Summary: Life lessons surround us as they did Jesus when he was growing up. All we need do is look around and learn. Even the place where we live can speak to us about God.
The Living Classroom
For the last couple of weeks we have been looking at Jesus early years. Today I want to move the timetable forward as we see Jesus as an adolescent.
So far we have learned that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, escaped to Egypt till he was about 4 or 6 years of age and settled in Nazareth. By the time Jesus was six years old he had lived in two different countries and three different towns. He ended up in a very, very small place on the side of a hill called Nazareth.
The people there were farmers mostly, shepherds, keepers of livestock. I guess we could compare it to Turnerville down the road. It is large enough to have its own name but it is so small that anyone else in Canada would have a hard time picturing what it is like.
The village of Nazareth was kind of like that. It did not have a public school or post office or even a general store. It sat in the north part of Israel just about 35 kilometers west from the Sea of Galilee and about 40 kilometers east of the Mediterranean Sea. It sat on a lush plain that was extremely fertile. There were lots of trees growing on the hills and mountains.
Nazareth sat in a kind of bowl with hills and mountains all around it. At the foot of Nazareth was the valley of Megiddo. It was a famous historical battle ground and will one day be the place of the last great battle of Armageddon.
Looking up to the South Jesus could see several famous mountains from his front door.
He could see Mt. Tabor 1,929 feet high just 5 kilometers away. It was where Deborah the prophetess and only woman Judge of Israel had summoned Barak to attack and vanquished Sisera and the Canaanites. These events took place about 1470 years before Jesus birth. You might remember Sisera from Judges Chapter 6 he was the one who had a tent peg nailed through his temple by a woman named Jael, Heber's wife, when he was fleeing the Israelites.
Just a little past Mt. Tabor Jesus could see Mt. Moreh which is often referred to as a hill rise to 1,800 feet. It is here that Abraham met God in Genesis Chapter 12:6, 7. Abraham stopped in the land of Canaan on his journey from Haran (Gen 12:4). Here Abraham saw God and built an altar (Gen 12:7). This was also the place where Moses announced the divine blessing and curse on the eve of their entry into the Promised Land in Deut 11:26.
Mount Gilboa sat 1,692 feet to the Southwest about half way to Jerusalem. At the foot of the mountain to the north is the spring of Harod, where Gideon camped before his night attack on the Midianites. It was on the slopes of Mount Gilboa that Saul and his three sons met their deaths while fighting against the Philistines.
Almost directly west of Nazareth sat Mt. Carmel near the Mediterranean Sea coast. It is here that Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal to a contest of fire to prove that the God of Israel was the true and living God.
Jesus hometown was surrounded by the physical places of historical significance to the Jewish people. He didn’t need books with photographs or films he had a living classroom. He did have to climb up the mountains from the valley below in order to view it all.
Jesus would have been educated at home mostly by his mother and at 12 or 13 it would be time for him to learn a trade from his step-father Joseph. Mary and Joseph had other children during this time as well. It was a busy household full of activity and Jesus was the oldest child. The bible tells us who Jesus brothers were in Matthew 13:55
Is not this the carpenter's son is not his mother called Mary and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?
In Mark chapter 6 we learn that Jesus had sisters too. Mark 6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the Son of Mary, the Brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon and are not his sisters here with us? Unfortunately we do not know Jesus sisters names, they were not recorded. So by my count Jesus had at least four brothers and two sisters.
Being the eldest Jesus would have been at Joseph side helping in the carpentry shop. Mary would have had a one room classroom so to speak as she home schooled the children during their chores. This would involve explaining the Jewish Holy days and rituals and by pointing to the mountains and hills she could share Old Testament stories.