What was Jesus like when He was a boy?

The Bible is silent about Jesus from the age of about 2 through 30. For 28 years, we have only one glimpse what He did and what happened to Him. In spite of some traditions, He did not perform any miracles as a boy because the turning of water into wine was the beginning of His miracles (John 2:11). But one event, His family visit to Jerusalem for Passover, was given to us to provide several lessons.

It was busy. Estimates are that over 200,000 Jews visited Jerusalem during Passover. However, on their way back to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus was still in Jerusalem and went back to get Him.

And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. (Luke 2:46-51).

A doctrinal lesson from this story…  

Jesus is God’s Son

Jesus grew up like any other boy, but He was not like any other boy. He was God’s Son. When Mary and Joseph finally found Him, her question came out of desperation. Speaking for the couple, she asked a question that mildly suggested insensitivity and even selfishness on the part of Jesus. She asked, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” Thus, referring to Joseph as the father of Jesus. Joseph had adopted Jesus and was the legal father of Jesus. But His answer revealed His keen spiritual insight, “How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?

Even at a young age, Jesus knew who was His Father. Even at a young age, He was moved by a divine compulsion to be with His Father and to do His Father’s will.

To catch the idea of how radical this was, you need to understand that up to this point, in the whole Old Testament God is only referred to as “Father” 14 times, and rather impersonally. In those references “Father” is used in reference to the nation, not to individuals. God was referred to as Abraham’s ‘father’, but Abraham did not speak of God as his father. But beginning here and throughout His lifetime, Jesus addressed God as His Father and never used any other term. In all His prayers He addressed God as “Father.” The Gospels record His using “father” more than 60 times in reference to God. Jesus gently takes the name father from Joseph and gives it to God.

At twelve years old, He’s dealing with His “Father’s business,” and the last words He spoke before He died dealing with His “Father’s business” (Luke 23:46).

A family lesson from this story…

Obedience is a child’s most important task.

What is striking is though He recognized Who He was (the Son of God), He became “subject” to Mary and Joseph. He accepted their authority over Him and chose to learn from them. Jesus had every right to not subject Himself to them, but He chose to accept them as His authority. Hebrews 5:7 tells us that, “though He were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” Even Jesus learned obedience. If the perfect Son of God had to obey His parents, shouldn’t that be one of the most important lessons a parent can teach their children?

One of the hardest jobs of a twelve years old is to obey the adults who run the home. These adults, called parents, always think they know best and set up rules that can very tough for a 12 year old to keep. But when the temptation strikes a twelve year old to rebel against the rules, remember Jesus. Even though he knew his real Father, He did not reject his earthly parents. He went back to Nazareth with them and lived under their authority for another 18 years.

Learning obedience in the home is not only difficult for a child, it is hard for parents to enforce. I’ve always said, being a parent is the hardest job I’ve ever had. God has given parents an awesome responsibility. We are the primary influencers of our children.

Children in the home are not easy. Sickness, sports, and school challenge parents to be doctors, coaches, and teachers. Parents are teach children to walk, tie their shoes, and drive a car. Parents often second-guess decisions about discipline, privileges, and relationships. I have done a lot of things in my life. But being a parent has been the hardest and yet the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

Parenting is not something we get a do-over. If we don’t do it right the first time, we don’t get a second chance. So let’s do it right the first time.

Of all qualities we could instill in our children, obedience is the greatest. Pastor Tom Fuller once said, “Let thy children’s first lesson be obedience and the second may be what thou wilt.” Billy Graham recognized that “a child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone.” 

I encourage parents to be strong in teaching children obedience. Perhaps this is the most difficult task of being a parent. I’ve learned a few strategies:

  • Have less rules. James Dobson (Focus on the Family) encourages to have fewer rules but make sure you enforce them. When rules are arbitrarily enforced, it defeats the purpose of having rules. 
  • Be an example. Your children will pattern their obedience after your obedience. If you can’t keep rules, neither will they. If you excuse your behavior, your children will find excuses. Show them how to obey the rules even when you don’t like them.
  • Notice patterns. I discovered with my own children that some days are worse than others. If you have a child that seems to misbehave more than usual, try to discover what is the trigger. Maybe it’s on a certain day, or after a certain event/activity, or when they are around certain people. These may give you a clue to what prompts the disobedience.
  • Celebrate the good. Don’t just spend time on negative actions. Celebrate when your children behave correctly. Negative attention is still attention and children love attention from their parents. If they don’t receive it for being good, they may need to restore to bad behavior just to get your attention. Celebrate the small wins.

I hope this helps. The best thing you can do is talk to your Heavenly Father. He’s a Perfect Father and He has wayward children. He understands the difficulties of being a parent.