September 5, 2009

Dealing with Nazareth - 8

With twenty-one posts so far in our faith-based historical investigation into Jesus' so-called "silent years", according to the Gospels... here's a rough sketch of what we can now put together:

Jesus’ life in Nazareth was pleasing to God. From a very early age, Jesus was aware that he had a special relationship to God as His Father, and Jesus cared a great deal about things that had to do with his Father. God's favor was on Jesus, and Jesus’ favor with God continued to grow.

Jesus attended Sabbath meetings faithfully and grew in favor with the Synagogue community but received no more than a typical public education for his day and age. He was not known in particular for being outstanding in studies but for being the son of a carpenter. As such, the members of his Synagogue never foresaw him becoming a teacher of Mosaic Law. Despite this, Jesus managed to memorize a great deal of scripture by hearing it read aloud and spending long hours remembering passages and reflecting on their deeper meanings.

By age 12, his ability to consider God-centered interpretation of the Law was world class and this wisdom continued increasing for years afterwards. Uniquely, Jesus was learning things at the Nazareth Synagogue that the Father was providing only to him. Perhaps most amazing of all, Jesus never left any memorable impressions on the Jews of Nazareth by speaking words of wisdom or favor about their common faith. Apparently, just as Mary treasured these things in her heart, her son also kept his insightful reflections about God as a secret devotion, just between himself and his Father.

Despite this unique and private devotional life, Jesus was far from a recluse. As an active part of the community, the young Lord was well known in his town. His obedience to his parents was only one reason his favor grew among the Nazarenes. He was gracious and social with his Nazarene neighbors, to the point that Mary and Joseph became accustomed to finding him in the company of friends and relatives. In general, the townspeople of Nazareth held good opinions of Jesus, even though they never thought he was anyone great in worldly terms or according to nomal Jewish conventions.

In his teens and twenties, Jesus continued to participate in the regular activities of his Synagogue community, but his predominant role in the town remained only that of a carpenter's son - and later, a carpenter in his own right. Jesus never married or became a parent, but he spent at least part of his teen years assisting Mary & Joseph with the household’s much younger children. Later, much of his twenties were spent taking over Joseph’s trade and becoming the man of the house.

Evidently, caring a lot about God, studying the scriptures and wanting to be involved in his Father's doings led Jesus into helping his parents, supporting his family and simply being part of his local community for about thirty years - from 4 BC until 28 AD.

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Seriously, now, why are these years called the “hidden years’? This is hardly a lack of information about Jesus' life in Nazareth. We have chronology, community life, family life and a strong measure of personal devotion to God (albeit not a well defined one, at this point in our study). All we are missing is specific personal characteristics and habitual behaviors. But if we can develop a careful, precise methodology for mirror reading the Gospels, then we might round out an actual biography here, albeit a brief one. Not too shabby, all things considered.

Granted, we have no major events (other than Archelaus’ exile in 6 AD allowing Joseph the peace of mind to bring Jesus to Passover in 7) but sometimes life is just like that. We cannot speculate or invent things that might have happened. Therefore, from this basic framework of his not so hidden early life, we now ask the central question that opened this series (on Aug.1st) once again. What personal deeds did Jesus actually do, before his baptism, that were pleasing to God?

I’ll begin working to answer that question, from the Gospels, with my very next post.

To be continued…

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