Lesson 9: Jesus Visited the Temple at Age Twelve
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Welcome to lesson # 9! At the end of Lesson # 8, I mentioned the 12 verses at the end of Luke ch. 2 that we haven't covered; an incident when Jesus was 12 years old. So, if you'll turn there we'll begin this lesson with v.41. But, before we read those verses, let's get a little more perspective to augment the occasion. In lesson # 8, we talked a little about the Roman Empire, the population, the caste system, their calendar, etc. Let's take a moment, to focus in on Jesus' hometown. Nazareth was built on a hillside that sloped toward the south. We don't know which section of this village that Joseph and Mary lived in or whether their dwelling was above or below average. We do know that Jesus was the eldest son AND we know from Matt. 13:55-56 that there were four more younger sons and at least two daughters, bringing the total to a minimum of nine people in that household. There's a little discussion in my bible before Genesis begins entitled: "Life in Bible Times." No author is given and I do not vouch for its accuracy, but here are a few quotes: "inhabitants of one of the simpler dwellings in a country village shared the house with their animals - perhaps a donkey, a cow, some sheep and goats...The one-roomed dwellings were split-level with floors of clay that became hard with use. The animals were kept in the lower level near the entrance. The upper level a foot or so higher, was where the family lived...winter was a damp and rainy season. The fireplace was often no more than a hole dug in the clay floor..." (Unquote!). Now, whether Jesus' hillside home in Nazareth was anything like that or not, of course, we can only guess. But even a simple dwelling under the guidance of a cheerful and industrious homemaker can be peaceful, comfortable and a livable place of abode...home sweet home. We don't know what the ages of the other children were, in relation to Jesus’ age (at least six children); we only know they were younger. When Jesus was 12 years old, some of the other brothers and sisters [half-brothers and sisters really] were undoubtedly babies and some might not have been born as yet. All I'm trying to do here is stimulate and curb your imagination; hopefully to cause you to get a little perspective into this trip to Jerusalem. Now, you know that their dress was quite different than ours and of course dress always varies with the season. With reference to their climate, Jimmy J. Roberts gives these comments: (I quote): "The...year is composed basically of only two seasons; the rainy season, which lasts from about the middle of October to the middle of April, and the dry season, or summer, which lasts from the middle of June to the middle of September. Between these two were only brief transitional periods." (unquote!). The winters get fairly cold and frost is common there. But snow seldom covers the ground as much as one week during the year. Travel was limited mainly to non-winter months and was almost always on foot.
Now, the feast mentioned here in Luke 2:41, the feast of the Passover, was observed on the 14th day of Nisan on the Jewish calendar; that would be equivalent to about March or April on our calendar. That was the beginning of the transition season between winter and summer as Roberts described it. And as I pointed out before, the 14th day of every month on the Jewish calendar was a full moon. So sharpen up your imagination and drink deeply into every word in Luke's account. Are you ready? Beginning in Luke 2:41, let's read! "Now the parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold,thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And, he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man."
