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The family-social-secular-religious world of Jesus of Nazareth:
from twelve to thirty years of age.
This series of four lessons was prepared for a class of students
twelve to eighteen years old.
On the road with the young Jesus of Nazareth! Well, let us say the young man on the right represents the young Jesus when he was about twelve to fourteen yeas of age. Luke records that Joseph, Mary and the family went “every year” to Jerusalem for the Passover. “…every year” they would go and return, either by way of the Jordan River and Jericho or through the province of Samaria. Let us make a trip with them to see what the young Jesus saw, and experience what he did, so that we may more fully identify with him.
Moral and spiritual lessons. Plus some history, culture, geography and archaeology. To broaden the mind, sharpen perceptions and strengthen the spirit.
Images, with Notes for the Teacher
A. The subject of this series of lessons: The family-social-secular-religious world of Jesus Christ of Nazareth: from twelve to thirty years of age.
B. Purpose: That each young person in the class may know Jesus Christ as he was as a youth, seeing him in his physical-social-religious surroundings, visualizing him and identifying himself with the young Jesus to the highest degree possible.
1. That each one may see him as a friend, walking with him on his trips, visiting him in his home in Nazareth and sharing with him in his activities.
2. The student twelve years old is encouraged to visualize Jesus Christ as being twelve years old. A fourteen year old is to view him as being fourteen; a seventeen year old, as being seventeen. Each one is to do the same according to his own age.
C. Taking a look at the images.
1. Three images present distinct aspects of the life of the young Jesus Christ.
a) Left. Studying the law of Moses in the synagogue at Nazareth.
-Notes. Questions in these “Notes” are examples of the kind that can be made. Assuming the teacher may know the answers to questions or will find them through his own study, answers are not given in these “Notes” to all questions. At his discretion, the teacher asks questions or gives explanations about the image. What kind of writing is open on the table? A scroll. What is a scroll? Ask the students to compare this type of writing with printed or digital matter they use in their secular schools. The student represents the young Jesus Christ. What language would he be reading? Hebrew. How was Hebrew written on the page and read? Left to right? Right to left? Up or down? What about vowels? Describe the student’s clothing and that of his teacher, comparing it with present day styles.
-The teacher may proceed thus with each image, but may wish to keep in mind that farther on in these classes some activities of the young Jesus Christ and aspects of his life may be treated with much greater detail and emphasis. With all, it is important that students learn from the beginning to look intently at the images, discerning details, in order to conceptualize with greater accuracy the young Jesus in his life settings.
b) Center. The young Jesus in his stepfather’s shop. How many years old does he appear to be in this artistic representation? What is he doing? What tool is he using? What is his stepfather’s name? Why is he identified as “stepfather?”
-Notes. Before teaching any class, the teacher himself has the responsibility of analyzing carefully every image, drawing, photograph, etcetera, as well as all texts included in each slide, with the purpose of being completely familiar with the subject matter, fully prepared to respond correctly and intelligently to any question students might ask. He should not limit himself necessarily to the information provided by the slides or in these “Notes,” but rather seek more information in relevant sources, either printed or on the Internet.
c) Right. A young Israelite girl. What is she doing? What is the reason for selecting and using this image of a young lady in the context of these studies? Because the young Jesus Christ also knew young people of the opposite sex. This aspect of his social life is emphasized once and again in this series with the idea of helping students understand that the young Jesus did not live isolated from society, from all contact from girls or young women of his age, a reality young people of the class need to perceive and appreciate so that they may relate more fully to him.
2. In the image at the bottom of the slide Jesus is a young adult, walking along in the company of several other young men and women more or less of the same age. Jesus of Nazareth grew in “statue,” becoming a young adult. This photograph captures a scene from the movie “The Last Temptation of Jesus.” It is used here in the context of a company of Israelites returning to Nazareth after being in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.
A. The young Jesus traveled every year from Nazareth to Jerusalem to celebrate the solemn feasts of the Israelites. “Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover” (Luke 2:41). Why every year? It is to be supposed the teacher will know why, or learn why by consulting the teachings of the Old Testament.
B. Have students identify different elements of the image. The teacher will point to those they do not mention.
1. Two youth give offerings for the temple to a priest of the tribe of Levi.
a) What are the offerings?
b) Which of the two youth represents Jesus?
c) And who is the other one? Perhaps John, later to be known as John the Baptist. What is the kinship of John to Jesus? In this scene, Jesus is twelve years old. How old would John be, basing the answer on biblical data?
d) Take note of how both are dressed, as well as the priest.
