Lesson 3: “Unto You Is Born … a Saviour”

In addition to the expected retelling of the birth of the Savior, these several chapters from Obert C. Tanner’s 1935 seminary text, The New Testament Speaks, gives some good background on the history, culture and geography of Judea and Nazareth, and pulls together all known scriptural details of Jesus’ early life. Teachers may find some good supplementary material here to aid them in achieving the purpose of this year’s lesson, “To encourage class members to rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ and follow the example he set in his youth, ‘[increasing] in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.’”


The Birth of John the Baptist. (Read from the Bible: Luke 1:57-80.)

The circumstances surrounding the birth of John the Baptist must have made a great impression upon the people in that neighborhood. friends gathered to congratulate Elizabeth. They heard many promises concerning the divine protection and guidance the child was to receive. No wonder they went away saying: “What manner of child shall this be!”

The song-prophecy of Zacharias, given in Luke 1:68-80, has been recited in the ritual of the Christian Church from the earliest times. It is known as “the Benedictus,” which is Latin for the first word “Blessed.” Like the beautiful Magnificat of Mary, the language and thought of this song reads very much like Old Testament scripture. In these poetic expressions we read the hopes of the Jewish nation for a Messiah.


Situated on one of the hills of Judea, five miles south of Jerusalem, is the city of Bethlehem. The present population, eight thousand, is about the same as it was two millenniums ago. A traveler there today will enter much the same city that Joseph and Mary visited. Here are the same narrow streets, the same kind of buildings, and women are wearing the same peculiar head-dress. To this ancient city came Ruth, an ancestress of Jesus, over a thousand years before the time of Joseph and Mary. King David lived here as a youth, and from him Bethlehem was called in the scripture the “City of David.”

Very early tradition marks one of the many caves of ancient Bethlehem as the location of the stable where Jesus was born. Over this large cave is built one of the earliest Christian churches, dating back to the third century A.D.

A present-day visitor who enters the church is conducted down some steps, until he stands before a large open cave about the size of an ordinary room. candles are burning and from their many lights and the quietness one becomes suddenly aware that he now stands before the most sacred spot on the surface of the earth. This is the place where Jesus was born. Here is the setting of the first Christmas. The spirit of the Christ-child comes back again, and for a few seconds the twenty centuries are blotted away. Within the space of what we see, a baby was born to bless the world. On the rocks of the rim of the cave are ribbons of gold letters. In Latin they repeat for us the immortal song from the angels’ chorus: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Here in a cave where the animals were put for the night occurred the most important event in history. Each Christmas time the city of Bethlehem is host to thousands of pilgrims who come from all parts of the world to celebrate the greatest of all holidays.

”O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.”
– Phillips Brooks.

The Birth of Christ.

It was the plan of the Roman government to tax the people of their dominions. Soldiers and rulers had to be supported. there must be revenue to send back to Rome. The Emperor Augustus, who ruled in Rome from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D., required at this time that a census be taken for taxing purposes. Joseph could no doubt have registered in Nazareth as well as here in Bethlehem, but it was the custom of the Jews to enroll themselves in the city of their birth. So Joseph, who had moved to Nazareth in his earlier life, now returned with Mary to his native city. It was this circumstance of Roman taxation which made Bethlehem the most honored city of history. (See Micah 5:2)

The Story:

And so it was, then, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him ins waddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising god for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (Luke 2:6-20.)

The Date of Jesus’ Birth.

Our present calendar is arranged so that all events are dated from the year of the birth of Christ. The year 1 A.D. was fixed by a Roman monk in the sixth century. as to the month or season of the year, we have no historical information. The present date of December 25th was the day of a great holiday in ancient Rome. In the fourth century A.D. this holiday was adopted by the Roman Church as the birthday of Jesus, and has remained so to the present time.

The only record we have of the immediate circumstances under which Jesus was born is given in the single verse in Luke 2:7, which reads: “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him ins waddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Each Christmas time the story is told over again in all the countries of the world. Much that is told of the birth of Christ is nog true to fact. However, each may tell the story in his own way, and below we quote one of the many versions of that great event:

Papini, in his “Life of Christ,” draws his own picture of that eventful night when the shepherds visited the new-born babe: “In the dim light of the stable they saw a beautiful young woman gazing silently at her son. and as they saw the baby with his eyes just open, his delicate rosy flesh, his mouth which had not yet eaten, their hearts softened. … For the shepherds forewarned, this newborn child was not just a baby, but he for whom their suffering race had been waiting for a thousand years. … The shepherds offered what little they had, that little which is so great when offered with love. They carried the white offerings of their craft, milk, cheese, wool, the lamb. … Themselves poor, the old-time shepherds did not look down on the poor. … a poor man was born among them and they looked on him with affection and lovingly brought him their poor riches.”

A Minute for Meditation:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of “Peace on earth, good will to men”!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of “Peace on earth, Good will to men”!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of “Peace on earth, Good will to men”!

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“Bor hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of ‘Peace on earth, Good will to men’”!

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With ‘Peace on earth, Good will to men’”!

