As a Child
THE childhood and youth of Jesus were spent
in a little mountain village. There was no place on earth that would not have been honored
by His presence. The palaces of kings would have been privileged in receiving Him as a
guest. But He passed by the homes of wealth, the courts of royalty, and the renowned seats
of learning, to make His home in obscure and despised Nazareth.
Wonderful in its significance
is the brief record of His early life: "The child grew, and waxed strong in spirit,
filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him." In the sunlight of His
Father's countenance, Jesus "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God
and man." Luke 2:52. His mind was active and penetrating, with a thoughtfulness and
wisdom beyond His years. Yet His character was beautiful in its symmetry. The powers of
mind and body developed gradually, in keeping with the laws of childhood.
As a child, Jesus manifested
a peculiar loveliness of disposition. His willing hands were ever ready to serve others.
He manifested a patience
that nothing could disturb, and a truthfulness that would never
sacrifice integrity. In principle firm as a rock, His life revealed the grace of unselfish
With deep earnestness the
mother of Jesus watched the unfolding of His powers, and beheld the impress of perfection
upon His character. With delight she sought to encourage that bright, receptive mind.
Through the Holy Spirit she received wisdom to co-operate with the heavenly agencies in
the development of this child, who could claim only God as His Father.
From the earliest times the
faithful in Israel had given much care to the education of the youth. The Lord had
directed that even from babyhood the children should be taught of His goodness and His
greatness, especially as revealed in His law, and shown in the history of Israel. Song and
prayer and lessons from the Scriptures were to be adapted to the opening mind. Fathers and
mothers were to instruct their children that the law of God is an expression of His
character, and that as they received the principles of the law into the heart, the image
of God was traced on mind and soul. Much of the teaching was oral; but the youth also
learned to read the Hebrew writings; and the parchment rolls of the Old Testament
Scriptures were open to their study.
In the days of Christ the
town or city that did not provide for the religious instruction of the young was regarded
as under the curse of God. Yet the teaching had become formal. Tradition had in a great
degree supplanted the Scriptures. True education would lead the youth to "seek the
Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him." Acts 17:27. But the Jewish
teachers gave their attention to matters of ceremony. The mind was crowded with material
that was worthless to the learner, and that would not be recognized in the higher school
of the courts above. The experience which is obtained through a personal acceptance of
God's word had no place in the educational system. Absorbed in the round of externals, the
students found no quiet hours to spend with God. They did not hear His voice speaking to
the heart. In their search after knowledge, they turned away from the Source of wisdom.
The great essentials of the service of God were neglected. The principles of the law were
obscured. That which was regarded as superior education was the greatest hindrance to real
development. Under the training of the rabbis the powers of the youth were repressed.
Their minds became cramped and narrow.
The child Jesus did not
receive instruction in the synagogue schools. His mother was His first human teacher. From
her lips and from the scrolls of the prophets, He learned of heavenly things. The very
words which He Himself had spoken to Moses for Israel He was now taught at His mother's
knee. As He advanced from childhood to youth, He did not seek the schools of the rabbis.
He needed not the education to be obtained from such sources; for God was His instructor.
The question asked during the
Saviour's ministry, "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?" does
not indicate that Jesus was unable to read, but merely that He had not received a
rabbinical education. John 7:15. Since He gained knowledge as we may do, His intimate
acquaintance with the Scriptures shows how diligently His early years were given to the
study of God's word. And spread out before Him was the great library of God's created
works. He who had made all things studied the lessons which His own hand had written in
earth and sea and sky. Apart from the unholy ways of the world, He gathered stores of
scientific knowledge from nature. He studied the life of plants and animals, and the life
of man. From His earliest years He was possessed of one purpose; He lived to bless others.
For this He found resources in nature; new ideas of ways and means flashed into His mind
as He studied plant life and animal life. Continually He was seeking to draw from things
seen illustrations by which to present the living oracles of God. The parables by which,
during His ministry, He loved to teach His lessons of truth show how open His spirit was
to the influences of nature, and how He had gathered the spiritual teaching from the
surroundings of His daily life.
Thus to Jesus the
significance of the word and the works of God was unfolded, as He was trying to understand
the reason of things. Heavenly beings were His attendants, and the culture of holy
thoughts and communings was His. From the first dawning of intelligence He was constantly
growing in spiritual grace and knowledge of truth.
Every child may gain
knowledge as Jesus did. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through
His word, angels will draw near, our minds will be strengthened, our characters will be
elevated and refined. We shall become more like our Saviour. And as we behold the
beautiful and grand in nature, our affections go out after God. While the spirit is awed,
the soul is invigorated by coming in contact with the Infinite through His works.
Communion with God through
prayer develops the mental and moral faculties, and the
spiritual powers strengthen as we cultivate thoughts upon spiritual things.
The life of Jesus was a life
in harmony with God. While He was a child, He thought and spoke as a child; but no trace
of sin marred the image of God within Him. Yet He was not exempt from temptation. The
inhabitants of Nazareth were proverbial for their wickedness. The low estimate in which
they were generally held is shown by Nathanael's question, "Can there any good thing
come out of Nazareth?" John 1:46. Jesus was placed where His character would be
tested. It was necessary for Him to be constantly on guard in order to preserve His
purity. He was subject to all the conflicts which we have to meet, that He might be an
example to us in childhood, youth, and manhood.
Satan was unwearied in his
efforts to overcome the Child of Nazareth. From His earliest years Jesus was guarded by
heavenly angels, yet His life was one long struggle against the powers of darkness. That
there should be upon the earth one life free from the defilement of evil was an offense
and a perplexity to the prince of darkness. He left no means untried to ensnare Jesus. No
child of humanity will ever be called to live a holy life amid so fierce a conflict with
temptation as was our Saviour.