2. What other offerings are seen in the painting? A sheep, fruit…
3. How many people can be seen in the painting? Note the street full of people behind the priest. According to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and other sources, every year up to three million people celebrated the Passover in Jerusalem.
4. Comment on the structures somewhat visible in the painting. Identify the temple of Jerusalem.
-Note. The temple is not the enormous wall with towers, this wall being the one built around the Temple Mount. Behind the wall, jutting just above it, can be seen only the highest part of the temple itself.
A. When he was twelve years old, Jesus of Nazareth again went to Jerusalem, with his family and a company of people from Galilee, together with hundreds and hundreds thousands of Israelites and proselytes from throughout the Roman Empire, to celebrate Passover.
B. After the Passover, his parents leave for Nazareth, thinking that Jesus was walking along among the company of pilgrims, but he had stayed behind in Jerusalem. After walking for a full day, they looked for Jesus, and not finding him, walked back to Jerusalem, where they looked for him for three days. At last, they found him in the courts of the temple, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” These doctors of the law where amazed at his intelligence and his answers (Luke 2:41-52). The young Jesus, exceptionally intelligent in spiritual matters because of his dedicated study of God’s law given to Israel on Mount Sinai. Application. The young Christian of today can also acquire much spiritual intelligence (Colossians 1:9) if he will also dedicate himself to the study of biblical teachings, pray and ask God for wisdom.
C. Ask the students to describe the physical features of the young Jesus, as also his clothing, as seen in this painting. Does the artist correctly portray him? Of what social-economic rank was Jesus? What does an Old Testament prophecy say about the physical appearance of the one who would come as the Messiah? Isaiah 53:2. What were the features and other physical traits of the typical Israelite male?
-Notes. It is to be supposed the teacher can accurately respond to these questions, helping his students understand that the youth in the painting does not properly represent the young Jesus. His features are more European, his skin is white, his hair is long and his garments are costly. Thus, he truly does not reflect the traits of a young Israelite or the conditions of the poor in the first century.
-The main purpose of this slide is to fix in the mind of each and every participant on one of the time parameters for these classes, precisely, that of being twelve years old. We project examining in a future lesson what took place in the temple between the twelve year old Jesus and the doctors of the law. The teacher may wish to communicate to his students these orientations.
A. This image sets the other time parameter for this series, to wit, that Jesus of Nazareth was thirty years old when he was baptized by John the Baptist.
B. Who is who in the image?
C. Again, we take notice of the garments typical of the culture and time.
D. Where was Jesus baptized?
E. How was Jesus baptized?
F. Why had he not been baptized earlier in life? For example, when he was twelve years old, or twenty. Because John the Baptist did not begin his ministry until he was more or less thirty years old. Baptism was not a commandment of the Old Testament.
-Note. The teacher, at his discretion, may ask, or not ask, these questions. If there are young people in the class who have not been baptized, or those who were not baptized according to Bible teachings, he might consider this an opportune moment to provide basic instruction on the baptism that Jesus received.
A. In the New Testament, very little is written about Jesus Christ from the time he was twelve years of age to his baptism when he was thirty years old. Some call this period of his life “the lost years of Jesus.” Luke, the beloved physician and companion of the apostle Paul during some of his evangelistic travels, is the one who records the following: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Though these words are few, they actually throw much light on those eighteen years! Adding to them the fact that Joseph, Mary and their family went “every year” to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover, plus studying Nazareth and its environs, we may learn and deduce more about those eighteen years than at first might seem possible
B. Eighteen years growing in four vital aspects! From twelve to thirty years old, growing in…
3. “Favor with God.”
4. “Favor with… man.”
C. Beloved young people, may you grow in the same way, from the age you now have to when you are eighteen years old, and may these classes contribute much to your growth in wisdom, favor with God and favor with man!
1. Here, the teacher will take time to emphasize these areas of continuous growth.
2. Define, with the participation of students, these four key areas of growth.
3. Needless to say, this type of interaction is useful in forging a relationship of friendship and trust between teachers and students. For example, the able teacher calls on two or three of the students, asking each how tall he is, the tallest, the shortest, how tall was the young Jesus, etcetera. Good humor, used astutely, does contribute, of course, to positive attitudes, and these open the way to better participation and learning.
4. In the context of these classes, six years, then, to continue growing in wisdom, statue, favor with God and favor with people!
a) Who is twelve years old? We want you to continue in these classes for six more years! We are projecting for you a lot of different subjects, with little or no repetition.
b) How many are fifteen years old? Well then, three more years in these classes! What do you say?
