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Jesus As A Child

INTRODUCTION: This study will consider the record from Matthew and Luke about the actions of the parents of Jesus, and some fulfilled prophecy in those passages. The purpose of this study is to highlight things that his parents had done in obedience to the law and to God, and the one event recorded about Jesus as a child. The events that involved others such as the shepherds, or Simeon and Anna at the temple, will not be fully used. Since the Matthew and Luke accounts are not completely parallel, the passages will be presented alternately with the intent to follow or highlight chronological order. The gospels of Mark and of John have no details about Jesus until he began his public ministry as an adult.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the American King James Bible.


Luke 1 "26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in to her, and said, Hail, you that are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said to her, Fear not, Mary: for you have found favor with God. 31 And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give to him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary to the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Ghost shall come on you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, your cousin Elisabeth, she has also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word. And the angel departed from her."

COMMENTS: The angel Gabriel gave Mary (and us through scripture) a number of very important facts about Jesus. (1) Mary would conceive in her womb even though she was a virgin: a miraculous conception unique from all others, with no sperm of man being involved. (2) she would give birth to a son and she was to name him Jesus. (3) he shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, (4) the Lord God shall give to him the throne of David, his forefather in the flesh, (5) he shall reign over the house of Israel for ever, (6) there shall be no end of his kingdom.

Mary asked how this could happen since she said of herself that she was a virgin. Gabriel told her that she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit: therefore also (7) that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God. Mary believed Gabriel and willingly submitted herself to the will of the LORD. Joseph was not aware at that time that all of this had happened with Mary. Mary decided to travel sout to Judah to visit her relative since the angel had revealed that Elizabeth was with child. The details of those passages will not be covered in this study.


Matthew 1 "18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privately. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, you son of David, fear not to take to you Mary your wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took to him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS."

COMMENTS: When Joseph heard that Mary was pregnant before they had been together, he did not know that this was a miracle of God. He was not going to make a public spectacle of her, but he did intend to quietly end the espousal agreement which represented such a strong commitment that the text refers to him already as her husband. Before Joseph took any action, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. Some key points are revealed: (1) the angel referred to Joseph as a son of David, verifying his ancestral line in this record, (2) Joseph should not hesitate to take Mary as his wife because that which was conceived in her was of the Holy Spirit, (3) Mary would give birth to a son and Joseph was to name him Jesus, (4) for he shall save his people from their sins. We cannot know whether Joseph had any thoughts of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 about the virgin giving birth, and the name Emmanuel, but Matthew inserted it at this point in the text. When Joseph awoke from sleep, he followed the instructions from the angel, and took Mary to be his wife. They had no sexual relations until after the birth of her firstborn son, and Joseph called him jesus as he had been instructed.


Luke 2 "1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."

COMMENTS: Joseph obeyed the decree made by the authority of the Roman government, which the LORD used to bring about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem rather than in Nazareth. While in Bethlehem, without any other details, the text simply states that Mary laid her new born son in a manger because there was no room in the inn. There is no mention of any relatives or friends in that area who might have provided accommodations in the days that followed the birth. Verses 8 through 20 in Luke describe the announcement by angels to shepherds who immediately went to see the newborn baby in the manger, and then told others in the area about what they had seen and heard. All we know of Mary's reaction is in Luke 2 "19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."


Luke 2 "21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23 (As it is written in the law of the LORD, Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."

Luke 2 "39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was on him."

COMMENTS: The parents followed the law of Moses by circumcising the baby on the eighth day, and then he was given the name Jesus. The text emphasizes that the angel had told Mary the name for the child before he was conceived in her womb. From previous text we know that after Mary was found to be pregnant, Joseph was told the name to be given to the child. So they were both obedient to direct instructions given through a messenger of God, as well as to the requirements of the law given by Moses. From the passage in Leviticus they would not have gone to the temple in Jerusalem from Bethlehem until the total of forty days had elapsed as required. Leviticus 12 "1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. 3 And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled. 5 But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying three score and six days. 6 And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to the priest: 7 Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that has born a male or a female. 8 And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean."

When they were at the temple in Jerusalem to dedicate the child and to give the prescribed offerings, they had the encounter with Simeon and with Anna as described in verses 25 through 38 which I have not listed above, but verse 33 followed the remarks made by Simeon. Luke "33 And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him."

After the verses about Anna, the statement is made that they returned to their "own city" in Galilee when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord. This gives special emphasis to the fulfilling of the law, but the Matthew account gives additional information about other events that transpired before they returned to Nazareth in Galilee, indicating they did not go directly there from Jerusalem. When they did take the young child to Nazareth, the text in Luke states that he continued to grow and become strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. The very next sentence in Luke begins the description of events when Jesus was twelve years of age.


Matthew 2 "1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said to him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And you Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, are not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of you shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privately called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, see, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented to him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. 13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be you there until I bring you word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son."

COMMENTS: From this passage we know that Joseph and Mary must have returned to Bethlehem from Jerusalem after they had been with the baby Jesus at the temple because the wise men visited them at a house in Bethlehem and presented them with valuable gifts after falling down before the child in worship. The wise men were warned of God in a dream not to return to Herod, so they returned to their own country by another way. After they were gone, the angel of the Lord instructed Joseph in a dream to take the young child and his mother and flee to Egypt because Herod would look for the young child to destroy him. Joseph was to stay in Egypt until the angel gave him word again. When Joseph arose they left by night for Egypt and stayed there until the death of Herod. There is no indication that Joseph or Mary knew this would later fulfill the prophecy spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.


Matthew 2 "16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appears in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. 21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23 And he came and dwelled in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene."

