Childhood of Jesus

I’ve got another entry brewing–one about loss of faith. But it’s not there yet. In the meantime, let me take up Daisy’s questions about the childhood of Jesus from her comments on the 12/14 entry. Here’s a sampling of her comment: …for some reason in my mind it seems like Jesus’ birth makes a few waves maybe only ripples, and then the news of the birth of a King just fades away until he begins his ministry as an adult. I know about the story of Jesus as a boy wandering off to preach while his mother was looking for him, but not much else…Did people forget about his birth (even if they didn’t believe), or did they not know about it? Did Mary and Joseph tell everyone that their baby was a miracle?…It just seems so strange to me because we people have big gossipy mouths. Wouldn’t the story of Jesus (a baby King) grow and spread faster than he was actually able to literally grow up and prove it? So what Daisy seems to be asking is a question which has no-doubt been on the minds of so many Christians throughout the centuries. What happened to Jesus’ childhood? Why the gap? You’d think someone would be keeping up with things. After all, he’s the Messiah! Don’t they know how to keep up with their celebrity children like we do? Suri Cruise should be so lucky. (Wait. Did I just compare Katie Holmes to Mary? I think I’m going to have to come forward on Sunday.) Well. The truth is that we just don’t know. All we have from the canonical gospels is the story from Luke 2 to which Daisy alludes. Other than that there is nothing reputable. There are some pretty fanciful stories in later works (100 yrs. or more), but no one takes them very seriously. So, why the silence? I can think of a few possibilities.

  1. The stories were written but lost before the formation of the New Testament.

  2. No one wrote anything down. If they did exist, these stories didn’t “make the cut.” The only people who could have told such stories by the time Jesus was an adult would have been Jesus’ family: Mary, James, John the Baptist, etc. The only other people who had even a glimpse of his identity are the shepherds (If they talked who was going to listen?), the magi (They disappear to the foreign lands from whence they came), and a couple of old hermits living in the temple precincts. If those stories ever existed in written or oral form, the Gospel writers either never received them or chose not to use them.

  3. Jesus and his family preferred to maintain anonymity. Messianic claims were a dangerous thing to make. In her fictional account of Jesus’ childhood, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, Anne Rice does an admirable job of developing this idea. In fact, she surmises that Jesus himself doesn’t even get it yet. There are these vague hints at something terrible happening in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16ff), but no one ever wants to talk about it. Only at the end of the book does he begin to get a glimpse of his true identity. This theory could also have some scriptural underpinnings. It’s clear in the Gospels that Jesus is not in a hurry to reveal his identity as the Messiah. He initially balks at his mother’s request to do something about the depleted wine supplies at the wedding in Cana. Over and over again, especially in Mark, he tells demons and disciples not to reveal who he is. You’ll see this referred to from time to time as “the Messianic secret.”

So which one is it? This is PURELY speculation, but I think I like some combination of all three leaning heavily upon the third option. Until his crucifixion, Jesus was never a “storm the gates” kind of Messiah. And even then, it wasn’t the gates of Jerusalem, it was the gates of Hell. It seems to fit that Jesus preferred to maintain a low profile. (That would be a great title for a sermon.) He hung out with the “least of these”, he served, he prayed in solitude…You get the point. So that’s my 2 cents. What do you think? Got any other ideas? Coming up Next: “Faith vs. Doubt?”