August 1, 2009

Dealing with Nazareth - 1

Dealing with Jesus' so called "silent years" in Nazareth forces us to deal with a question that parts of us may not entirely wish to have answered. How did a man live a seemingly normal life in a small town, and somehow that man's life was perfectly pleasing to God? If we're honest, the answer to that question is a scary one because, depending on your view of God and Christianity, it might just imply that we're expected to live like he did. Being vague could relieve that pressure. But I feel no pressure. So I say, let's leave legalism, doctrine and dogma aside for the moment and make this a historical question.

Historically, we may accept the Gospel accounts of Jesus' baptism as an actual event. We can accept their testimony that God's voice spoke audibly over the Jordan River, and that such a simple, dramatic and memorable proclamation would easily survive as a direct quotation. "You are my beloved son. In you I am well pleased." To go further, we may also trust that was really God's voice and thereby assume God was genuinely pleased. But how do we explain that pleasure, apart from theology? I mean historically, what kind of a life was Jesus living in Nazareth, to have grown up so perfectly pleasing to GOD?

That may be a difficult question to try to answer but it also gives us a strategy for reconstructing what his life was like in those years. If we can make any conclusions whatsoever about how he pleased the Father, then that is what Jesus was doing in Nazareth. We may have to generalize, but that is still better than the absolute vagueness of simply ignoring "the silent years". If we can draw any solid conclusions at all, those years will be silent no longer. Perhaps they have never been completely "silent" in the first place; perhaps we were not "listening".

By the way, please note - we are not trying to explain God's pleasure with Christ, theologically. We are talking about specific actions here, not our own personal beliefs or theological principles. So we won't be inventing details from romantic devotion OR assuming parallels with our own spiritual experiences. At least, not this go round.

Once again, the question is historical. How did Jesus please God, in Nazareth? Or, to be more specific, what did he actually do?

To be continued, hopefully after your comments...

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