COMMENTS: Herod sent to Bethlehem and the surrounding area to have all children two years old and younger killed based on the time frame he had learned from the wise men. This does not give us a definite age for Jesus, but it could have been a number of months or even up to about two years. A prophecy from Jeremiah was fulfilled when Herod had the children killed in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. Later, an angel of the Lord appears in a dream to Joseph to tell him that Herod was dead, and Joseph was instructed to take the child back to Israel. When Joseph became aware that Herod's son was now reigning, he was afraid to be in Judea, but he was warned of God in a dream, so he went to live in Nazareth of Galilee. Since there is no single prophecy in scripture with the statement that he would be called a Nazarene, it is considered by some Bible commentators that this was a composite of characteristics from several prophecies that could be identified with a Nazarene at the time of Jesus.


Luke 2 "41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. 43 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. 44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. 45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the middle of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. 48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said to him, Son, why have you thus dealt with us? behold, your father and I have sought you sorrowing. 49 And he said to them, How is it that you sought me? knew you not that I must be about my Father's business? 50 And they understood not the saying which he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man."

COMMENTS: Joseph and Mary went from Nazareth to Jerusalem every year for the Passover, again showing their respect for the law from Moses, and it is likely that they had taken Jesus each year before he was twelve. This had been established for the children of Israel beginning on the very day the LORD brought them out of Egypt. Exodus 12 "17 And you shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall you observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even. 19 Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whoever eats that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land." Passover was the first day of this annual week long memorial observance.

When Joseph and Mary left at the end of the days of observance to return to Nazareth, they did not realize Jesus had remained in Jerusalem. After the group of travelers had gone a day's journey, they looked for Jesus and did not find him with any of their relatives or acquaintance. Apparently it was not unusual for a twelve year old child to be responsible enough that he could leave with the traveling group, even if he did not immediately notify his parents of his whereabouts, because the text says they supposed he was in the company. Joseph and Mary headed back to Jerusalem to search for Jesus, and finally found him three days later. He was at the temple sitting in the midst of very well educated men, both listening to them, and asking them questions. Everyone who heard the words of the twelve year old Jesus was amazed and astonished by his understanding and his answers.

Joseph and Mary were surprised and perplexed when they found Jesus at the temple. Mary asked her son why he had done this, as it had caused his father and her to be searching for him with sorrow. Jesus asked them why they had to search for him: didn't they know he must be about his father's business? his question rightfully placed God the Father above his earthly parents without diminishing his respect for them. It apparently was not obvious to them that the temple should have been the first place to look for Jesus. At twelve years old, Jesus was able to take care of his needs for food and a place to sleep, for he had been there without his parents for several days. After twelve years of being the parents of this boy who had grown from infancy with characteristic human development, it must have been difficult to fully grasp the idea that the very Son of God had been entrusted to their care. Though they had responded in faith to the messages about him from the beginning of his conception and birth, as the years passed the routines of daily living probably made it difficult to fully comprehend future events for this miraculous child. This is the first record of any unusual thing that Jesus had done to bring out such a reaction from his parents, but it should not be a surprise to us that they could not anticipate such an event. Jesus went back to Nazareth with his parents, and the text tells us that he was subject to them. His mother kept all the sayings in her heart, probably with faith in God even though she did not fully understand what was yet to come. . Since it was their custom to go to Jerusalem every year, there seems little doubt that Jesus went to this feast with them in years that followed. jesus was about thirty when he began his public ministry as an adult. There are no other details for the intervening years. We have the general characterization that Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

All the things that we can now read about Jesus from the gospel accounts and the rest of the New Testament were not written until after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Therefore we have the advantage of additional revelation from God not available to those who lived with him before and during his public ministry. God came to be with us in the flesh. John 1 "14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." Jesus was baptized, was tempted in the wilderness, and then he began to preach the gospel. Mark 1 "9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. 10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending on him: 11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 12 And immediately the spirit drives him into the wilderness. 13 And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him. 14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel."

Just as Mary and Joseph could not fully understand, the disciples of Jesus often were puzzled by the things happening in their presence. Mark 9 "31 For he taught his disciples, and said to them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. 32 But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him." Praise the Lord for the things he reveals to us through his Word by the Spirit that we may serve him. Deuteronomy 29 "29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." the Apostle Paul reminds us of how marvelous and unsearchable are the things known by the Lord. Romans 11 "33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been his counselor?"


Through your design LORD, Joseph and Mary became the most unique parents in the history of mankind, and they demonstrated their faith and their obedience as they followed your instructions directly revealed to them. Just as you, LORD, used unbelieving rulers to assure that Jesus as the son of David and as the Son of God would be born in Bethlehem and also be called a Nazarene, I know you are still directing the affairs of men for your purposes. Joseph and Mary also followed the Law of Moses established in scripture for Mary and for the infant Jesus because of their faith in you as the God of Israel. They did not hesitate to flee to Egypt by your warning, and when they returned with the young child, you confirmed for Joseph his concern about the new ruler in Jerusalem, and directed them back to Nazareth. May I be subject to those who have authority over me in government as long as it does not lead to disobeying your word, and your direction for my life. What a marvelous thought to ponder that the Son of God at the age of twelve demonstrated great wisdom and independence, but was still willing to respectfully submit to his human parents. Joseph and Mary could not understand why you were at the temple without letting them know first, but they quietly continued the parenting role designed for them. Jesus, you set aside the glory you had in heaven with the Father, and came through a humble birth to grow and mature until the appointed time. LORD, may I apply in faith those things that you reveal for me by the Holy Spirit through the scriptures, and may I have complete trust in you for those events that may be very puzzling to me. I need to have the patience to humbly wait for your timing in my life just as Joseph and Mary waited for your timing in theirs. You also humbly waited for thirty years before you began to openly present the gospel of the kingdom, and take all the necessary steps to complete the triumph of the cross and resurrection. Hallelujah! Amen.

Published 7 May 2014