, consider: how did he become the man he was?