Saturday, July 16, 2011

Jesus Teaches at the Temple as a 12 year old

Today I read Luke 2, the classic story of Christ's birth. I think just about everyone in America knows the story that Joseph and Mary had to go to Bethlehem to be counted in a census and that Mary was 9 months pregnant at the time and that all the inns were full. So they went and stayed in a stable which was little more than a cave and Jesus was laid for the first time in a manger, or a feeding trough.

I think it is very telling that Jesus frequently refers to Himself as the good Shepard and the only people to witness His first night of life besides His own parents and perhaps a midwife were shepards in the fields watching over their flocks. I know there is no such thing as coincidence when it comes to the Lord, but that particular part of the Savior's birth story has always made me smile.

I have already mentioned this before, but my favorite part of the story of Jesus' birth is the fact that He was born in the lowliest way possible. He could have had Himself born into royalty or any other circumstances that He wanted, but He chose to be born in this manner. It sets the tone for His entire life, a life of service without embellishment, as the servant of all.

Luke is the only one to record that when Mary and Joseph came to the temple to offer sacrifices to God for the birth of Jesus, they encountered Simeon and Anna, two very devout servants of God. Simeon had been promised by the Holy Ghost that he would behold the Savior in the flesh before he died. Anna was a woman who had been married for 7 years with her husband who then passed away and was a widower for 84 years after that, spending her time in the temple serving God in the best way she knew how. When she saw the Savior she knew instantly who He was and gave thanks to God that she had lived to see Him in the flesh. I wonder if when we see Him will we recognize Him as swiftly as Anna did?

Luke also records the story of Jesus and His earthly family going to Jerusalem for the passover when He was twelve years old. As the story goes, they came and had the feast and then Mary, Joseph and their children started back to Nazareth with a group of family and friends who had also come up to Jerusalem for the feast. I had always wondered as a child how they could have left Jesus behind, then as a teenager I got left somewhere by my parents. It was only for about an hour but it made me realize how things like that can happen, especially when the parents have other children to care for. Once they realized their mistake as they stopped on that first night, they turned back to search for Him. Now it says after 3 days they found Him, it does not specify if that includes the travel time or not, but think about that for a moment. Jesus, a 12 year old, was alone in Jerusalem, for between 3 - 5 days. And He was just fine. That is incredible to me, although it is not surprising since at this point in time He already knew who He was and what His mission was.

Luke states that when they found Him, Jesus was at the temple talking with the doctors and He was asking them questions. However, Joseph Smith corrects that to say they were asking Jesus questions and hearing His answers and were marveling at His answers and wisdom. Now, the modern day prophets have taught that Jesus was born with the veil over His memories, just like you and I were. He had to be taught line upon line, precept upon precept just like the rest of us do. The difference though between Jesus and us, is that He had angelic tutors. We do not know when Jesus' tutoring began or when He first learned that He was the Son of God, but we know it was before He was 12 years old! I would assume Jesus was taught most of what He needed to know before He turned 8 years old, the age of accountability and could sin. I suggest that because He was a perfect man and had no need of repentance of baptism for the remission of sins. In order for that to be true, He would have needed to know who He was so that He could have the strength to resist those sins by the time He reached the age of accountability at 8 years old. At least that is my thought.

Sadly, these few verses are all we have of Jesus' childhood. Matthew adds a few more but really it is a small amount to have to cover 30 years of life but I am grateful we have even that much. Tomorrow we begin the Savior's ministry again through a new perspective and with the Holy Ghost as our companion to teach us what we need to know and how best to apply what we take away from our reading in our own lives. Until tomorrow.

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