Alright, as I mentioned before, this is the first thing written about Jesus, other than as an infant-young child. Luke has a sharp pen and I think you would agree this is a very vivid account. Might I urge you to critically re-read those 12 verses one more time on your own? Perhaps there is very little I can say to improve your understanding of these verses. The "feast of the Passover" (v.41) was an annual event that had for about 1500 years commemorated the exodus of their ancestors from Egypt, recorded in Exodus ch. 12. This annual feast is sometimes also called the feast of unleavened bread. Actually, the Passover was a one day affair and the feast of unleavened bread immediately followed the Passover for several days. This was one of the three annual feasts that every Jewish adult male member was required to attend (Deut. 16:16). Women were not required to attend but they were permitted to attend. That's the idea here in v.42 "they went UP to Jerusalem after the CUSTOM of the feast." And, UP it was! Up-hill all the way. Now, this is the first mention of this feast in our study; but, it won't be the last. Remember, not all Jews lived in Palestine. I mentioned the dispersion before. Jerusalem must have been about six deep with travelers on these feast days. It might be significant also, to mention at this point that the age of 12 years was when boys were permitted and encouraged to begin observing these feasts. Therefore, it is very possible this was Jesus' first trip to Jerusalem since his infancy. Definitely it was his first feast as a participant. This of course, was approximately a decade after the killing of the babies in Bethlehem by Herod-the-great in an attempt to kill Jesus. So, it's possible that Mary and Joseph did not permit Jesus to go to Jerusalem until he was twelve years old, trying to prevent any run-in with the authorities. V.42 sort-of gives that connotation. Does v.43 imply they stayed for the entire week? This raises many colorful questions about their travel. There were no fast-food places and I would assume the whole occasion was a semi-campout-picnic arrangement. To feed the little children, the family simply took a goat along and milked it on the spot as the need arose. Everyone enjoyed the spring weather and in addition to the worship aspect of this endeavor it must have been somewhat of a festive occasion. It was probably the first opportunity of the year (after the cold rainy season) for kinsfolk and acquaintance (as it says in v.44) to enjoy a little common denominator observation on the latest deaths, marriages, the new babies born recently and who they favor, to observe how the young people were growing and an opportunity for the ladies to show off their weaving and the clothing they had made during the winter months. I envision it somewhat as a protracted family outing. It was a vast opportunity for children to meet and see all their cousins run and play a few games, unwind and enjoy such occasions as only children can. So, the incident Luke describes here is a sort of natural travesty when you get the context in focus. V.44 says Mary and Joseph "went a day's journey" before they discovered Jesus was not in the crowd. It would take another day for them to travel back to Jerusalem. It must been the following day that they found Jesus in the temple...three days according to v.46. Naturally, this was very up-setting to Mary, as v.48 indicates. However, the question in v.49 is the FIRST' RECORDED WORDS of Jesus in the scriptures. And, I would infer that his question implies that he was aware of his future purpose...i.e. being about his "Father's business." V.51 means that Mary associated Jesus' words with the supernatural of his conception and early life. And, of course, there was much association to be made. The Passover was commemorated by eating a lamb properly prepared with bitter herbs, etc. O.T. prophecy used this figure to refer to the Messiah (see Isa. 53:7) i.e. Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world. So, you see, when one realizes this, it's a very profound thought. Perhaps none at the feast, including the doctors of the law (v.46) realized this was THE LAMB OF GOD. But, Mary "kept all these sayings in her heart." (v.51). Then v.52 is another of Luke's long strokes: "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." Jesus became wiser, taller, more pleasing to God and more popular with the people. V.52 is somewhat of a repeat of v.40, up above, undoubtedly you recognize. And, it calls to memory the last verse of Luke ch. 1, where Luke laid aside temporarily the discussion of John the Baptist with similar wording. Thus, Jesus grew up in Nazareth; and, as I have said before, this is all we know about his early life before the time of age 30 when he began his earthly ministry. Priests and scribes and teachers of the law started their careers at age 30 in those days. This was God's instruction to Moses concerning the Levites in Num. 4:3. John the Baptist was a Levite we learned in Luke 1:5; but, Jesus was not of the Levitical or priestly tribe. Jesus was of the tribe of Judah. But, it was undoubtedly God's will that the messiah begin his work at age 30 also.
Alright, with the exception of Matthew's genealogy of Jesus which covers the first 17 verses of his book; we are now ready to begin our study of the earthly ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus. But, we're going to save the genealogy material for lesson # 10 because we're too far along in this lesson to introduce the subject now. So, let's use the time we have to integrate a little geography into our study. We need to do this before we get all bogged down with the names of towns and places where Jesus and John the Baptist traveled. You should have received a MAP-WORKSHEET with this lesson. If you didn't get a map you can obtain it from the same place where you got the tapes. Or write to me, the address is on the cassette. Now, you probably have other maps of these Bible Lands in the back of your bible or someplace else; and that is fine, they can help you in this study. But, I want you to have this MAP-WORKSHEET. I concede it probably inferior to other maps you might have. It's of the home-made, black and white variety. But, I'm the teacher and I want you to have THIS worksheet and integrate it into your study. I want you to use this map for the same reason I asked you to use the KJV in this study. It will make our communication easier, if you have the same Bible and the same map. Now, this map is really a WORKSHEET. It's more than just a map.