Questions for the Chapter Review:

1. Relate the story of how John came to be so named.
2. Give some interesting facts about the city of Bethlehem.
3. Give some interesting facts concerning the traditional site of Jesus’ birth-place in Bethlehem today.
4. Where was Joseph born? Why did Mary and Joseph return to Bethlehem?
5. How did Christmas come to be celebrated on the 25th of December?
6. Which verse in the Bible gives us the complete story of the circumstances under which Jesus was born? Give it from memory.

Suggestive Problems for Discussion in Class:

1. Why was there rejoicing by the shepherds over the birth of Jesus? (In connection with your answer, see Sec. 13)
2. Would you say the Jewish nation at that time wanted a Messiah to make it righteous or prosperous? Give reasons for your answer.
3. What are the big ambitions of America today? What are our national hopes today to which the humblest classes would eagerly respond as did the shepherds? What national ideals would you propose for America?
4. Edmund Vance Cooke’s poem, “Born Without a Chance,” describes the poverty of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Part of it reads:

“A squalid village set in wintry mud.
A hub-deep ox-cart slowly groans and creaks.
A horseman hails and halts. He shifts his cud
And speaks:
‘Well, did you hear? Tom Lincoln’s wife; today.
The devil’s luck for folk as poor as they!
Poor Tom! poor Nance!
Poor young-un! born without a chance!

* * *

Born for the world to wipe its feet upon
A few years hence, but now

* * *

– Oh, well! send the women folks to Nance.
Poor little devil! born without a chance!’”

Can one safely discount the future possibilities of any baby because it is born under conditions of severe poverty? Why?
5. Imagine yourself conversing with the shepherds after their visit to the Babe of Bethlehem. Do you think they conceived what this small child would some day mean to all the world? What story could you tell them after these two thousand years?


The Presentation in the Temple. (Read from the Bible: Luke 2:21-39.)

Jesus was born into a Jewish family. All the rituals and ceremonies accompanied his birth that were customary with other children of his day. When he was eight days old he was circumcised, as was the custom among the Hebrews from the early time of Abraham. (Gen. 17?9-14)

As the angel had foretold to Mary, her child was named “Jesus.” This was not an uncommon name in that day. It is a shortened Greek form of the name “Joshua,” which means “God saves.” In this instance, the name was to have uncommon significance, for here was one who had come to save his people from their sins.

Many other names have been given to Jesus. Some of them are: ”The Son of God.” “The Son of Man.” “the Messiah,” “The Anointed One,” “The Lamb of God,” “Wonderful,” “Counsellor,” “King of Israel,” “Son of David,” “Prince of Life,” “Prince of peace,” “Emanuel,” and ”The Christ.” all of these beautiful names for Jesus are found in the Bible. Often today we refer to him as “the Master” and “Our Lord,” but the name which perhaps meant more to the disciples of Jesus than any other was “Savior.” For Jesus filled the deepest need in the lives of his own disciples, as he does in our own lives today – saviorhood from our own sins. and so his name was called JESUS, “for he shall save his people from their sins.”

The next ceremony of the Jews took place in the temple forty days after the birth of a male child. This period of forty days was known as the ceremonial purification of the mother. The Jews believed that the first-born male child belonged to God and could be redeemed by offering a sacrifice. This sacrifice required the mother to bring a yearling lamb or young ;pigeons or doves to the temple. In Leviticus 12:8 we read that poor mothers who could not afford to bring a lamb might substitute a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons,. The fact that Mary brought only “a pair of turtle doves” gives evidence that Joseph and Mary were of the humble classes and had no extra luxuries of the well-to-do.

This event of the presentation in the temple reveals to us the character of some of the faithful workers there. Simeon, like Zacharias, and the prophetess Anna, were among the devout Jews of that day who were “living in expectation of the comforting of Israel.” To understand the ardor and hope with which these humble people awaited the Messiah, read again Luke 2:29-32.

The Wise Men (Magi) from the East. (Read from the Bible: Matt. 2:1-12.)

This brief mention of the wise men from the East contains enough of the mysterious to attract the imagination of fanciful writers. Such fiction as Van Dyke’s “Story of the Other Wise Man,” and numerous poems and songs are based upon this brief scriptural account of these wise men from the East. Actually, we do not know how many of the wise men there were, where they came from, or what their names were. Coming from the East, it is possible that they were from one of the countries in the Euphrates river valley. Their title of “wise men” would indicate they were from the learned class, perhaps teachers or priests. There are different interpretations of their experience concerning a star which guided them to the Christ Child. Dr. Rihbany, who is a native of the country where Jesus was born, writes this suggestive explanation: “I was brought up to believe that every human being had a star in heaven which held the secret of his destiny and which watched over him wherever he went.” [Rihbany, The Syrian Christ, p. 33.]

The worship of these learned men with their costly gifts is in marked contrast to that of the shepherds form the nearby hills. These presents of gold, incense, and myrrh from the wise men, illustrate the custom of the East to make gifts whenever asking for an audience with a prince or monarch.

The Flight into Egypt and Return to Nazareth. (Read from the Bible: Matt. 2:13-24.)