[Prepared and taught originally in Spanish for the Bayamón, Puerto Rico church of Christ, this series was programmed as the first subject in a six-year curriculum.]
A. There were two principal routes between Jerusalem and Nazareth. The one via Jericho and roads up the valley of the Jordan River, and the one through the province of Samaria. Since the territory and people of Samaria were “unclean” for many Jews, perhaps not a few would opt for the route that would take them to the east of that province. We take, then, the one that goes by way of Jericho. Traveling with Jesus of Nazareth, his family and the rest of the company of pilgrims. Again, students are asked to identify themselves with Jesus according to the age of each one. Thus, to the twelve year old, Jesus is twelve, and to the sixteen year old, he is sixteen. What will we see? Who will we see? How long does the trip take? How will we travel?
B. The distance from Jerusalem to Nazareth via Jericho: approximately 150 kilometers (90 miles). Use a laser pointer, the mouse pointer or some other pointer to indicate the three places on the map. Compare that distance with some similar distance between places known to the students.
C. Method of transportation: feet and legs! As in the example of the couple in the photograph at the upper left. In those times, healthy Israelites did not ride burros. But, nevertheless, there goes so-and-so (name one of the young men) riding a donkey! Families like that of Joseph and Mary probably did not possess even one camel.
-Back then, at the beginning of the first century, in those lands of Israel and Samaria, were cars, buses, trains or airplanes available? When did these means of transportation become available to the general public?
D. The time this trip takes: four or five days. We are walking, not riding, with a sizable group of people, including women and children, and we are carrying necessary items for this trip –water, some food, some clothes and perhaps small tents in which to spend the nights we will be on the road.
A. We begin the trip in Jerusalem, going out through the east gate and taking the road to Jericho. Looking back once in awhile, how can we but think: What a city! Rather large, within its great walls, with a number of gates providing access from different points.
B. What a temple! In this panoramic view, the temple itself can hardly be seen. In the painting, toward the upper left, the smoke rising would be from the great altar of burnt sacrifices in front the temple itself. Spacious plazas around the temple were large enough to hold hundreds of thousands of people. To the right of the temple, we can see the enormous fortress called Antonia, with its three great towers. A detachment of Roman soldiers always occupied this fortress, living there and watchful for any signs of unrest, of which there were not a few during the times of Jesus. Underground walkways provided direct access from the fortress to the temple courts.
C. The east gate of the city can be seen more or less in the center of the wall, and on the outside of the wall, on both sides of the road to Jericho, merchants have set up their wares and supplies. There we are, walking along that road!
A. How do you visualize the Jerusalem of the time of Jesus of Nazareth? It was, by no means, a small city or town with only dirt or gavel streets but a rather large, cosmopolitan city with many paved streets, many buildings and houses made of stone, synagogues, markets, a roman coliseum-theater, the very large Antonia fortress, the elegant Palace of King Herod the Great, and above all, the imposing and very beautiful temple constructed by Herod the Great, with several spacious plazas or courts and wide, long porches, up to three stories high, lines of tall columns highlighting their fine architecture.
B. Actually, in modern Jerusalem there is a large, scale model that shows how the city looked in the time of Jesus Christ. In the photograph, we see a section of that model. The half-circle building is the Roman coliseum-theater, with stores behind it. In front and around it, houses and businesses. Front and center, a large plaza with colonnaded porches on three sides. The wall and its towers encircled and protected the sumptuous Palace of King Herod the Great, of which only a small part can be seen. This picture and data are to help us get some clearer idea of what that city was really like. The young Jesus walked those streets, seeing all those marvelous buildings and the large numbers of people who walked about those places, particularly during the solemn feasts of Israel. He was not, then, a young man unfamiliar with such scenes, mostly isolated from contact with city life. Every year, he spent a number of days in that great city!
A. What a temple! In height, the equivalent of a fifteen story building. Perhaps the tallest building in the whole Roman Empire at the beginning of the first century. Faced with white marble. One of the marvels of the world of that time. Many thousands of construction workers, stonemasons and other artisans worked for decades on that temple, its courts, porches and other buildings of the temple complex. As a matter of fact, thousands were still occupied in those tasks when Jesus went up to Jerusalem every year. Some of the foundation stones for the Temple Mount complex, almost perfectly squared and planed, weighed as much as eighty tons! And not just two or three, but many placed in rows, with row stacked on row. They can be seen there to this day.
B. The priests that sang and played trumpets for different acts of worship ordained for the temple stood on the half-circle steps in front of the gate before the brass doors which gave access to the Holy Place of the temple.