The parents of Jesus were
poor, and dependent upon their daily toil. He was familiar with poverty, self-denial, and
privation. This experience was a safeguard to Him. In His industrious life there were no
idle moments to invite temptation. No aimless hours opened the way for corrupting
associations. So far as possible, He closed the door to the tempter. Neither gain nor
pleasure, applause nor censure, could induce Him to consent to a wrong act. He was wise to
discern evil, and strong to resist it.
Christ was the only sinless
one who ever dwelt on earth; yet for nearly thirty years He lived among the wicked
inhabitants of Nazareth. This fact is a rebuke to those who think themselves dependent
upon place, fortune, or prosperity, in order to live a blameless life. Temptation,
poverty, adversity, is the very discipline needed to develop purity and firmness.
Jesus lived in a peasant's
home, and faithfully and cheerfully acted His part in bearing the burdens of the
household. He had been the Commander of heaven, and angels had delighted to fulfill His
word; now He was a willing servant, a loving, obedient son. He learned a trade, and with
His own hands worked in the carpenter's shop with Joseph. In the simple garb of a common
laborer He walked the streets of the little town, going to and returning from His humble
work. He did not employ His divine power to lessen His burdens or to lighten His toil.
As Jesus worked in childhood
and youth, mind and body were developed. He did not use His physical powers recklessly,
but in such a way as to keep them in health, that He might do the best work in every line.
He was not willing to be defective, even in the handling of tools. He was perfect as a
workman, as He was perfect in character. By His own example He taught that it is our duty
to be industrious, that our work should be performed with exactness and thoroughness, and
that such labor is honorable. The exercise that teaches the hands to be useful and trains
the young to bear their share of life's burdens gives physical strength, and develops
every faculty. All should find something to do that will be beneficial to themselves and
helpful to others. God appointed work as a blessing, and only the diligent worker finds
the true glory and joy of life. The approval of God rests with loving assurance upon
children and youth who cheerfully take their part in the duties of the household, sharing
the burdens of father and mother. Such children will go out from the home to be useful
members of society.
Throughout His life on earth,
Jesus was an earnest and constant worker. He expected much; therefore He attempted much.
After He had entered on His ministry, He said, "I must work the works of Him that
sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." John 9:4. Jesus
did not shirk care and responsibility, as do many who profess to be His followers. It is
because they seek to evade this discipline that so many are weak and inefficient. They may
possess precious and amiable traits, but they are nerveless and almost useless when
difficulties are to be met or obstacles surmounted. The positiveness and energy, the
solidity and strength of character, manifested in Christ are to be developed in us,
through the same discipline that He endured. And the grace that He received is for us.
So long as He lived among
men, our Saviour shared the lot of the poor. He knew by experience their cares and
hardships, and He could comfort and encourage all humble workers. Those who have a true
conception of the teaching of His life will never feel that a distinction must be made
between classes, that the rich are to be honored above the worthy poor.
Jesus carried into His labor
cheerfulness and tact. It requires much patience and spirituality to bring Bible religion
into the home life and into the workshop, to bear the strain of worldly business, and yet
keep the eye single to the glory of God. This is where Christ was a helper. He was never
so full of worldly care as to have no time or thought for heavenly things. Often He
expressed the gladness of His heart by singing psalms and heavenly songs. Often the
dwellers in Nazareth heard His voice raised in praise and thanksgiving to God. He held
communion with heaven in song; and as His companions complained of weariness from labor,
they were cheered by the sweet melody from His lips. His praise seemed to banish the evil
angels, and, like incense, fill the place with fragrance. The minds of His hearers were
carried away from their earthly exile, to the heavenly home.
Jesus was the fountain of
healing mercy for the world; and through all those secluded years at Nazareth, His life
flowed out in currents of sympathy and tenderness. The aged, the sorrowing, and the
sin-burdened, the children at play in their innocent joy, the little creatures of the
groves, the patient beasts of burden,--all were happier for His presence. He whose word of
power upheld the worlds would stoop to relieve a wounded bird. There was nothing beneath
His notice, nothing to which He disdained to minister.
Thus as He grew in wisdom and
stature, Jesus increased in favor with God and man. He drew the sympathy of all hearts by
showing Himself capable of sympathizing with all. The atmosphere of hope and courage that
surrounded Him made Him a blessing in every home. And often in the synagogue on the
Sabbath day He was called upon to read the lesson from the prophets, and the hearts of the
hearers thrilled as a new light shone out from the familiar words of the sacred text.
Yet Jesus shunned display.
During all the years of His stay in Nazareth, He made no exhibition of His miraculous
power. He sought no high position and assumed no titles. His quiet and simple life, and
even the silence of the Scriptures concerning His early years, teach an important lesson.
The more quiet and simple the life of the child,--the more free from artificial
excitement, and the more in harmony with nature,--the more favorable is it to physical and
mental vigor and to spiritual strength.
Jesus is our example. There
are many who dwell with interest upon the period of His public ministry, while they pass
unnoticed the teaching of His early years. But it is in His home life that He is the
pattern for all children and youth. The Saviour condescended to poverty, that He might
teach how closely we in a humble lot may walk with God. He lived to please, honor, and
glorify His Father in the common things of life. His work began in consecrating the lowly
trade of the craftsmen who toil for their daily bread. He was doing God's service just as
much when laboring at the carpenter's bench as when working miracles for the multitude.
And every youth who follows Christ's example of faithfulness and obedience in His lowly
home may claim those words spoken of Him by the Father through the Holy Spirit,
"Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; Mine Elect, in whom My soul delighteth." Isa.