JESUS LEARNING IN THE TEMPLE
What was it like in Jerusalem during Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread in 7 AD [3758/751]? Jerusalem was a city of 25,000 residents, but Passover brought in 150,000 pilgrims from all over Canaan, as well as from all over the “world”. It was crowded, noisy, and exciting. The Pilgrims were expected to bring their “second tithe“, and were required to spend it on themselves, in Jerusalem, [thus being required to be a tourist].
It was hard to find a place to shelter in the city, to say the least. If you could find a room, the “owner” (God is the only true owner) was required to rent it for the price of the “skin of a Passover lamb” [though I do not doubt there were other “charges”]. If you could not find a room in one of the neighboring villages, you were “welcome” to camp wherever you could find open ground.
Joseph, Mary, Jesus and the rest of the family probably had no real trouble finding a place to stay. They might stay with the “Galileans” in the areas east of the city of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives. They might stay with Zecharias, Elizabeth and John. They likely choose to stay in Bethlehem with Joseph’s family.
John and Jesus would still have met often, they were, after all, boys of 12, and would have spent considerable time together. On any day, the boys would meet in the city and spend the day. ‘Come on, follow me like a good lamb,’ called John to Jesus, referring to his birthday at Passover. Up and down the streets they went. Like an elder brother, “wild John” led Jesus past the souvenir shops, the pottery shops, the butcher shops, the woolen shops, the silver shops, the stone-makers shops, the barbershops and the great, and small, street markets, which provided GREAT places to “hang out”. Just to look at the people from all over the world would have been an incredible experience, but to hear the strange people talk would have been enlightening as well.
There was also the Temple complex. Both John and Jesus frequently listened in on the open classes that were being taught on the southern steps [today] leading into the temple complex, as well as discussions in the court of the Gentiles. They learned about God’s history, the temple ritual, the Torah (law), appropriate behavior, and the theology of Israel.
Then there was Passover itself, on April 8 this year. There was the hustle and bustle of preparation. Being crammed into the temple’s inner courtyard, with a lamb held over your shoulders, along with 6000 others, while you waited your turn to approach the place of sacrifice at the “Altar of burnt offerings”. Then one needed to get the lamb home and cooked. Finally there was the Passover meal and the family time.
Then the seven days that followed, the Festival of Unleavened bread, gave them even more time together. Yet, it was all over much too soon, and it was time for Jesus to go back home to Nazareth.
Joseph told Jesus when they would be leaving Jerusalem, and expected Jesus to be at the caravan on time. But Jesus was “seriously focused” on more learning. Thus it was that in the morning, Jesus missed the caravan, which headed down the Wadi Qelt road into the Jordan River Valley, while everyone assumed that Jesus was somewhere among the rest of the folks from Galilee. Instead, Jesus was in the temple, during the day, and spent the night with John.
The caravan’s first serious stop was at Jericho where they stopped for the night. There, Joseph and Mary found that Jesus was NOT with them. Scared and angry, they stayed the night in Jericho, left the other children with friends, and joined a caravan back to Jerusalem in the early morning (it would not do to be caught alone by bandits on the road at night). When Joseph and Mary arrived in Jerusalem, they went straight past Jerusalem and on to Bethlehem. But Jesus was not there.
In the morning, the “third” day since they had originally left Jerusalem, they found out from Zecharias that Jesus had stayed the night with John and that they were in Jerusalem now. Joseph and Mary walked through the streets of Jerusalem going to any place that Jesus might have visited. When they finally entered the temple courtyard, they caught sight of him sitting in on a religious study class next to the Portico of Solomon. They were discussing the Torah and the Messiah, politics and rebellion. The teachers were impressed with Jesus’ knowledge and his astute questions, answers, and insights. He was a remarkable 12 year-old boy.
When Mary asked Jesus why he had missed the caravan, and why he had spent his time in the temple, he replied with a furrowed brow, ‘Where else would I be?’. ‘This is my Father’s house!’
However, the answer seemed to confuse Joseph and Mary despite the angel’s visits, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna, and the Magi. Still, Mary remembered what he had said.
Joseph, Mary and Jesus journeyed down to Jericho, collected the rest of the family, and returned to Nazareth. In Nazareth Jesus grew up in the Lord asSamuel had. Jesus learned to be a handyman, doing work from carpentry to house building, while helping his father. Together they worked in the local area, and in Sepphoris, a growing Gentile city only four miles north.
Then, when Joseph died, Jesus, as Mary’s eldest son, worked hard as a handyman to support the family. Yet, Jesus waited (praying, reading, and discussing God’s revelations – before, during and after work), in order to begin his ministry, which would begin in the Father’s own time. DAB