By J.R. Miller
After the presentation in the temple, came the incident of the visit of the Magi, recorded only in the Gospel according to Matthew, followed by the flight into Egypt, and then Herod's massacre of the children. When Mary and Joseph and the Holy Child returned from Egypt, they went to Nazareth, where they remained until Jesus was thirty years of age. Of these years we have no record, excepting this single incident of the visit to Jerusalem. The life at Nazareth was quiet and uneventful. Each year Mary and Joseph went to the Passover--but until He was twelve, Jesus did not leave His home.
It brings Jesus very near to children, to have them remember that once He was a child, and now in heaven has not forgotten the experiences of His earthy infancy and childhood years. His family was poor, and He had not the luxuries which many boys enjoy in these days. He had none of the opportunities that we have. There were no books, magazines, or newspapers. He heard the Scriptures read every Sabbath in the synagogue, and in His home He was taught the Words of God. When thirteen years of age, He began to learn the carpenter's trade, and from that time until His baptism--we can think of Him as working in the carpenter shop every day. It is a comfort now to those who have to work hard--to remember that Jesus worked at a common trade, no doubt with long hours and small pay.
The words that describe the growth of the boy Jesus, show us that there was nothing remarkable or unusual in His life at that time, so far as people saw. There was nothing uncommon about His childhood. Artists put halos about His face in their pictures--but there was no halo there as He lay in His mother's arms. When the shepherds came to seek for the newborn baby, they recognized Him not by any marks of divinity--but by His being wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger, or feeding trough. In His infancy He was as helpless as any other infant. There were months before He could talk, and when He began to speak, it was only with a baby's prattling at first, as His mother taught Him. His lessons did not come to Him without study--He had to work hard to learn them.
The nearer we keep to the way of nature in trying to think of the beautiful infancy of Jesus, the better we shall realize the truth about it. The things that happen to boys in our days, happened to Him. An artist painted a picture of Jesus in the home at Nazareth as a little boy in a carpenter shop. He has cut His finger and comes to His mother to have it bound up. No doubt the picture was true of Him more than once. The chief difference between the boy Jesus and other boys--was that He always did what he was told to do, was never rude, insolent, or sullen--but had ever a sweet, smiling face, always keeping love in His heart.
Luke tells us that "And the child grew and became strong; He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him." Most children grow well enough in body--but Jesus grew correspondingly in wisdom. In this respect--every child should be like Him. It is a shame to grow up in ignorance. Boys and girls should study their lessons thoroughly, taking every opportunity to acquire wisdom by observation, by reading, and by thought. An oriental proverb says, "Spread wide your skirts--when heaven is raining gold." Heaven is indeed raining gold in the school days of children who have the opportunities which most children in Christian countries have. It is said further, that the grace of God--that is, the divine favor and blessing--was upon Jesus.
The account of the first Passover of Jesus is very beautiful. He was twelve years of age. Mary and Joseph had gone to the feast every year--but until now Jesus had remained at home. His going this year was a great event in His life.
The incident of the losing of Jesus by His mother is very interesting. We can readily understand how she did not miss Him until the evening came, thinking that He was somewhere in the caravan. People often lose Christ. Sometimes, like Mary, they do not know that they have lost Him, until they have gone quite a distance on their way. There are homes where Christ was once the guest--but in which He no longer abides. He did not leave the home--He was grieved and driven out of it either by indifference, by unbelief, or by sin. There are people who once walked in close intimacy and friendship with Christ--but who now have him no more with them. They have lost him along the way--perhaps through business cares or household anxieties, or through worldly pleasures. In whatever way Christ may have been lost out of our lives, we should not rest until we have found Him again.
At last the mother found Jesus in the temple, in the midst of the teachers. He was deeply absorbed in what these men were saying to Him, listening to their words and eagerly asking them questions. The lesson for young people is that they, too, should be deeply interest in the Bible, eager to learn all they can in every way of its truths.
The mother of Jesus chided Him with His having wandered away from her. "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." His answer was very simple, and yet it showed that He was passing into a new phase of His life. Why were you searching for me? Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" They need not have wondered where He was. Did they not know that He would certainly be in his Father's house? It is a good thing when a young person's heart draws him to places of instruction or of worship, to where he finds uplifting, helpful companionship. We grow like the things we love. If we love pure things--we will grow pure. If we love heavenly things--we will grow heavenly-minded. If we love the Bible--its words will sink into our hearts and permeate all our life, transforming it. If we love the Father's house in this world--we will be prepared for the Father's house in the other world.
Joseph and Mary did not understand the child that God had given them to train. With all His beauty and simplicity of character, something appeared in Him now, which amazed them. Neither could they understand His words. It was so, all through His life--His friends did not understand Him. They were bewildered as they saw His life and listened to His words. They thought His dying was defeat and failure, and all their hopes of the Messiahship perished that day on the cross! Not until He arose, did they begin to understand the meaning and mystery of His death. Even now, Christ's friends often fail to understand Him. They cannot see how the trials, the disappointments, the sorrows of their lives--can have divine love in them. Someday they will understand.
We have here a beautiful glimpse of the home-life of Jesus from His twelfth year until His thirtieth. He turned quietly away from the temple and went back to Nazareth with Joseph and His mother, and there took and kept the place of a child, obeying His parents and proving in all ways dutiful, reverent, and helpful. He found childhood in a lowly home a place large enough for the exercise of His blessed life.
Robert Browning, in one of his poems, represents Gabriel taking the place of a poor boy and working for him at his lowly trade as contentedly as if he had been engaged in the highest service of heaven. But here is something more sublime than even the poet's fancy: the Son of God Himself working for eighteen years as a carpenter, patiently, sweetly, simply, and without discontent!
Should any true-hearted child, however great his gifts, consider the child-place in the home unworthy, or a place too lowly, or too small for use of his gifts?