The education of Jesus


A map showing the different towns and regions in Jesus’ time.
– Pictures borrowed


IN this week’s article, we shall look at how Jesus grew up and how he was educated or taught as a child.
The name “Jesus” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name “Yeshua” or “Joshua”. The word “Christ” is used with “Jesus” and “Christ” means the anointed or chosen one.
Jesus Christ is the main character in the four gospels and all the books in the New Testament are written about him and the way his followers or disciples must conduct themselves, among themselves and when interacting with the world.
I must make it clear here too that it is advisable that you read a gospel yourself to know more about Jesus.
My article cannot adequately tell you everything about him. You can learn all about him by reading the Bible yourself.
I suggest you start with gospel of John. It has 21 chapters.

Sub-themes of the gospels
Although the main theme of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) is Jesus Christ, each was written for a different audience in mind, hence certain aspects of Christ are emphasised in the stories that are told.
I borrowed these points from a pastor’s notes for your benefit:

  • Matthew presents Jesus as the Messiah of Israel;
  • Mark presents Jesus as the Servant of Israel;
  • Luke presents Jesus as the Perfect Man of Israel;
  • John presents Jesus as the God-Redeemer of Israel.

Again, the central theme of the four gospels is still Jesus.
However, each of the writers presented Jesus Christ so that their target audience will easily relate to the message.

Jesus as a child
One thing that interests me, an educator, is the upbringing and development of a person – how s/he was brought up.
That is why I have always been interested in how Jesus was raised as a child.
Christians believe that Jesus is God as well as man (John 1. 1-5), however something we often forget is that Jesus was once a child.
He was raised like any child in Nazareth, a town in the region called Galilee, in the period of time when Rome ruled the world.
What was Jesus like between the time he was born and the time he started his ministry at the age of 30?
Most Bible scholars teach about Jesus words and deeds during his three years of ministry, however not many teach about his upbringing as a child. That is one topic that has interested me for decades now.
Interestingly, not all of the four gospels recount the life of Jesus as a child – only Matthew and Luke go through that period of Jesus’ life in some detail.
Mark and John start with Jesus’ ministry as an adult and not his days as a child.
Let us do a quick run through Matthew and Luke to capture some information on Jesus as a child.

Matthew on the child Jesus
Here in chapter 1, Matthew gives the genealogy of Jesus.
In chapter 2, Matthew gives the story of the wise men from the east (the Magi) visiting
Jesus and his parents and how King Herod was unhappy that there was another king that those men had come to visit (verses 1-5).
Herod had a wicked plan and God informed Joseph to take the child away to Egypt to escape that.
Herod’s evil ways took the form of killing of children (verse 16) “from two years old and under”.
Joseph, Mary and Jesus eventually returned to Israel and made their home in Nazareth, in Galilee, after Herod’s death. Therefore Jesus is often said to be from Galilee or Nazareth.

Luke on the child Jesus
Luke starts his gospel in chapter 1 by telling us about Elizabeth and her husband Zacharias as well as Mary being visited by Angel Gabriel.
It is in Luke chapter 2 that we are told of how Jesus was born in a manger and was worshipped by shepherds (verses 2-8).
In verse 21 we are also told that Jesus was circumcised, in keeping with Jewish customs.
In verses 41-52, we are told a very interesting story of the family of Jesus going up to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover.
When the feast was over and everyone was returning home, the 12-year-old Jesus decided to stay behind without letting his parents know. He went to the temple to talk to and teach the professors of Jewish law and other knowledgeable men.
When Jesus’ family returned to Jerusalem and located him after three days, his mother told him that he had put them through a lot of unnecessary sorrow.
Jesus responded in verse 49: “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my father’s business?”
In other words, he was saying, “Leave me alone. I have to do the Father’s will!”
That seems weird?
Yes, it was unusual for a good Jewish boy to say this to his parents.
It says that even after saying that, as in verse 51, Jesus followed them to Nazareth “and was subject (or obedient) unto them but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart”.
That shows that the mother paid attention to what Jesus was saying, even at that age of 12.
(I will discuss the character of Luke in a later article. I am of the view that Luke, a gentile who was a highly-educated man, knew how childhood is special in a person’s life.)