More than a million Jews were living in Egypt at this time. Here Joseph and Mary would be among their own people. Joseph could find work and remain securely beyond the dominions of King Herod. So from Bethlehem, Egypt was the one safe place of refuge. The trip would be a difficult one for Mary and her small child, for most of it required days of slow travel across the burning sands of the desert.

The student will notice the constant formula or phrase which Matthew applies through9out his gospel: “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the pr9ophet,” and recall that Matthew’s gospel was written especially for the Jews of the early Christian Church. However, Matthew used the words, “fulfil prophecy,” with a different meaning than we would apply to them today. The incident referred to in Matt. 2:15 is an historical parallel – not the fulfilment of prophecy. The quotation, “out of Egypt have I called my son,” is found in Hosea 11:1, and refers to the loving act of God in delivering the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage. The verse has no reference to any future event. Matthew’s gospel is filled with these historical parallels to Old Testament history.

The cruel order of Herod was similar to many other crimes committed during his reign. That infants up to the age of two years were slain, indicates that perhaps two years may have passed since the visitation of the wise men. Considering the size of Bethlehem, and the limitations of age and sex, the number of infants killed in that city by this wicked act would probably not exceed twenty.

We have no record of how long the Holy Family remained in Egypt. Their return after the death of Herod, when Jesus was a “young child,” indicates that they did not remain there longer than a few months or a year or two. Only in Matthew do we have the incident of this flight into Egypt. uke’s account follows the presentation in the temple with these words: “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.” Matthew implies that Joseph intended returning to Bethlehem – but when he learned that Archelaus reigned in Herod’s place, “he turned aside into the parts of Galilee.” Archelaus was one of three surviving sons of Herod who ruled after their father’s death. In his will, Herod divided his kingdom among these sons, and Archelaus ruled in Judea. He proved quite as cruel as his father. On the first Passover season of his reign he ordered three thousand Jews killed. After ten years he was banished by the Romans for misgovernment. His brother Antipas, who ruled in Galilee, was more humane, and under his rule the Holy Family could live with less danger. “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth.”

A Minute for Meditation:

”thou wayfaring Jesus, a pilgrim and stranger,
Exiled from heaven by love at thy birth.
Exiled again from thy rest in the manger,
A fugitive child ‘mid the perils of earth.

“Cheer with thy fellowship all whoa re weary,
Wandering far from the land that they love;
Guide every heart that is homeless and dreary
Safe to thy home in thy presence above.”
– Van Dyke.

Questions for the Chapter Review

1. How old was Jesus when he was taken to the temple to be blessed and given a name?
2. Who performed this ceremony? What did he say when he received the child Jesus in his arms?
3. Who was Anna?
4. Give twelve names applied to Jesus.
5. Give the facts of the visit by the Magi.
6. Why did Joseph and Mary go down into Egypt? About how long did they remain there? Where did they travel after leaving Egypt? Why did they not return to Bethlehem?

Suggestive Problems for Discussion in Class:

1. What does the name “Jesus” mean? Explain two different ways whereby Jesus saves us from our sins today.
2. Contrast the visit of the wise men with the visit from the shepherds. Are rich and poor, wise and ignorant, Americans and foreigners, equally capable to be followers of Christ today? Would Jesus make any distinction among them? Do you think it possible for men and women to develop far enough in the Christ-like spirit, so that they could worship in a church which made no distinction between rich and poor, race or color? Give your reasons.
3. Contrast the motives of the wise men with those of Herod.
4. Tell the story of “The Other Wise Man.”
5. List the differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of the birth and infancy of Jesus. Explain why these two accounts vary as they do.



Aside from the association which it has with the youth and young manhood of Jesus, Nazareth does not claim a position of historical importance. The village is not mentioned in the Old Testament. Frequently writers refer to Nazareth as being “a secluded and an obscure village.” None of the main highways of Palestine in New Testament times passed directly through Nazareth, though some of them were only a few miles away.

For the Christian, Nazareth has always been a sacred city. Here the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. To this village came Joseph from Bethlehem to make his home. And most important of all, this was the home of Jesus for the greater part of his life.

A traveler approaching Nazareth from almost any direction will come upon the village very suddenly. It is situated in a basin of hills. If one stands on the highest of these hills, which is on the north side of Nazareth, much of the same view spreads before a visitor today that Jesus looked upon as a boy. Nestled down on the slopes below are the square white houses of Nazareth. They are built and appear very much the same as they did two thousand years ago. Off to the west about twenty miles one can see the blue waters of the Mediterranean. The ride of Mount Carmel parallels the famous Esdraelon plain as both run westward to the shores of the sea. Over the hills about sixty miles to the north, rises to a height of about 10,000 feet the majestic, snow-covered peak of Mount Hermon. To the east, the hills slope steeply down to the deep valley of the Jordan. Directly east is the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. Beyond the higher Samarian hills about sixty miles to the south is the Holy City, and the temple.

In imagination one may construct again the world which Jesus looked upon as he climbed these hills when a small boy. The ships on the Mediterranean brought soldiers from the distant lands of a western conqueror. Palestine in those times was the commercial bridge of three continents. From these hills Jesus could see the numerous caravans on the nearby trade routes which connected East and West. There were numerous cities in that day which have long since disappeared. Greek culture had spread through Palestine, and beautiful Grecian temples were conspicuous in many of its cities.

