Children in the Bible
The Boy Of Nazareth
azareth was a little town high among the hills of Galilee. It still stands there, but it is not so large a town as it was when Mary and Joseph and the Child Jesus lived there. Then Galilee was full of cities and villages, and men and women were busy among its fields, and vineyards, and gardens, and the shores of the beautiful Lake of Galilee were lined with the boats of fishermen.
Nazareth was more quiet than the crowded cities by the Lake. A great green plain lay below it, and a narrow road winding among the limestone rocks led up to it. Its streets were narrow and steep, and steps of stone led from house to house. A fountain of pure water breaking out of a rock was the meeting place of the women of Nazareth, who came with their tall pitchers for water and bore them away upon their heads. Here Mary often came tenderly leading the Holy Child. Perhaps He gathered the bright wild flowers that grew thick around the fountain and along the stream flowing from it. When he grew a little older He could climb the rocks around His home, or go with His mother and Joseph to the top of the hill from which they could see the snowy peak of Hermon, or the long line of shining blue sea beyond the hills on the west, or they would point out a slowly moving caravan of heavy-laden camels from Tyre and Sidon by the sea on their way to Damascus.
Sometimes He would go with Joseph to the woods when a certain piece of wood was needed, for Joseph was a carpenter, and in a lower room of his humble house of rough white stone there was a long bench and the tools of a wood-worker. Here, perhaps, the Holy Child played with the curled shavings that fell from the bench, and watched the making of the plows, the yokes, the doors, and the lattices until He was old enough to help in the making of them.
He learned to read and write while a young child at home, as Jewish children did, and His reading book was the Old Testament, which was the Jews' Bible. Then He went to school at the Synagogue, which was the Jews' Church, and there, we may be sure, He was a gentle, obedient pupil, and a loving, unselfish playmate. While he read He may have had many strange thoughts about the prophecies in the Book that were promises of the Messiah, the King that was to reign in righteousness.
When He was twelve years old His parents took Him with them to the Feast of the Passover at Jerusalem. Great companies of people went from all parts of the Jews' country, and from every country in which they had settled, to keep the feast that the Lord had commanded when they were led out of Egypt. The very journey to Jerusalem was a festival, for their friends joined the company from almost every house in Nazareth, and on horses, and camels, and asses, the men walking beside them, a happy group set forth from home to keep the Passover week in the city of the great King. It was the first visit of the boy Jesus to Jerusalem, and as He walked strong and beautiful beside Joseph, what tender and holy thoughts, what questions about the future must have filled the mind of Mary. He was going to see His Father's House, the beautiful Temple where the thousands of Israel gathered every year for worship and of which He had read in the Book of the Law, for He was now old enough to be called a "Son of the Law," and verses from the Bible folded in little boxes, had been tied upon his arm and his forehead by the village Rabbi, as a sign that He was old enough to think for Himself and go to the religious Feasts at Jerusalem.
When they reached the great public roads they found other companies of pilgrims going up to the Holy City, and by their banners they knew the tribe and city from which they came. There was music, also, of timbrel and pipe and drum as the songs of Zion were sung along the way, or at evening when they camped in the fields.
When they had climbed the steep Jericho road and the Mount of Olives, a glorious sight opened before them. There lay the City of David shining in the sun, its thick walls set with towers; its marble palaces, and castles, and gardens, and, most wonderful of all, the Temple with its hundreds of white marble pillars, its beautiful porches and arches, and, rising within its richly-paved courts, the Holy Place with the sun like fire upon its roof of gold. The people shouted and sang a song of joy.
Like thousands of others they pitched their tents outside of the walls, perhaps on the slopes of Olivet, and after eating the Passover supper together went daily into the Temple. To the Boy of Nazareth this must have been the one charmed spot in all Jerusalem. Other boys loved to watch the strange people from far countries, and wander among the bazars, but Jesus stayed in the Temple. He saw the white-robed priests, the altars, and the sacrifices; He saw the great curtains of purple and gold that hid the Holy place, and He heard the Temple choirs answer each other in song; He also saw the old Rabbis who taught and answered questions daily in the outer courts, and stood long among the listeners.
When the company from Nazareth began the Journey home, and had gone as far as the plains of Jericho, Mary looked for her boy. She had not been troubled about him, for she thought He was walking with the other children, or with relatives, but when Joseph found that he was not with them they went back over the long, steep road full of fear and anxiety. They searched Jerusalem through, asking everybody they knew if they had seen the Boy Jesus.
When they had been searching for three days, and Mary's heart was almost broken, they went again to the Temple, and looking through a crowd gathered around the Rabbis, Mary saw her Boy. She pressed through to speak to Him, but He was speaking. She listened, and her heart must have stood still to hear His simple, yet wonderful words. Sometimes he asked questions which the old teachers could not answer, and when he replied to the questions of the learned teachers His wisdom astonished all who heard Him, for it was not like the wisdom of the Rabbis, who used many words to explain the Word of God.
When Jesus saw His mother and came to her, she said,
"Son, why hast Thou so dealt with us? Behold thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing."
"How is it that ye sought me?" He said, "wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"
They did not quite understand how He could so easily forget them, and yet Mary, perhaps, remembered that the angel had told her that He should "be called the Son of God," and that He was at home in His Father's house.
But He was content to go home and be subject to His parents, so that through all the world children may learn how He lived, and try to live like Him.
He found that His Father's house was greater than the Temple, and under its starry roof, and wandering over its wide courts paved with grass and flowers, He learned more than the Rabbis could teach Him. And every day He grew in wisdom as He grew in stature, and "in favor with God and man."