Very little is known about Jesus as a child or young adult. If it were not for the one storyof Jesus being lost in the Temple at twelve, we would have no idea of Jesus’ life was like between the ages of two and thirty. The only way to fill this twenty-eight year gap is to delve into our own imaginations and write the back story.
I imagine Jesus’ childhood in Nazareth was a fairly simple and happy one. We know Joseph was a carpenter, so it is safe to assume Jesus spent much of his youth learning his father’s trade, accompanying him on jobs to help with the many menial tasks that are often required on construction sites. I can also imagine Joseph and Mary teaching him Hebrew along with Latin and Arabic, the three languages Jesus needed in order to function in and around the towns and villages of Palestine.
I can also imagine the tension that grew within him as he entered his late teens and early twenties. As the carpenter’s son, it was expected as Jesus grew into adult hood, he would marry, settle down, work alongside his father as a carpenter and eventually take over the family business.
But this was not God’s dream for him, and somewhere deep within his being, Jesus knew this to be true. And so when the day came for Jesus to begin the work he had come to do, You can almost hear the conversation between him, Mary and possibly Joseph.
“Mom, Dad, it is time!”
“Time for what?” Mary asks.
“Time for me to go and begin what I came to do”
“But you’re too young, not even married yet, who will take care of you, how will you take care of yourself?”
Mom, I’m thirty, look at John, he has lived in the wilderness for several years now and doing very well living off the locusts and wild honey. I know God will take care of me. I will live off the generosity of others, live from place to place, and you know, fasting is good for the soul.”
“Well, I guess there is no talking you out of this, if you must go, make sure you take your good tunic, and here, some bread and figs to help get you through the next couple of days.
As Jesus walks down the road and out of the sight of his parents, Joseph puts his arm lovingly and firmly around Mary and whispers, “don’t worry, the world is hard, he will learn that soon and come back to us.”
Very rarely do we think about the sacrifices Jesus made when he began his journey and three years of ministry. Like anyone who chooses to go against the chosen path, Jesus had to choose between a comfortable life of family, home and security in order to embark on the path he was called to follow.
As Jesus arrived at the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist, he did not go there because he needed to repent of his sins. Instead, Jesus arrives at the river banks as a way of demarcating his choice to leave behind the comfort and security of his home and to affirm his commitment to the work he came into this world to do.
I believe the reason the voice of the Almighty is heard to say, “This is my son, with whom I am well pleased” is because as with any critical point in Jesus’ life and ministry, Jesus had the opportunity to turn back, to refuse to follow through on his mission. To leave God and all humanity hanging for a new Savior as Jesus accepted the easier path and followed the temptations of the easier life made available to him.
You know we are all sons and daughters of God, as we heard from St. Paul last week, if not children of God through Abraham, then children of God by adoption through Christ, and like any child, the most precious words we can hear from our parents, no matter what our age, are “ I am proud of you.”
God is proud of us and smiles upon us every time we, like Jesus, choose to follow the dream God has for us over any other path. In the book of Deuternomy, God ends the giving of the Law by telling the people, “On this day, I give you blessing and curse, life and death, choose life.”
Blessing and life comes with divine servant-hood as described in this morning’s passage from Isaiah. Perhaps originally written for the coronation of a Davidic king, what it tells us is that God delights in servant leadership in which divine justice is not just fought for, but upheld. God delights in a servant who is tender and compassionate, “ a bruised reed he will not break and a burning wick he will not quench.” God delights in those who are willing to walk in the light of righteousness and serve as a light to all nations.”
In the Gospel of Mathew, Jesus tells his listeners that God delights in us when we serve and care for the least among us such as the poor, the hungry and those in prison. When we do these things, Jesus tells us, we do them for him, and it seems safe to assume, it pleases God as well.
God is well pleased with us when we choose to sacrifice other parts of our lives for God. When we choose to praise and worship God with others on Sunday morning. When we choose to partake in the breaking of the bread and the teachings of the Apostle’s, not out of convenience, but out of a sense of priority. God is well pleased with us when we choose to make time with God through prayer, study and meditation and make this part of our regular way of life. And,God is well pleased with us, when we choose God’s dream for our lives over the convenience and the seduction of others.
Yes, like Jesus, each and every day, we make the decision whether or not we will please or not please God, sometimes the path God calls us to is an easy one, and often times it is not fraught with struggle and sacrifice. However, when we commit to the more difficult path by choosing God, then we too may see the skies open and a dove descend, while the voice from above proclaims, you are my child with whom I am well pleased. And those are the words we all long to hear, because they are sweet,far sweeter than honey from the comb.