Only four miles north of Nazareth was the beautiful city of Sepphoris. when Jesus was eleven years old, Judas the Galilean led a desperate revolt against the Roman power there. To crush this rebellion, the Romans burned the city, sold the inhabitants into slavery, and crucified two thousand men who were suspected of participation. No doubt Jesus would view this terrible scene from the hill crest of Nazareth with others of his townspeople. Perhaps this was his first acquaintance with the cross, for many of the crucified were likely men of Nazareth whom he knew. So we cannot think that his boyhood days in Nazareth were quiet and peaceful. The atmosphere was charged with revolt against the hated yoke of the romans. And, too, the population of Palestine in his day was far greater than at present. Many of those cities have not even left a few ruins to mark their location.

More closely, what was the world which Jesus knew as a small boy? What was his home like? What kind of school did he attend?

The Home Life of Jesus.

Jesus was the eldest of a family of five brothers, and had at least two sisters. Only his brothers’ names are given. They were: James, Joses, Judas, and Simeon. Joseph, the father, belonged to the working class in the community. All the houses of these humble people were built very much alike. Indeed, this same type of house is used in Nazareth today. It is square and built of rough stone. Inside there is one large room. One or two small windows are set in high from the ground, and there is but one door. The room has a dirt floor, and in some houses there is a stone platform on one side of the room about six feet high. This elevated part of the room is supported by stone arches. Smalls tone steps lead up to it and here the family sleep at night. In the winter “the space beneath the family’s raised platform is filled at night with household animals, sheep, dogs, goats, and chickens, and their warm presence is counted on in lieu of fire.” [Fordick, A Pilgrimage to Palestine, p. 177.] Along the outside wall of this small building a stairway is built which leads up to the roof. On warm nights each would take his blanket and small mat and go up there to sleep. Such was the house which protected the family from the heat in the summer, and the cold in the winter.

There were no bedsteads, and the few pieces of furniture used were of the simplest kind. According to Exodus 20:4, pictures and statuary were not allowed in the home. The few books there were in that day were kept in the synagogue, for they were usually some part of the sacred scriptures. Some homes could boast the possession of parts of these scriptures, such as Leviticus, chapters 1 to 9, and Genesis, chapters 1 to 10. These parts were kept for the children to read.

The Jewish home was very strict in observance of religious customs. “A prayer was offered before and after each meal. At the first glimpse of the rising sun the boy was taught to stop and give thanks. probably even at this period in the development of Judaism a metal box containing the opening words of the Shema was placed at the door of the house. (The Shema has been called the Jewish creed. It was composed of passages from the Old Testament: Deut. 6:4-9; 11:13-21; Num. 15:347-41) This the boy was to touch whenever he left or entered his home.

In the Sabbath service at the synagogue he also listened to the reading of the Law and to the interpretation of a passage of the prophets by the leader of the service or by some (wandering) scribe. In addition to Aramaic, which was the language of his home, Jesus probably had a reading acquaintance with both Hebrew and Greek. Hebrew and Aramaic were but variant dialects of the same Semitic language, so that the opportunities of the home and of the synagogue school were sufficient to give him this working knowledge.” [Kent, The Life and Teachings of Jesus, pp. 50-512.]

In his later life Jesus vividly portrays for us the world of his boyhood days. He knew what it was to come home hungry and ask for some bread (Matt. 7:9), or to plead for eggs and fish (Matt. 7;10; Luke 11:11-12) – perhaps for a picnic in the hills. He saw his mother grinding at the mill (Luke 17:35) – putting leaven in the meal (Matt. 13:33) – the oven made ready to bake (Matt. 6:30). Like his younger brothers, he wore his clothes hard, and came to learn what happened when patches were put on clothes that were all worn out (Mark 2:21). In his parables he tells us of lost coins, of candles, bushels, beds, moth, rust, and all the things a boy of today will likely learn as he grows up in country life. There were tempers to be controlled in such a large family of boys, and Jesus knew what happened when they were not under control (Luke 7;32). “Tell us a story!” Here in the quiet evening hour, fancy the attention those younger brothers and sisters must have given, as they listened to the world’s unrivaled teller of stories.

And so we may be sure that though there were no riches nor elegance in this home in Nazareth, it was one of the happiest in the nation.

The Education of Jesus.

At six years of age Jesus was sent to school in the synagogue. Before this time he no doubt had received the usual training of every Jewish boy. Before he could understand the words, Mary would have taught him to say the creed of Israel, found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

In the synagogue the students were taught to read and write. The principal subject studied was the sacred scriptures. Most of their lessons were committed to memory. Sitting cross-legged on the floor in a circle about the teacher, the class would memorize long passages from the Old Testament. That part of the scriptures which received most attention was the Law. Josephus, historian of this time (37 A.D. – 100 A.D.(, wrote; “We know the laws as well as our own name.” The Law, as the Jews taught at that time, was given by God to Moses. In our Bibles today the Law comprises most of the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Old Testament. Jesus was also taught the history of his people. The stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, and especially the heroism of the Maccabees, were familiar to every Jewish boy. Finally, in common with all the Jews of that day, there were the teachings of the Messianic Hope. Someday a Messiah would come. The Jews of that day taught that when he did come, the enemies of Israel would be crushed, and God’s Kingdom would reign supreme.

