Friday, May 9, 2014

Salient Details of Jesus' First Journey to Jerusalem from Nazareth As a Boy of Twelve Years!

One of the greatest memorable events in the childhood of Jesus was his journey from his Nazareth village to Jerusalem together with his parents, Joseph and Mary. He had just completed his school education in the Synagogue school at Nazareth. He was 12 years and eight months when he traveled to Jerusalem for celebrating the Passover festival of the Jewish people.

Map of the Land of the Jewish Peoples 
during the times of Jesus. Courtsey CCEL.Org (Click to enlarge)


The Passover feast of this year fell on Saturday, April 9, A.D. 7. A considerable company of 103 people made ready to depart from Nazareth early Monday morning, April 4, for Jerusalem. 

They journeyed south toward Samaria, but on reaching Jezreel, they turned east, going around Mount Gilboa into the Jordan valley in order to avoid passing through Samaria. Joseph and his family would have enjoyed going down through Samaria by way of Jacob’s Well and Bethel, but since the Jews disliked to deal with the Samaritans, they decided to go with their neighbors by way of the Jordan valley.

The much-dreaded Archelaus (the king of Jews who wanted to destroy babe Jesus) had been deposed, and Jesus' parents now had little to fear in taking Jesus to Jerusalem. Twelve years had passed since the first Herod had sought to destroy the babe of Bethlehem, and no one would now think of associating that affair with this much unknown boy of Nazareth.

Before reaching the Jezreel junction, and as they journeyed on, very soon, on the left, they passed the ancient village of Shunem, and Jesus heard again (from his fellow travelers) about the most beautiful maiden of all Israel who once lived there and also about the wonderful works Elisha performed there. In passing by Jezreel, Jesus’ parents recounted the doings of Ahab and Jezebel and the exploits of Jehu. In passing around Mount Gilboa, they talked much about Saul, who took his life on the slopes of this mountain, King David, and the associations of this historic spot. It was an opportunity for young Jesus to learn much about the past history of his peoples while they walked through those places.

On their second day’s journey they passed by where the Jabbok, from the east, flows into the Jordan, and looking east up this river valley, they recounted the days of Gideon, when the Midianites poured into this region to overrun the land. Toward the end of the second day’s journey they camped near the base of the highest mountain overlooking the Jordan valley, Mount Sartaba, whose summit was occupied by the Alexandrian fortress where Herod had imprisoned one of his wives and buried his two strangled sons.

The third day they passed by two villages which had been recently built by Herod and noted their superior architecture and their beautiful palm gardens. By nightfall they reached Jericho, where they remained until the next morning. That evening Joseph, Mary, and Jesus walked a mile and a half to the site of the ancient Jericho, where Joshua, for whom Jesus was named, had performed his renowned exploits, according to Jewish tradition.

By the fourth and last day’s journey the road was a continuous procession of pilgrims. They now began to climb the hills leading up to Jerusalem. As they neared the top, they could look across the Jordan to the mountains beyond and south over the sluggish waters of the Dead Sea. About halfway up to Jerusalem, Jesus gained his first view of the Mount of Olives (the region to be so much a part of his subsequent life), and Joseph pointed out to him that the Holy City lay just beyond this ridge, and the lad’s heart beat fast with joyous anticipation.

On the eastern slopes of Olivet they paused for rest in the borders of a little village called Bethany. The hospitable villagers poured forth to minister to the pilgrims, and it happened that Joseph and his family had stopped near the house of one Simon, who had three children about the same age as Jesus— Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. They invited the Nazareth family in for refreshment, and a lifelong friendship sprang up between the two families. Many times afterward, in his eventful life, Jesus stopped in this home.

They moved on, soon standing on the brink of Olivet, and Jesus saw for the first time (in his memory) the Holy City, the pretentious palaces, and the inspiring temple of his heavenly Father (God). At no time in his life did Jesus ever experience such a purely human thrill as that which at this time so completely enthralled him as he stood there on this April afternoon on the Mount of Olives, enjoying in his first view of Jerusalem. And in the later years, on this same spot he stood and wept over the city which was about to reject another prophet, the last and the greatest of her heavenly teachers!

Soon Jesus' family reached Jerusalem and they moved in to a house of one of the relatives of Mary.

While all Jerusalem was astir in preparation for the Passover, Joseph found time to take his son around to visit the academy where it had been arranged for him to resume his education two years later, as soon as he reached the required age of fifteen. Joseph was truly puzzled when he observed how little interest Jesus evinced in all these carefully laid plans.

