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  • Writer's picturePhil

Teenage Jesus

"Teenage Jesus" - notice his hands outstretched, and Calvary in the background.

We seldom think of Jesus as a teenager, with a breaking voice, hormones all over the place, and all that. There is a silence in Scripture about those hidden years; and when it comes to anybody parenting a teenager, I think we all agree silence

is the best option!

Teenage is not an easy time, not for a teenager, nor for a teenager’s parents;

and if we believe Jesus to be the one proclaimed in the Creed,

was incarnate (by the Holy Spirit) of the Virgin Mary, and became man….

then we must believe Jesus to have gone through teenage like everyone else – complete with acne, curiosity, rebellion, and perhaps even Hebrew homework!

The glimpse we get of him at 12 shows Jesus as a normal teenager.

Luke’s unique account tells us that The Holy Family,

in the company of others from Nazareth,

made their way to the city of Jerusalem for Passover,

as they did every year.

Jesus, we are told, was twelve years of age,

or more specifically, in his thirteenth year.

Jewish boys pass from boyhood to manhood

through a ceremony called "Bar Mitzvah" or "Son of the Law".

This is done to this day on reaching 13,

and is usually conducted in The Synagogue,

but it would appear the ceremony itself was perhaps different in Jesus’ time.

What is in common between then and now

is that the rite involves reading Hebrew Scripture

and answering questions.

In Luke’s account, taken from Mary’s memories,

shared with Luke in Ephesus, most-probably,

we see Jesus in the Temple, being quizzed by the Teachers of the Law,

and Jesus asking them questions, as would befit the ritual.

I suspect at the time Bar-Mitzvah could have been a ceremony

best conducted in The Temple, amongst the Teachers of the Law;

and that Jesus, in his thirteenth year, was considered ready.

"Jesus in The Temple" - He Qi

On the way up to Jerusalem on that occasion,

Jesus would have travelled up with the women,

considered at that point to be still a child.

After Bar Mitzvah he would join the men,

because he was now “old enough” to take on manly responsibility

in matters of faith and practice.

This could explain why

neither Mary nor Joseph noticed his disappearance.

Each may have thought that he was with the other group.

His terrified parents returned to a city of Roman guards

and a million ways to get into trouble, asking,

“Have you seen my son?

He’s a Jewish boy.

He’s 12.” (so he’s going to stand out then?)

Finally they find him in the Temple,

sitting amongst the teachers of the law,

asking questions, and answering questions with understanding.

Does he apologize for giving his parents

the biggest scare they’ve had since that night they fled to Egypt?

No, he gives a typical teenage response:

“Didn’t you know I would be in my father’s house?”

“…..For he is our childhood’s pattern,

Day by day like us he grew,

He was little, weak, and helpless,

Tears and smiles like us he knew…………..”

“Christian children all must be

Mild, obedient, good as he.

This account in Luke chapter 2

shows something a little different to mild obedience!

Jesus the teenager.

In one sense Jesus never stopped being a teenager –

That black-and-white passionate approach

with which teenagers are blessed never left him.

Jesus remained amazingly revolutionary in his teaching,

which the faithful hierarchy found challenging to their position,

hardly ready to accept his “young” teaching!

Jesus was radical; Jesus was just like His Mother!

Jesus was an adolescent who continued to question and challenge,

and had the courage to question Scribes and Pharisees,

rebelling against their mediocre legalistic practice.

This Feast of the Holy Family finds us

challenged by the rebellious Teenager-Christ

not for us the gooey-Christmas of a cuddly baby;

THIS incarnation asks us to follow the realistic,

no-nonsense, radical rebellious Christ,

willing to question everything, and stand up for the Truth.

Lord, Let us have the same vision as that of the adolescent Jesus …..

Give us the courage to question

a world that has grown comfortable with the status quo.

Let us have, with Him,

the audacity to challenge a society which tolerates

behaviour and standards contrary to those of the Kingdom.

Let us be people, Lord,

with YOUR young vibrancy, passion and energy,

not tired old things who allow things to drift back to the way they were.

…. and may we too increase in wisdom and Christian maturity,

in divine and human favour.


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