A Minute for Meditation:

Houses are built of wood, and brick, of plaster and glass; but homes are built of love and self-sacrifice, and mutual understanding: To these more excellent gifts, the builders of every true dwelling.

We Dedicate This House.

To Work, creative toil which joins human energy with nature’s resources and God’s providence to produce meals which satisfy hunger, flowers to feed the soul’s craving for the beautiful, and thoughts embodied in written words wherein others in far-distant places may find satisfaction and joy,

We Dedicate This House.

To Play, the joyous overflowing of the human spirits, whereby body and soul are renewed and personalities knit together more closely because of fellowship in satisfying activity.

We Dedicate This House.

To Hospitality, joyous fellowship around the fire, with friends both new and old, wherein self-interest is forgotten and enlargement of minds and spirits reached; to hours spent in council with fellow workers, to words of cheer and sympathy which send perplexed souls back to their tasks with a readier hand and a brighter smile.

We Dedicate This House.

To Young Lives, eager feet on floors and stairs, happy voices in chambers and halls; that this house may be a place in which children may grow and be partners in ownership and possession,

We Dedicate This House.

To the service of the Most High, to worship, the renewing of the spirit, that God may always be the head of this house, and the presence of Christ pervade its atmosphere and control the aspirations and decisions which are here made.

We Dedicate This House.

As a Shrine for Love, a beacon for overflowing joy, a haven of refuge in time of illness and sorrow, with the prayer that the joys may be many and the sorrows few.

We Dedicate This House.

[International Journal of Religious Education, April, 1935, page 20.]

Questions for Chapter Review:

1. Standing on the northern rim of the basin of hills which surround Nazareth, what would one see in the west? North? East?
2. Was the youth of Jesus spent in a quiet country town? Explain.
3. How many were there in Jesus’ family?
4. Describe the house in which an average family lived at that time.
5. Explain the kind of school training which Jesus probably had. Explain the kind of religious training he received.
6. Do you think Jesus had a happy home life? Why?

Suggestive Problems for Discussion in Class:

1. List some likely differences between the home life of Jesus and the home life of an average American boy or girl. List the similarities.
2. Name some likely differences between the education of Jesus and the education of an average American boy or girl. List the similarities. Give some differences and similarities in regard to religious education.
3. In his active ministry we learn that Jesus possessed an excellent working knowledge of the Old Testament. Where did he acquire this information? Will a knowledge of the Old Testament be of any special assistance to a boy or girl of our present day? Explain.
4. Can one safely judge the quality of our home life by observing our conduct and attitudes at school and elsewhere away from home? Explain. What is our source of knowledge concerning the home life of Jesus?
5. What kind of home are you helping to make? List some friendly acts and thoughtful words which make a happier home. How do you think Jesus helped in making his home a happy one? What was his attitude toward children?
6. What benefits may result to one who is raised in a family of several brothers and sisters?


Jesus Visits the Temple in Jerusalem

The Story:

Now his 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 days’ 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. (Luke 2:41-50.)

These nine verses in Luke relate the only incident we have of Jesus’ youth. Perhaps this was the first visit of the boy Jesus to Jerusalem. By Jewish custom, every male Israelite became “a son of the law” when he reached the age of twelve. As a small boy, Jesus had no doubt read and heard a great deal of the Holy City and the great temple there. Now he had reached the age when, with Joseph and Mary and many of the neighbors, he could make this long-awaited journey. The trip to Jerusalem was for the greatest of all Jewish festivals – the “feast of the Passover.” For the jews the occasion was comparable to our own Fourth of July. It was the anniversary of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage.

It required four days to travel from Nazareth to Jerusalem. The trip was made on donkeys and camels, and many traveled afoot. People came from long distances; many from cities far beyond the borders of Palestine. it was a religious duty for all male jews to attend these religious festivals. The attendance of women was optional, and the presence of Mary on this occasion illustrates her faithfulness to the religious customs of her people. Such a pilgrimage was filled with exciting events for the boy Jesus. Bird describes the trip in these words:

“It was April, and the great seven days’ festival, called the Passover, was near, to which everybody should go, and for the first time Jesus was to go with his father and mother, away beyond the hills, with crowds of people, to the great city – a memorable event for a boy. Everywhere the people had been preparing for it for weeks past, sorting the roads, mending the bridges, and making new clothes and sandals, and cutting fresh sticks; for it was the most joyful festival of the year. With much stir the company from Nazareth, all in their bright holiday dresses, got ready their horses, camels, and asses; for someone went from every house; and in the early morning, Mary riding on the ass, and Jesus, stick in hand, walking joyfully by his father’s side, they started, winding down the broad highland valley, with green fields spreading away, and the bright spring wild flowers nodding in the breeze by the roadside; while from the thick hedges came the song of birds.