C. The three tall towers to the left and back of the temple are those of the Antonia fortress.
A. Leaving Jerusalem and beginning our walk on the Jericho road, we pass near the Mount of Olives, to the right is this photograph.
B. From Jerusalem to Jericho: 24 kilometers (15 miles).
C. The trip takes us a whole day. We are walking, not riding in a car or bus.
D. During the first part of the trip, there are some trees, cultivated fields and pastures. In Jerusalem and this area, rainfall is approximately 50 centimeters (20 inches) yearly. On rare occasions, some snow falls in Jerusalem.
A. Continuing along the road to Jericho, we begin to descend rapidly. While Jerusalem is about 855 meters (2,600 feet) above sea level, Jericho is 270 meters (825 feet) below sea level! A total difference in altitude of 1,125 meters (3,425 feet) over a distance of just 24 kilometers (15 miles).
B. Going down, down, we enter an area of pure desert where annual rainfall is only 20 centimeters (8 inches). There are no trees here; maybe just a few desert type plants once in awhile.
C. There goes so-and-so on his little donkey (name one of the young fellows in the class), with arid hills and gullies on each side, on his way to Jericho. The young Jesus would perhaps come along this way on one or another trip to or from Jerusalem.
A. This photograph of two travelers on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was taken in 1932. Thieves could easily hide in waiting in the deep gullies along the road.
B. In which one of his parables does Jesus Christ refer specifically to this road? In the one about the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
A. Another view that helps us to appreciate the desert terrain through which the road from Jerusalem to Jericho passes.
C. The small picture in the upper, right hand corner is set just above where Jericho and the Dead Sea would be in the larger picture. The arrow on the left points to Jericho, an oasis just a little northwest of the Dead Sea and near the Jordan River. The arrow on the right points to the northern part of the Dead Sea. The Jordan River empties into this Sea.
-Notes. At his discretion, the teacher may comment on these scenes. How difficult, tiring and dangerous it would be to walk such a road. Visualize the young Jesus walking the road with his parents, brothers and sisters. The farther you go below sea level, the hotter it gets.
-It would be good to emphasize that during all those trips, Jesus continued to grow in wisdom, in statue until he was physically grown, in favor with God and in favor not only with his family but with all the people about him on those trips. He saw many different places, from deserts to the great metropolis of Jerusalem. He saw many people of different social-economic levels. People from all walks of life. Through it all, he maintained an upright conduct, a good reputation. People liked him, seeing much good in him. That is what is meant, in part, by his growing in favor with man. No doubt, he was respectful, open, honest, trustworthy, responsible, a good worker. Can that be said of you, young friends? And he did it as a young human being, and natural person, like you are, and not as a “young god.” He did not have recourse to supernatural powers when he confronted trails and temptations. He did not walk the roads, day after day, carrying some load, without ever sweating or becoming tired, covered with dust, thirsty and hungry; stumbling on rocks, bruising a toe, or worse. The challenge for the young person of today is to imitate his excellent example. Are you willing to do it? To be a young person like the young Jesus?
A. After spending a night in Jericho or near there, the next day we strike out on the road that runs along more or less parallel to the Jordan River.
B. Coming close to the territory of the Samaritans, we cross the Jordan, which, not being very wide or deep in many places, is easily forded. Then, we continue north on the eastern side of the river.
C. About three, maybe four days, into the trip, we cross the Jordan River again at a point where we can enter the lands of Galilee.
D. We continue along this road in Galilee, south of the Sea of Galilee, until we come to a point where it divides. The eastern branch takes one on to Tiberius, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, and from there to Capernaum, a city where Jesus Christ would do many works during his ministry. The western branch leads to Nazareth, and that is the one we take. Not very far from where we crossed the Jordan into Galilee is a large, modern Roman city called Scythopolis; in Hebrew, Beit She’an. Perhaps we shall visit that city one of these days.
A. Having walked four or five days, at last we arrive at the village of Nazareth! How do your feet and legs feel? In what state are your clothes? When is the last time you had a good bath? What was the most common thing you talked about while on the roads? What was the most important thing you talked about? Do you look forward to repeating this experience again next year, and the next, and the next?
B. Here, in Nazareth, we find some forty to fifty houses, most very small. There are about 450 inhabitants, many of them poor indeed.
C. So this is where our young friend Jesus grew up? In this little village, in Galilee. And here it is he continued to grow in wisdom, in statue, in favor with God and in favor with his neighbors, and well as with others he might meet beyond the limits of his little Nazareth. Soon, we will take a closer look at this village.
All English site by Homer Dewayne Shappley
Spirit of Prophecies
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