“When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord (that is Joseph and Mary), they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.” – Luke 2:39-41
The childhood of Jesus really is a mystery. There are only three verses in all the Bible that give us any real insight. While it is a mystery, yet there are details that can offer us insight and opportunity for reflection.
Take the fact that Jesus was both fully God and man. This means that Jesus navigated normal childhood development just like any other child. From infancy until around two years old, Jesus would have nursed at His mother’s breast; He would have been wrapped in swaddling clothes. It’s interesting to me that even in the 21st century, mothers still recognize the value of swaddling a child – tightly wrapping up a baby to give them that feeling of security, similar to what they experienced in the womb.
And then Jesus would have begun to speak – one word—not phrases and sentences, but one word at a time, just like any other child. Jesus would have begun walking, only to fall down many times during the process. And Joseph and Mary would have cheered Him on, picking him up when he fell. Eventually, Jesus began to toddle around. How do we know all this? Because the Bible tells us that Jesus was fully human, just as He is fully God.
From two to five, He began to make friends with other children. Most adults know that children in this stage of life often have meltdowns or “temper tantrums.” Did Jesus have these meltdowns? Well, He was a boy. He was experiencing childhood like you and me. What do you think? I imagine He did.
And then there are those years from six to eleven. Thinking back to our childhood, we wonder: Did Jesus have a best friend? Was He athletic? If so, what games did He play? Was He an extrovert or an introvert? Did He fit in with the popular crowd or was He a little different? Was He a focused child or did He often space out or day dream? What was it like to be a friend of Jesus as a child?
As Jesus grew older, we know that He would have begun to learn His father’s trade – because that’s what Jewish boys did in the first century. For Jesus, He became a craftsman like His father, Joseph. Clearly, Jesus was aware of His human nature – but did Jesus really know who He was as a child? Did Jesus know He was the Son of God at six, at eight, at nine? We know He did at twelve. But did He know as a child that He was God’s Son? And if so, how did He know? Did God share it with Him in an audible voice? Did Mary tell Him as His mother? What did He know? When did He know? What was it like for Him to have to obey His mom and dad when He was their Creator? Those questions boggle our minds.
God’s Word tells us, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52) And when He went to Passover with His parents, I have to wonder – did Jesus understand, as He saw lambs sacrificed at the temple, that this foreshadowed why He was born? We don’t really know. But we do know that at the age of 12, Jesus knew. For He came to do His Father’s will – to be our Savior. What love. What selflessness. What sacrifice. It really does fill us with wonder.