“The fourth day was the greatest of all, for then they came within sight of Jerusalem. Having toiled up the wild, hot, rugged road from Jericho, they climbed the Mount of Olives, and then Joseph would tell Jesus to look out for the most glorious sight in the world; and as they followed the bend of the road round the shoulder of the hill, suddenly the great city in all its magnificence appeared, like a dream before them. It seemed quite near, on an opposite lower hill, with a deep ravine between, and Jesus could see it all. There stood the great thick walls, with their square towers of defense; there, the marble palaces of kings, priests and governors; there, the forts and castles for soldiers. But the sun shone most brightly on the Temple, which was on the side of the city nearest to Jesus, like a mighty cathedral on a wall of white, built up from the ravine below – colonnades, cloisters, porches, pillars, arches, and outer buildings, all of white marble; while within the great open square stood the holy place, terrace rising above terrace in white and gold, and high above all was the roof of bright gold reflecting the sun. With a shout, the company from Nazareth burst into a joyous song, waving green branches as they came over the hill, Jesus singing with the rest; for truly this was the most glorious sight the boy had ever seen. And he gazed at it as they descended the hillside, toward the bridge across the Kedron, near to which green slope of Olivet the people from Galilee pitched their tents for the night; for they did not intend to live in the city, which was already crowded with people.” [Bird, Jesus the Carpenter of Nazareth, p. 42.]

These festivals were essentially religious int heir purpose. Sacrifices were made in the temple. People were reminded of God’s goodness and past deliverances. But with all this, other benefits were received. old friends met again. News of other places was heard with interest. And not the least important, the Jewish people were being held together by these frequent reunions.

It was for a seven-day “customary stay” that Jesus had come with his parents. The incident of his being lost, in perhaps the first visit of this country lad to a large city, is not unnatural. Caravans starting on a journey have a custom of camping a short distance from the starting place on the first night. Those who are delayed may thus have a chance to catch up. This was perhaps the “day’s journey” Mary and Joseph had traveled before they discovered that Jesus was not with them.

From this brief account in the Gospel of Luke, we learn something of this youth from Nazareth. Joseph and Mary were unaware that Jesus was not with the company. This would indicate that they must have trusted him. We know, too, that he had a zeal for knowledge, for when his parents found him he was “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.” This was a welcomed opportunity for a boy who loved to learn. Now he could ask his numerous questions of the famous teachers in Jerusalem. And he must have been a very able student for his years for “all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.” In his later life we see how well he had mastered the scriptures. He could call from memory passages of the Old Testament containing the richest spiritual value and each time the particular passage applied effectively to the situation before him. On this occasion the learned men were no doubt charmed by his keen, questioning mind.

The first recorded words we have of Jesus were these: “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” The Goodspeed translation reads: “How did you come to look for me? Did you not know that I must be at my Father’s house?” These questions were not words of reproof. The young boy would seem to say: “Did you not know where you would find me? You have told me so much of my Heavenly Father, and I remained here in His house where I could learn more of Him.”

The incident reveals to us the interests which the boy Jesus had at this age. Back in Nazareth he had probably heard of the learned men who met in the temple. this was an opportunity he had looked forward to. He wanted to know what the great teachers here could tell him about the Father. What purposes did He have for His people here on earth?

A Minute for Meditation:

“The way to truth may be found by anyone who desires it. But, he must desire it with all his might, mind, and strength. A Sunday wish will not suffice. The desire must suffuse and penetrate every waking moment. One’s whole being must reach out for truth, a fragment of which must become more precious than the whole scintillating world of untruth. Life itself must seem a small price to pay for the possession of truth.

“Such a desire leads one inevitably to the gateway of truth. The great ones of all ages, prophets, poets, philosophers, and scientists, who have moved the world forward, have been vibrating lovers of truth. They have not found this gem of gems accidentally, but it has been revealed to them as the result of their earnest struggle. …

“Whoever would find truth must:

(1) Desire truth,
(2) Pray for it,
(3) Study, and
(4) Practice it.

“… Truth is the only enduring possession of man; the only power that lifts man into permanent joy. It is the final justification of life. Human days are valueless if truth si not worth every sacrifice of life. Those who have lived most have lived by truth.” – John A. Widtsoe, In Search of Truth.

Questions for the Chapter Review:

1. Why was this trip to Jerusalem likely the first one for the boy Jesus? What was it for?
2. Describe a typical pilgrimage of some Galileans to the annual “Feast of the Passover.’3. What educational advantages were offered by the annual festivals in Jerusalem?
4. What does the fact that Joseph and Mary had traveled a day before they missed Jesus tell us about their attitude toward him?
5. What are the earliest recorded words we have of Jesus? what did these words mean? Explain the attitude of Jesus toward the temple.
6. From this lesson, what kind of boy do you see in Jesus when he was twelve years old?