A thought I had for years
Let us thing about something here.
Take that case of Bill and Lucy, a married couple.
The two are parents of a kid named Joel, and they will claim that Joel is theirs. He has the genes that belong to them.
But when you start thinking about Christian doctrines or teachings, Joel was placed by God in the family of Bill and Lucy.
Whether he is tall or short, clever or not, Bill and Lucy have the task of raising Joel as best as they can.
When you think about it, actually, Joel belongs to God.
God appointed that Joel would be born into the family of Bill and Lucy and his features and intellectual abilities will come from those two parents.
If this does not make sense, think about Jesus.
He was appointed to be born of a virgin named Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter.
Why was Jesus not born into a well-off family in Jerusalem, the capital of Judaea, the Roman province then?
Answer: That was the God’s prerogative.
It is my view that Jesus was born into a poor family which would live far from the capital city because God wanted the Son to know the common people better, living in a small house in the country and doing manual work rather than living the life of a scholar or professor.
That is my view.
Now, let me show you something that I found interesting – about how Jesus interacted with Mary, her mother, when he performed his first miracle.
It will show you something of how he was like before he started his public ministry.

How Mary interacts with Jesus
I showed you already how Mary interacted with Jesus at the age of 12, after he went off without telling her what he was up to.
Mary knew that that son, her firstborn, was special.
She knew that from Angel Gabriel telling her that.
She may also have been reminded by special acts that Jesus may have done as a child, or as a young man growing up.
I know nobody has asked this question before but I will ask it: Has Jesus performed any miracle before he started his public ministry before the age of 30?
I think he did – and that we can know from something that happened in Jesus’ first miracle, the turning of water into wine in a marriage feast at Cana, as recounted in John chapter 2.
In John 2.1-5, Mary, Jesus and his disciples are at a marriage in Cana of Galilee, when the wine must have run out and Mary comes to Jesus and says, “They have no wine”.
Jesus then said to her: “Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.”
In verse 5, Mary says to the servants, “Whatever he saith unto you, do it.”
Do you understand why Mary came to Jesus?
It is because she knew Jesus could do something about it. It is likely that Jesus may have performed some miracles before he started his public ministry.
(Mary knew that Jesus possessed powers, he could perform miracles.)
At Cana though, Jesus reminded Mary that his time was not yet come – but then goes ahead and turns water into wine, and responding positively to Mary’s request.
Isn’t that interesting?

Can you trust Jesus?
I am going to end this article with this section.
Let us look at Jesus again from the chapters and verses I have shared so far.
Think about it: Here is an outstanding teacher who hails from a small town in Galilee. He has the rugged looks of a carpenter and his fingers are callused from years of assisting a carpenter named Joseph in his dusty workshop.
This young man learned carpentry but also learned to study the Old Testament in Hebrew, as all Jewish boys at that time would have done after their bar-mitzvah (a special ritual for boys after they turn 13).
He does not look like the refined scholars of Jerusalem or Rome or some faraway mega city.
He is from a countryside town up north and speaks with a Galilean accent.
You realise that he speaks clearly though in Aramaic, the language spoken in that part of the country, quotes Old Testament verses in Hebrew and you are told he speaks a bit of Egyptian too because he spent time there as a child.
But whenever he teaches, you get the feeling that he knows much more about God than the scribes and Pharisees that move about Jerusalem and Rome, or other towns, and debates the various doctrines and other intricate details of the Old Testament, which at times do not answer the questions that most people are asking.
This rugged man from up north in Galilee is preaching in all of Judaea and other places and saying “he came from above” – he came from heaven and will return there.
Will you believe him?
He has not just claimed to be a prophet, he has claimed to be God himself, as stated in John 1. 1-5.
He claims that he is the only way to the Father (John 14.6).
Will you believe him?
That is the decision that people in Jesus’ time had to make.
That is also the decision that people today will have to make.
That is the Christian gospel.

  • Next week: The education of Paul

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