My earliest memories of life on earth are in the shed that housed our family carpenter's shop in the Galilean town of Nazareth. I held the planks for sawing and planing. I soon learned to nail without damaging the wood, and I loved working the lathe.
I was treated with some respect because somebody had checked our family genealogy in the Bethlehem archives. Joseph was the last remaining heir to the royal line of David, and I was recorded as his son (Matthew 13:55-56, Mark 6:3, Luke 2:3-5). But nobody talked about this when spies might be around. Older people still remembered Herod and the slaughter of the boys of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16-18). And Herod's sons were still around (Luke 3:1).
One day I asked why people called my mother a whore. I knew it must be bad, but I didn't know what it meant. They said she got pregnant, and never had a marriage feast. Joseph never said much, but the next day he took me out for a walk in the hills and I guessed I was in for a talk about the birds and the bees. He carefully went over exactly what had happened. He said he was a practical man, and didn't usually bother with dreams. But a messenger from heaven had given him the news that the child she was carrying was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 2:20). Over a period of six months he was given a series of five unmistakable orders. "Accept Mary as your wife . . . Name the boy Jesus . . . Leave immediately with them for Egypt . . . Go back to Israel . . . Make your home in Nazareth" (Matthew 1:20, 2:13, 20, 22 ).
So I went for the jugular. "Does that mean I am adopted, and you are not my father?" He explained he had adopted me and had me recorded in the Bethlehem census records as his son (Luke 2:5). It was a bit of a shock, and it would take some getting used to. But the question that really bothered me was "Who is this Holy Spirit that conceived me?" (Matthew 1:20) He said the Wind of God was mentioned right at the beginning of Genesis. So I went to the synagogue scrolls, and found "The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God (Ruakh Elohim) swept over the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2). That did not explain very much.
Our synagogue was not big enough to have a resident rabbi, so I asked the ruler of the synagogue if he could tell me more about the Spirit. He got out the scroll of Isaiah and got me to read: "A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord." He then blessed me, and said "You are from the stump of Jesse, the Holy Spirit will rest upon you, and you will have a great future. You might even be the Messiah. Keep reading the Torah and asking questions." So from that day I set my mind to do just that (Luke 2:52). Inevitably Joseph felt I was neglecting my profession as a carpenter, but already my brother James (Mark 6:3) was beginning to help in the shop.
Every year I looked forward to going up to Jerusalem for Passover (Luke 2:41). When I was twelve I got left behind in the temple. I was having a great time listening to the rabbis, and asking them the many questions that puzzled me (Luke 2:46). My parents discovered I wasn't with the caravan of relatives and friends returning to Nazareth. So they had to come back and found me two days later. My father was very upset and got my mother to rebuke me. "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety" (Luke 2:48).
But I wasn't a child any more. My destiny was beginning to clarify. I answered back, "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business " (Luke 2:49, literally I must be in the things of my Father). Joseph imagined I had decided to leave home for good. But Mary turned pale and burst into tears, so I decided to go back to Nazareth to be with her for a while (Luke 2:51).
The next year I was hit by two tidal waves. Joseph died of a sudden heart attack, and I was glad I was there as the older son to do my duty at the funeral. I missed him terribly. And I found my mother and brothers and sisters, and some relatives, all began looking to me for guidance (Mark 6:3). That really cut in to my time for study and prayer.
Even more disturbing was the upsurge of strange feelings for the girls of the village. I found several of them very attractive, and they seemed eager for me to go steady with them. My favorite was named after Queen Esther, and just as beautiful and gutsy. The men did not approve of women reading the Old Testament scrolls, but I knew that was just male chauvinist nonsense. How did Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah (Exodus 15:20, Judges 4:4, 2 Kings 22:40) become prophets if they couldn't read God's word? So I took the scroll of Queen Esther from the synagogue, and read it with my queen under the olive tree that overlooked the cliff near the village (Luke 4:29-30). Then we prayed about our destinies, and I imagined they would be entwined together in marriage.
Chapter 2 .....