Suggestive Problems for Discussion in Class:

1. The incident of Jesus in the temple reveals him as a boy eager to learn, “both hearing them, and asking them questions.” What opportunities do you have to ask questions? What value result to one who uses every opportunity to ask a question?
2. What do you think were some of the questions which Jesus asked in the temple? What questions would you ask? Do you think the doctors there could answer all of his questions?
3. Explain your opinion as to the truthfulness of the statement: “A boy may be judged by the interests he has.” What does this statement reveal of Jesus as a boy?
4. Would it be natural for a boy of twelve years to leave all the sights of Jerusalem to spend his time among older men in the temple? Explain your answer.
5. What was the attitude of Jesus toward the temple? What is the common attitude of young boys toward the building in which they attend religious services? How many this attitude be made more reverent?


An Important Description of Jesus’ Youth.

The Story:

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 favour with God and man. (Luke 2:50-52.)

The account is brief. And yet the words are so important to us that we quote them in full. In the Goodspeed translation they read: “And he went back with them to Nazareth and obeyed them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her mind. As Jesus grew older he gained in wisdom and won the approval of God and men.”

The student will be repaid for reading these brief words over again and again. In them we discover the normal development of Jesus from boyhood into manhood. Examined carefully, they reveal his social, intellectual, spiritual, and physical growth. “He obeyed them.” Gifted as he was, he remained an obedient son. “As Jesus grew older.” The earlier translations were: “Jesus increased in … stature.” the account reads: “And the child grew up and became strong.” It continues: “He gained in wisdom.” Often the impression is given that as a boy Jesus possessed special powers of knowing what events would happen in the future. The gospels, especially John, may be responsible for this interpretation. however, these verses would indicate that Jesus lived a very real and normal life; that he ”gained” or ”increased” in wisdom. The last description reads: “He … won the approval of God.” What would his years of growing manhood have been for him to win the approval of God? These few words imply a rich spiritual life. “He … won the approval of … men.” There is nothing more vividly true of Jesus’ life than that he was a social being. What qualities are required of a growing young man to win the approval of men?

He was a boy like other boys,
And played and sported with the rest,
He had his troubles and his joys,
And strove for mastery with the best.
he was great-hearted, tender, true,
And brave as any boy could be,
And very gentle, for he knew
That Love is God’s own Chivalry.
and one thing I am sure about, –
He never tumbled into sin,
but kept himself, within, without,
As God had made him, sweet and clean.
–John Oxenhum.

The Carpenter of Nazareth.

For eighteen years following the incident in the temple, Jesus worked as a carpenter in Nazareth, first assisting Joseph and later assuming full responsibility. For the gospel story makes it quite clear that Joseph had died before Jesus began his active ministry. There were eight remaining then in the family, and Jesus was the oldest boy. Could this condition have explained why, even with the great mission of his life yet ahead of him, Jesus remained quietly at home until his younger brothers could take care of the business? These same eighteen years in the life of a young man today would see him through junior and senior high school. He could graduate from college in this length of time and learn a profession, or enter the industrial or agricultural world and become established. These are the years of supreme importance in a young man’s life. And there is no record left to us of a single incident in the life of Jesus. It would therefore seem impossible to know anything certain concerning his thoughts and experiences.

Yet we do have a source of knowledge for the experiences of Jesus. We can examine carefully his words when our record does begin. Here we find the numerous references he makes to a world with which he was familiar in the years of his youth. “he grew in stature.” From the alter scenes in his life, consider the great physical courage he possessed: Money-changers are driven from the temple single-handed. A terrific storm at sea does not make him afraid. An angry crowd assemble to throw him over a cliff, and he walks through their midst unharmed. For forty days he could deny himself food or drink. Out under the stars he slept at night. The fretful are calmed by his presence. The sick are healed, and the souls of men are inspired to carry on a hard fight to a great finish. What gave him physical powers to accomplish such things? Even the soldiers sent to capture him returned unsuccessful from his presence to explain: ‘Never spake man like this man.

Whatever other explanations there are, we may be sure that those earlier years were a preparation. swinging an adze and pushing a plane, digging down to rock foundations, cutting trees and shaping them for cross beams – to years and years of this hard work in supporting a family, we must look to understand what the gospel story means when it tells us that he “waxed strong.”

The Carpenter

I wonder what He charged for chairs at Nazareth.

And did men try to beat Him down
And boast about it in the town –
“I bought it cheap for half-a-0crown
From that mad Carpenter”?

And did they promise and not pay,
Put it off to another day;
O, did they break His heart that way,
My Lord, the Carpenter?

I wonder did He have bad debts,
And did He know my fears and frets?
The gospel writer here forgets
To tell about the Carpenter.

But that’s just what I want to know.
Ah! Christ in glory, here below
Men cheat and lie to one another so;
It’s hard to be a carpenter.

[G.A. Studder-Kennedy, from More Rimes from a Padre.]

A small town can boast of many advantages for the intellectual and spiritual development of a boy which are not found in the large cities. The book of life was opened wide here in Nazareth. People lived as one large family. The joys of a wedding, the welcome of a new-born babe, the sorrows of a funeral, the sympathy for the poor and oppressed – each event of joy or sorrow to one, was shared by all. And in the midst of this life so fully revealed we are sure of two things that were taking place in the life of the young man Jesus: He was developing a passionate love in his heart for God and for the souls of men. For here on his stage of life were the same characters we know today. There were beggars and rich men, unjust judges and enemies, slaves and angels, demons and friends, the sick and the blind.