O.K. get the MAP-WORKSHEET in your hand and get your eyes on it. First, locate the Great Sea on the west side of your map. Now, this is what the Romans call the Mediterranean Sea. As I said, when we were talking about the Roman world, the Roman world was scattered all around that Sea. That ocean was right in the middle of the Roman world. The first part of that word means middle, and terrain the second part means world or earth. Thus, it was literally the middle of the world to the Romans. Palestine is, the
land shown on your map. Thus, Palestine was on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. So, why don't you write (in a parenthesis if you like) right under Great Sea, write in Mediterranean Sea. Remember now, this is a WORKSHEET, so write it right on the map! M-E-D-I-T-E-R-R-A-N-E-A-N S-E-A. Have you got it? Alright, at the time of Jesus the land mass we've referred to as Palestine was divided into Judea, Samaria, Galilee, etc. I have written the territories (sometimes called provinces) for you. But, I want YOU to write in the cities. So right now located JERUSALEM between the north end of the Dead Sea and the Great Sea. Do you see it? This is city # 1 (in our study) and I wrote that one in for you. Now, this is where the temple was located, where Zechariah offered incense and saw the angel, Gabriel. Mary and Joseph took Jesus there (Luke 2:22). That's where they met Simeon and the 84 year old prophetess named Anna. That's where the wise men came from the East and enquired about the birth of the King of the Jews (Matt, ch. 2). Now look for city # 2. You'll find it about a half-inch south west of Jerusalem. That is Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, and where Herod killed the little babies. Now, YOU must write in the name of THAT town. City # 2 is Bethlehem, spelled B-E-T-H-L-E-H-E-M. Get it on your WORKSHEET now. Then look about 3 or 4 inches north of Jerusalem and locate city # 3. That's the little hillside town of Nazareth where Jesus grew up. So, put in Nazareth, N-A-Z-A-R-E-T-H. You'll notice that Nazareth was located in the province of Galilee. Jerusalem and Bethlehem are in Judea. O.K. that's the only three cities that have been mentioned in our study this far. So, your map is now posted and current. But, you'll need to keep this map with the other WORKSHEET called the "KINGDOM" WORKSHEET. Keep these close by where you can grab them on a moment's notice. Needless to say, you should have all the MAP-WORKSHEET and the "KINGDOM" WORKSHEET both completely filled out when we finish the course. Do NOT send in the worksheets for grading. This is for your benefit. But, you'll need to keep it up to date, as we go. These worksheets are a little trouble but they will make your study much more meaningful as we progress through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Now, while you've got the MAP-WORKSHEET in your hand, let me remind you that you've met the king already. Herod-the-great, was the king of all this territory on your map. But, Herod died you'll remember while Joseph, Mary and Jesus were down in Egypt. Then after Herod-the-great died, his son, Archelaus Herod reigned in Judea in the room of his father, we covered that in Matthew 2:22. Now, I would encourage you to write that on your map some place. Archelaus Herod was king of Judea. Now, we haven’t covered this yet but I mentioned once before that Antipater Herod was made the tetrarch of Galilee where Mary and Joseph lived. Philip, another of the Herod boys, was made tetrarch of Trachonitis. Do you see that territory in the upper right-hand part of your map? Philip was also given Ituraea, toward the center of the map, and right up against the black border on your map. Maybe you'll want to make a note of that. And, of course, we said BEFORE that Palestine was only one little section of the Roman Empire which we've already discussed. Augustus Caesar mentioned in Luke 2:1 was the Roman Emperor at the time Jesus was born and he remained the Emperor for another 14 years. So, he was the Emperor when Jesus was 12 years old and made the trip to Jerusalem to the temple; we talked about it in this lesson. The Herods were local kings.
O.K. in Lesson # 10 we're going to cover the genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17 and in Luke 3:23-38. You might want to look that over ahead of time. I'll see you in Lesson # 10. Until then, have a good day!