The Visit of the Boy Jesus to Jerusalem
The raving maniac died! The various loathsome diseases which inflicted Herod the Great had claimed his impious life. Archlaus, his eldest son, had received the subordinate title of Ethnarch, and his jurisdiction was over Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. He catered to a life of luxury and crude sensuality. In his reign he surpassed his father’s oppression and cruelty. Disgusted with his many crimes, Augustus, emperor of Rome, deposed and banished him. Judea was now a providence which Rome controlled by the appointment of special administrators called procurators.
To determine the level of taxation of the newly acquired provinces of Archlaus, a census was ordered by the Roman governor of Syria. This enraged the populous, for any kind of census was regarded as a badge of servitude. It resulted in a fiercely nationalistic revolt that gave birth to the Zealot movement. The “iron hand” of Rome suppressed the rebellion and quickly installed their first procurator, Coponius. However, the Roman presence was a constant offense which continually fueled the fervor of the Zealots.
With the Roman takeover, the office of the high priesthood regained much of its authority. As a political move, Rome appointed Annas, an illegitimate holder, to this most influential office. His decisions would sway the minds of the Sanhedrin, composed of seventy elders, and would determine the course of Israel’s religious and domestic life.
Meanwhile, in Nazareth, a twelve year old Jewish boy anxiously anticipated His trip to Jerusalem for Passover. Jesus was taught that Jerusalem was the center of life and affection, for there dwelt the house of God. This city’s past history had been great, and her future was yet to be all the more glorious, but not so distant a future.
By law (Ex. 23:14–17), only the men were required to attend this annual feast, but it was permissible by tradition for devout women as well to be present. Sensing Jesus’ excitement for this trip, Mary accompanied Joseph and the others on their pilgrimage.
The trip from Nazareth to Jerusalem was about 75 miles. The usual route was to travel along the Plain of Jezreel and down the western side of the Jordan Valley. It was a perilous journey of four days. Therefore, the family traveled together in a caravan for safety and companionship.
Along the way, the caravan passed many wonderful historical sites. As they passed these various places, Jesus was reminded of the great heroes of the faith and of the many struggles and victories of ancient Israel. All the major events as God directed were recorded in Israel’s sacred writings—the holy Scriptures.
The caravan now traveled through the narrow passes through Bethany and the Mount of Olives. Here the first view of the glorious holy city could be seen. Joyously, the sounds of the flute and timbrals accompanied the pilgrims, as they chanted from their hearts the “songs of aliyah” (Psalms of Ascent 120–134). Especially significant to the young Jesus were the words of Psalm 122, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.”
The spectacular Temple with glittering gold appeared as they drew nearer. Upon entering through the large colonnades, the now solemned caravan walked onto the beautiful marble pavement of the Court of the Gentiles. Along the sides of the court the faithful could see the money changers practicing their unsavory occupation. The sounds of the animals used for the sacrifices mingled with the noise of the bustling crowd.
They proceeded up the steps into the Court of the Women. This court was surrounded by simple colonnades. Located against the walls were the 13 chests, which were used for the charitable contributions. Sometimes when coins were placed into these chests a sound much like a trumpet could be heard. Here by law the women were prohibited from going any farther.
The males continued entering onto the upper court which was divided into two parts. The narrowest part formed the Court of Israel. The wider section formed the Court of the Priests, in which the great altar and laver were located. Jesus watched as a paschel (lamb) was slain along with the burnt and peace offerings offered to God. Yet, as He stood there, absorbed in the deep, far-reaching implications of the sacrifices, His heart was elsewhere. His thoughts were focused on that place beyond the two-leaved gold plated doors covered by a rich Babylonian curtain adorned with the four colors of the Temple (white, blue, scarlet and purple). His heart soared into the innermost chamber of the Temple, the holy of holiest While standing with the other men, He was overwhelmed by the fact that this was truly the “house of his Father.”
During the first two days of the feast of Passover, the lamb would have been eaten, the festival sacrifices offered, and the first ripe barley waved before the Lord. Commencing on the third day, the “moed katan” began. This signified the minor festive period. It was permissible, as taught by the rabbis, to return home during these semi-holy days. Therefore, when Joseph and Mary had fulfilled the days, they started back toward Nazareth.
Supposing that Jesus was in the company of friends and neighbors in their caravan, the family traveled a day’s journey of 18 to 30 miles. They were confident that, as the caravan halted for the night, they would be together at the agreed resting place.
Jesus was missing! Early in the morning, they anxiously returned to Jerusalem. On the third day they found Him in one of the royal porches that outlined the Court of the Gentiles.
It was customary on sabbaths and minor holidays for some members of the Sanhedrin to sit on these porches and teach. These informal meetings were very popular among the people. Here, Jesus was found “sitting in the midst of doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions.”
Rabbis have always been proud of their Jewish youths. The stringent requirements of their education often resulted in the exhibition of outstanding intellect. So, it wasn’t uncommon for many twelve-year-olds to actively engage in theological discourses. But, with Jesus there was something extraordinary!
They were astonished at His competitive insight and discerning answers. His words pricked the conscience of both learned and unlearned, Jew and Gentile alike. To the more prejudicial Judeans, they wondered where He acquired such depth of understanding—surely not in that despicable place called Nazareth? Yes, in Nazareth! Every morning the Father awoke Jesus and taught Him, as was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 50:4, “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.”
Mary and Joseph were elated to see their child among such honorable company. Then half reproachful and half relieved, Mary gently chided Jesus: “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” Sorrowing? Jesus, who was aware of His being and mission, wondered surprisingly, Could it have been all that difficult to find Me? “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”
His words suggested an intimacy that went far beyond that of the prophets or servants of God recorded in Scripture. It assumed that God was His Father and that He had a definite task to perform. These doctors knew by tradition that only the Messiah could know God as Father without any human assistance. Yet, all were silent as the words of young Jesus penetrated their minds: “I must be about my Father’s business.”
Jesus obediently returned home with His parents. However, the people sitting there on the porch had been hearing the voice of God! Jesus interrupted their usual conversation on the intricacies of the Law by elevating the discussion to a higher spiritual level. This was because, in His humanity, He drew near to His Father. He approached the Word as hearing the very voice of God. As a result, Jesus had an irresistible impulse to be doing His Father’s business. Such is the example set forth to all who would call God their Father.
Mary did not fully understand all that had happened, but surely she would never forget. She kept all these things in her heart. Each new experience in the life of Jesus was crystallizing in her mind and heart that He truly was Messiah!