The same people, institutions, and experiences filled his life which are common to us now. There were farming, fishing, building, carpentry, household work, mercantile business, and clerical work. There were political officials, religious sects, teachers, and soldiers. Jesus had problems like our own to solve concerning the observance of the Sabbath, the temple, and religious doctrines. Discussions and debates were heard on the subjects of marriage and divorce, poverty, wars, and debts. His world faced the realities of hunger, pain, death, burials, and mourning. It was in a work-a-day world that Jesus grew to manhood. The gospels mention the commonplace things of that day which sound a familiar note to all of us. There were sheep, dogs, chickens, insects, donkeys, and camels, yeast, salt, lamps, houses, and gardens. Here in a world each one can understand today, Jesus woe his pattern of life. His development was gradual and progressive. The student will appreciate how natural was the unfoldment of Jesus’ intellectual and spiritual powers.

The education of Jesus, it appears, was not very bookish. It was in the market place, at home, on the highway, in the shp, at the temple, and in the hills – here we must look to find the sources that made him the master student of human nature. He sees men on the street cry in loud respect, “Rabbi! Rabbi!” as a minister goes by, and then hears their mean remarks after he is gone. “Be not ye called ‘Rabbi,’” was the advice he gave his disciples. Jesus had learned what insincerity could mean to religion. He listened to older men tell stories of foreign lands, heard the gossip of neighbors, and knew the curse of idle hours spent on the street corners. “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders * * * foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man,” said Jesus. (Mark 7:21-23) We can imagine an everyday occurrence in these developing years of his life. from his work in the shop comes a knock on the door. Someone in trouble has come to him. Jesus would understand. After an hour or so the door opens and the visitor departs. New hope is given. Another soul with a larger understanding is prepared to face the world again. Here in Nazareth Jesus learned “what was in the heart of man.”

We can easily imagine one of the greatest joys which Jesus knew. It came on the Sabbath day when the shop was closed. Between the services in the synagogue, he was free to wander alone among the beautiful hills of Galilee. Even today, botanists tell us that in a given area there are more specimens of wild flowers to be found in Galilee than anywhere else in the world. In the springtime, among these hills and wild flowers, Jesus wandered alone with his thoughts of God. He knew the hills of his home country and loved to see them in full splendor. He saw in nature the divine providence of God, and its beauty he described in memorable words of delight – a lily, so beautiful “that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Finally, we can imagine the arrival of a great day in his life. Jesus put away his tools for the last time, locked the carpenter shop, and gave the key to his brother. He said good-bye to his mother and brothers and sisters, and turned toward Jordan where John the Baptist was preaching.

A Minute for Meditation:

If I could hold within my hand
The hammer Jesus swung,
Not all the gold in all the land,
Nor jewels countless as the sand,
All in the balance flung,
Could weigh the value of that thing
Round which his fingers once did cling.

If I could have the table he
Once made in Nazareth,
Not all the pearls in all the sea,
Nor crowns of kings, or kings to be,
As long as men have breath
Could buy that thing of wood he made –
The Lord of Lords who learned a trade.

Yes, but his hammer still is shown
By honest hands that toil,
And round his table men sit down,
And all are equals with a crown
No gold nor pearls can soil.
The shop at Nazareth was bare,
But Brotherhood was builded there.
–Charles M. Sheldon.

Questions for the Chapter Review:

1. What do we know of the attitude of Jesus toward Joseph and Mary?
2. How long did Jesus remain at his carpentry work in Nazareth?
3. Give five illustrations showing the physical courage of Jesus.
4. Name some advantages Jesus had for his life work, by living in a small community like Nazareth.
5. Describe the naturalness of the world Jesus lived in.
6. Where did Jesus receive most of his training for the work of his ministry?
7. What reason can you give to show that Jesus loved the out-of-door life?

Suggestive Problems for Discussion in Class:

1. One writer describes the success of Jesus’ mission in these words: “His world-transforming work was the culmination of prolonged experience, observation, meditation, and thorough study.” Discuss this explanation and tell what it means to you.

2. How may a boy or girl today acquire the same four-fold development of character – physi9cal, intellectual, social, and spiritual – which Luke describes in the development of Jesus? What is the ideal with respect to this four-fold plan of development? How well does your daily schedule balance these standards?

3. Part of Luke’s account is repeated: “He found favour with God and man.” If a boy finds favor with God, will he be likely to find favor with man also? if a choice between the two must be made, which is to be preferred? Can you give an example?

4. George Adam Smith draws this conclusion from the life of Jesus in Nazareth: “The chief lesson which Nazareth teaches to us is the possibility of a pure home and a spotless youth in the very face of an evil world.” If our modern age offers increased temptations to young people today, show how they can turn to the manhood of Jesus for an unfailing source of inspiration.

5. How long was Jesus preparing for his ministry? how long was his ministry? Explain how the answer to this question may give encouragement to those whose life’s work requires long preparation.

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