Jesus was profoundly impressed by the temple and all the associated services and other activities. For the first time since he was four years old, he was too much preoccupied with his own meditations to ask many questions. 

He did, however, ask his father several embarrassing questions (as he had on previous occasions) as to why the heavenly Father required the slaughter of so many innocent and helpless animals

And his earthly father well knew from the expression on the lad’s face that his answers and attempts at explanation were unsatisfactory to his deep-thinking and keen-reasoning son.

On the day before the Passover Sabbath, flood tides of spiritual illumination swept through the mortal mind of Jesus and filled his human heart to overflowing with affectionate pity for the spiritually blind and morally ignorant multitudes assembled for the celebration of the ancient Passover commemoration. 

This was one of the most extraordinary days that the Son of God spent in the flesh of an ordinary human being; and during the night, for the first time in his earth career, there appeared to him an assigned messenger from his heavenly headquarters who reminded him: 

The hour has come. It is time that you began to be about your Heavenly Father’s business.”

And so, even before the heavy responsibilities of the Nazareth family descended upon his youthful shoulders, there now arrived the celestial messenger to remind this lad, not quite thirteen years of age, that the hour had come to begin the resumption of the responsibilities of a universe. 

He was the Divine Creator of a large material universe which consisted of millions of planetary worlds similar or much advanced than earth. And the creator was experiencing the lowly human life as part of his own decision in accordance with the mandate of his heavenly Father. Once he experienced that life he was going to be elevated to the position of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe that he had created and would be nurturing henceforth.

And what happened in Jerusalem on that day was the first act of a long succession of events which finally culminated in the completion of the Son of God's bestowal on earth and in a way replacing of “the (care-taker) government of a universe on his human-divine shoulders.”

From now on, the most powerful divine care taker government of his universe would wait for their Creator's  approvals proceed from the human-divine personality who moved on earth as a seemingly ordinary human boy who hardly displayed any of his divine powers to his fellow human beings!

As time passed, the mystery of the incarnation became, to all of us (celestial beings), more and more unfathomable. 

We could hardly comprehend that this lad of Nazareth was the creator of a vast universe occupied by trillions of intelligent life of various orders and types both mortals and immortals. 

Neither do we nowadays understand how the spirit of this same Creator Son and the spirit of his Divine Heavenly Father are associated with the souls of mankind. 

With the passing of time, we could see that his human mind was increasingly discerning that, while he lived his life in the flesh, in spirit on his shoulders rested the responsibility of a universe.

From this time on, Jesus became increasingly self conscious of his dual nature - his divine-human nature. 

From now on, he had to take the responsibilities of his earthly family as a human and also take the responsibilities of a vast universe as its divine Creator. The human Jesus was increasingly getting aware of his divine status. 

Whatever he wished would become a reality, but this beloved Son of God was not one who would use his power and authority the way humans or even some of his subordinate celestial beings of imperfect mind status would have wished to use with such powers!

From the Mount of Olives and from the outside, on closer inspection, the temple had been all and more than Jesus had expected; but when he once entered its sacred portals, the great disillusionment began.

But the first great shock of the day came when his mother took leave of them on her way to the women’s gallery. It had never occurred to Jesus that his mother was not to accompany him to the consecration ceremonies, and he was thoroughly indignant that she was made to suffer from such unjust discrimination. While he strongly resented this, aside from a few remarks of protest to his father, he said nothing. But he thought, and thought deeply, as his questions to the scribes and teachers a week later disclosed.

Though many of the temple rituals very touchingly impressed his sense of the beautiful and the symbolic, he was always disappointed by the explanation of the real meanings of these ceremonies which his parents would offer in answer to his many searching inquiries. Jesus simply would not accept explanations of worship and religious devotion which involved belief in the wrath of God or the anger of the Almighty.

In further discussion of these questions, after the conclusion of the temple visit, when his father became mildly insistent that he acknowledge acceptance of the orthodox Jewish beliefs, Jesus turned suddenly upon his parents and, looking appealingly into the eyes of his father, said:

“My father, it cannot be true—the Father in heaven cannot so regard his erring children on earth. The heavenly Father cannot love his children less than you love me. And I well know, no matter what unwise thing I might do, you would never pour out wrath upon me nor vent anger against me. If you, my earthly father, possess such human reflections of the Divine, how much more must the heavenly Father be filled with goodness and overflowing with mercy. I refuse to believe that my Father in heaven loves me less than my father on earth.”

When Joseph and Mary heard these words of their first-born son, they held their peace. 

