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Why So Little on Jesus’ Childhood?

Q. When one searches for information in Scripture on Jesus’ childhood, why do we find so little? One would think that more of Jesus’ example as a youth would be a spiritual help to children and teens.

A. Your question is legitimate. Virtually the only incident in Jesus’ childhood mentioned in Scripture is His visit to the temple in Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph, at which time He stunned the teachers with his knowledge of doctrine (Luke 2:40-52). Other than that, there really isn’t anything else concerning the Lad.

First, we must acknowledge God’s sovereignty in superintending the writing and collection of His Word. If there should have been more on Jesus’ boyhood, He would have included it. We can rest assured in that fact. The very last verse in the Gospels, John 21:25, says, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” This verse might apply to Jesus’ childhood and youth as well as His adulthood. But God didn’t include more incidents of His boyhood.

Second, we need to remember the basic theme and purpose of the Scriptures: redemption in Jesus Christ. This theme runs unbrokenly from Genesis through Revelation. The Word is not merely to entertain or to satisfy our curiosity, but to point people to Christ. John 5:24 states so succinctly Jesus’ message: “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” To add a lot of side incidents would, no doubt, detract from the main and all-important message of Who Jesus is, what He did, and what He will do in the future. Isn’t it interesting that even the one incident in Jesus’ youth has to do with His focus on the Scriptures and the fact that Christ was to “be about [His] Father’s business” (Luke 2:49)?

Pseudo writings of the Scriptures bear out this matter of keeping a true focus on Jesus’ underlying purpose. The Apocrypha and other writings present some supposed happenings from Jesus’ youth. One story is that dragons came upon Him, Mary, and Joseph as they were fleeing Bethlehem for Egypt. The little Jesus stood firm, glaring at the creatures as He spoke to them. The dragons then bowed to Jesus and became tame. Another tale has the boy Jesus creating birds out of clay and animating them, and also killing a boy for bumping into Him in the market. There are other “miracles” stories too.

The question about such stories, besides doubtful believability, is, How do these stories enhance the truth of Jesus’ mission? He did perform miracles, but these occurred when He carried out His public ministry in order to show His compassion and to authenticate that He was the Son of God. (Incidentally, adding to the confusion, some religions claim that the child Jesus even learned about various un-Christian practices while He and his family were staying in Egypt.)

The childhood and youth of Jesus are not unimportant, however, because while we are not told the details, Luke 2 does say twice that Jesus grew and increased: “The Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (v. 40) and “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (v. 52). These statements in themselves point us to the Scriptures, which we need to utilize in raising our own children. Our children don’t need outlandish stories of Jesus; they need Bible doctrine, and it’s our privilege and responsibility to use the whole counsel of God in their lives.

This article appeared in the “Q & A” column of the Baptist Bulletin by Norman A. Olson. 

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