There are many beautiful stories of child-life, but the story of the Boyhood of Jesus is the most beautiful of all. It teaches a wonderful lesson of obedience to parents and love and respect for them, as well as of the charm of a pure and consecrated childhood, and the lesson is all the more helpful because it is full of the human interest of everyday life.
Although the boy Jesus was gifted with a wisdom far beyond His years—a wisdom which was His because He was the Son of God, yet He lived much as other boys lived, doing the tasks that were given Him by His parents and being subject to them in all things.
Probably the people around Him did not think very much about what He said or did during those years. When they saw Him helping Joseph, the carpenter, or doing the little things which Mary, His mother, bade Him do, He seemed much like other little boys to them; they thought Him bright and pleasing, and it may be that there was something in His looks and in His manner which puzzled them, which set them to thinking of holy things in a wondering way; but Mary was the only one who dwelt upon the mystery of His life with a constant prayerful questioning as to just what the meaning of it was.
Mary treasured all His sayings in her heart and believed that the time would come when everyone would know that He was not simply an ordinary child like those around Him.
After Joseph had brought his family back from Egypt because, now that Herod was dead, it was safe for them to come into their own country again, they lived in the city of Nazareth, and so the words of the old prophets were true, that Jesus, the Savior of the World, should be a Nazarene, or dweller in Nazareth.
Every year the Jews held a feast at Jerusalem called the Feast of the Passover, in memory of the time when God passed over, or spared, His chosen people in Egypt, although He destroyed the first-born of the Egyptians. When Jesus was twelve years old He went to Jerusalem with Joseph and Mary to attend this feast.
There were many of the relatives and friends of the family there, and when they started home after the feast, there was probably some confusion about getting the company under way, for they traveled in a train consisting of people on foot and mounted upon donkeys, and they had, of course, some needful provisions to take with them, together with the things which they had brought for their comfort upon the journey and during their stay in Jerusalem; and as the parents of Jesus did not think of His remaining behind, they neglected to look for Him, supposing He was somewhere in the train; so, when they had traveled for a day on the return trip, they were greatly surprised and troubled to find that He was missing.
They immediately started back for Jerusalem, wondering as they went what could have happened to their boy and fearful about it; but after three anxious days they found Him in the temple talking with the learned men there, listening to their wise words, and asking questions which astonished everybody who heard them, because they were full of an understanding of holy things that was not to be expected of a boy. When His parents had found Him, Mary said to Him, sorrowfully, "Son, why hast Thou dealt thus with us? Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing."
Then Jesus turned to her with sad and gentle respect, and asked, "How is it that ye sought Me? Wist ye not"—that is, "Do you not know"—"that I must be about My Father's business?"
Perhaps in these words He tried to give them an insight into the great meaning of His life; but they were puzzled, although Mary dimly felt all that He would have her understand. He did not at this time, however, explain to them further regarding what was in His own heart. It may be that He did not yet fully comprehend just what He was to do. He had taken upon Himself the human nature which He was to raise to something grander and nobler than human nature had ever been before, and in becoming a little child like other little children, perhaps it was God's plan that He should not yet have the judgment of a man in all things.
However that may have been, He went back with His parents and obeyed them as before, for the time had not come for Him to leave them and begin His teaching, except as He taught by the force of a beautiful example. But that example formed a great part of the purpose for which He was sent into the world, because one of the noblest truths that He impressed upon humanity was the duty of children to parents. His own life taught this better than any sermon could have done, for in all the history of the world we have no better example of what a child's conduct should be toward his parents. It is the more beautiful because Jesus was not like other children, but, having the wisdom of God in His heart, was far better able to judge for Himself between right and wrong.
During all these years Jesus grew in stature as well as in wisdom, and those around Him felt, without understanding it, that in some way He was different from the rest. The divinity of His nature could not be hidden, even in those early years, but it shone through all the small acts of everyday life, making them beautiful; while every one who knew Him was better and happier for coming near such a noble nature.
The Angels' Song:
"Praise thou the Lord!" the angels cry
The song of peace and love,
Comes floating downward thro' the sky,
From unseen courts above.