And never again did they seek to change his mind about the love of God and the mercifulness of the Father in heaven.

Early next day Jesus was up and on his way to the temple. On the brow of Olivet he paused and wept over the sight his eyes beheld—a spiritually impoverished people, tradition bound and living under the surveillance of the Roman legions. 

Early forenoon found him in the temple with his mind made up to take part in the discussions. Meanwhile, Joseph and Mary also had arisen with the early dawn with the intention of retracing their steps to Jerusalem. First, they hastened to the house of their relatives, where they had lodged as a family during the Passover week, but inquiry elicited the fact that no one had seen Jesus. After searching all day and finding no trace of him, they returned to their relatives for the night.

At the second conference Jesus had made bold to ask questions, and in a very amazing way he participated in the temple discussions but always in a manner consistent with his youth. 

Sometimes his pointed questions were somewhat embarrassing to the learned teachers of the Jewish law, but he evinced such a spirit of candid fairness, coupled with an evident hunger for knowledge, that the majority of the temple teachers were disposed to treat him with every consideration. 

But when he presumed to question the justice of putting to death a drunken gentile who had wandered outside the court of the gentiles and unwittingly entered the forbidden and reputedly sacred precincts of the temple, one of the more intolerant teachers grew impatient with the lad’s implied criticisms and, glowering down upon him, asked how old he was. 

Jesus replied, “thirteen years lacking a trifle more than four months.” 

“Then,” rejoined the now irate teacher, “why are you here, since you are not of age as a son of the law?” 

And when Jesus explained that he had received consecration during the Passover, and that he was a finished student of the Nazareth schools, the teachers with one accord derisively replied, 

“We might have known; he is from Nazareth.” 

But the leader insisted that Jesus was not to be blamed if the rulers of the synagogue at Nazareth had graduated him, technically, when he was twelve instead of thirteen; and notwithstanding that several of his detractors got up and left, it was ruled that the lad might continue undisturbed as a pupil of the temple discussions.

Jesus’ third day with the scribes and teachers in the temple witnessed the gathering of many spectators who, having heard of this youth from Galilee, came to enjoy the experience of seeing a lad confuse the wise men of the law. 

Simon also came down from Bethany to see what the boy was up to. Throughout this day Joseph and Mary continued their anxious search for Jesus, even going several times into the temple but never thinking to scrutinize the several discussion groups, although they once came almost within hearing distance of his fascinating voice.

Before the day had ended, the entire attention of the chief discussion group of the temple had become focused upon the questions being asked by Jesus.

Among his many questions were:

1. What really exists in the holy of holies, behind the veil?

2. Why should mothers in Israel be segregated from the male temple worshipers?

3. If God is a father who loves his children, why all this slaughter of animals to gain divine favor—has the teaching of Moses been misunderstood?

4. Since the temple is dedicated to the worship of the Father in heaven, is it consistent to permit the presence of those who engage in secular barter and trade?

5. Is the expected Messiah to become a temporal prince to sit on the throne of David, or is he to function as the light of life in the establishment of a spiritual kingdom?

And all the day through, those who listened marveled at these questions, and none was more astonished than Simon. 

For more than four hours this Nazareth youth plied these Jewish teachers with thought-provoking and heart-searching questions. He made few comments on the remarks of his elders. He conveyed his teaching by the questions he would ask. By the deft and subtle phrasing of a question he would at one and the same time challenge their teaching and suggest his own. 

In the manner of his asking a question there was an appealing combination of sagacity and humor which endeared him even to those who more or less resented his youthfulness. He was always eminently fair and considerate in the asking of these penetrating questions.

As a youth, and later on as a man, he seemed to be utterly free from all egoistic desire to win an argument merely to experience logical triumph over his fellows, being interested supremely in just one thing: to proclaim everlasting truth and thus effect a fuller revelation of the eternal God.

After the evening meal at Bethany he again declined to join the merry circle but instead went to the garden, where he lingered long into the night, vainly endeavoring to think out some definite plan of approach to the problem of his lifework and to decide how best he might labor to reveal to his spiritually blinded countrymen a more beautiful concept of the heavenly Father and so set them free from their terrible bondage to law, ritual, ceremonial, and musty tradition.

[Reproduced in part from the celestial revelation given to humans of 20th century and later: Paper-124 and 125 of the Urantia Book. It would be a wonderful experience to all those desirous and curious of knowing more about the life and teachings of Jesus and much more regarding God, humans and the purpose of life! Click the flower on the right panel to know more!]

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