Jesus’ early years are not well represented in the gospels. They give an account of His virgin birth, and John the Baptist’s family relationship to Him, but not anything else. The only account of His youth is given in Luke 2:49, where His parents’ realize He is not in the caravan with them returning to their home. When they find Him in the temple teaching the adult men, Mary said “Your father and I have have been looking for you”, not remembering who His true father is. Jesus replies, “Why do you look for Me? Don’t you know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Jesus at that time was 13 years old, the age where boys pass into adulthood in the Jewish faith.
The Jews did not consider children and women of any import, and did not count them in census counts or give them any standing in the community. Therefore Jesus’ early life is not recorded. But His comment to Mary is significant. If taken as a normal question, then Jesus was saying that Mary and Joseph should have known, by His life up to that point, to look for Him in the temple. And, if taken as a rhetorical question, that is a question that is actually a statement, it meant “You should look for Me doing My Father’s business”, rebuking Mary for her remark about your father and I looking for you: Joseph was not Jesus’ father, except by proxy as a step father. Under Jewish law Joseph was His father. The gospels give account of Mary being made pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and she had no physical relations with Joseph before Jesus’ birth, so in reality Jesus had no earthly father. And He has existed since eternity past with God and is God, so the Father is Jesus’ Father only in name, to help us understand who He is.
Clearly though, Jesus knew who and what He was, and from an earlier, unrecorded time; if Mary and Joseph should have know where to look for Him and why, then Jesus had been displaying signs of His deity sooner.
John opens his gospel with an account of exactly who Jesus was: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-3,14). In other words, Jesus was God incarnate, in human form. John records more specific references to Jesus’ deity and the theology behind it than any of the other three gospel writers (John 4:34; 5:17; 6:38,39; 8:29; 9:4). He says that after this temple encounter Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” ( John2:52). So He developed in a human manner, just more rapidly than normal children.
Human children develop the ability to understand who and what Jesus is at varying ages. Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, says he accepted Jesus as Savior at age three. I have witnessed other children of approximately that age make alter calls with a great sense of urgency and purpose. So Jesus must have displayed unusual ability from a much earlier age. Yet John writes the Mary didn’t understand what He meant.
The temple account is significant because it marks the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Gospel accounts from that point on tell of Jesus proclaiming who He was and God’s plan of salvation to the world, though mostly to the Jews. He quickly fell out of favor with the Jewish authorities because they thought He went against Old Testament writings, when in fact He was fulfilling them and finishing them. They thought the Messiah would come in power and authority, vanquish all the Jew’s enemies, and rule the world as King. In stead He was born in a barn. They couldn’t accept that. It wasn’t what they expected and they refused to think outside the box.
Jesus’ birth is the second most important event in the world. It marked the beginning of God’s direct involvement with His creation, mankind. It marked the beginning of about 33 years of God directly interacting with humans, and started the procession in time and space to His crucifixion and resurrection, which together are the most important event in human history. “Easter”, as we now mistakenly call it, gives us salvation. More on that in a few months! We celebrate Christmas-which actually means Christ Mass- more than any other holiday simply due to commercialism. We have made His birth the “den of merchandise” that Jesus condemned (John 2:16). If business interests hadn’t made Christmas such a commercial success we wouldn’t celebrate it as we do. Christmas decorations go up is some stores before Halloween. I don’t do business with those stores, and I let them know why. I suggest that you do the same. Get Christmas back to being more of what it really is: The beginning of preparations leading to the cross. Of God’s coming to us in human form to let us know what He expects of us, and to build a context for us to understand what the cross means for us. It means life for us, for you. The cross is where it’s at, not Christmas. You can think of Jesus birth as the beginning of the cross. Jesus tells us, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: No one comes to the Father but by Me”. John tells us God so loves us that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not see spiritual death, but will live with Him forever (John 3;16).
Christmas marks the beginning of the completion of Old Testament law and the beginning of the preparation for the New Testament (covenant) God gave us. It starts the procession in human history to the cross. And God, the Creator of the universe and everything in it, coming to us in a pile of hay in a barn, and living His physical time on earth as a homeless traveling evangelist who came “not to be served, but to serve” people, should be the model for our lives, to treat others, as Paul tells us, as Jesus treats us.
If you haven’t made a personal, heart-felt commitment to Christ as your Savior, I suggest that you do so now: It’s the only way you’re going to get out of this world alive. Christmas started that process for you. Only your acceptance of Jesus’ taking your place on the cross can complete for you what Christmas started on earth.