Mary and Joseph are ordinary citizens living ordinary lives in Nazareth. It is the whispering of Gabriel into their ears that foretells of Jesus' birth. After an arduous journey to Jerusalem, the babe is born. Forty days of ceremony and special events follow the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Follow him as he begins his unique journey into manhood while the family learns twelve important spiritual principles.
Understand the visits of the shepherds and the magi. Appreciate Herod's thinking as he attempts to kill the baby. Learn the lore that is the basis for the star in the east. Eat the Seder feast at Passover. Grieve with Mary as her son disappears for three days in Jerusalem, only to find him teaching in the Temple's library.
Narrated by a family friend devoted to documenting the story through conversation and reflection, A Jesus Childhood is a historical tale based on Scripture and stories that shares an unforgettable glimpse into the life of the boy who is to become the Savior.
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A Jesus Childhood
By Carl W. McClure
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Carl W. McClure
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSpring 8 BCE
* * *
My heart shakes like a tambourine at Passover! And I know why. It is because of him—him!—that man, up there, standing under that old olive tree. He is at harmony, yet the mob of people around him is boisterous. The hubbub! The din! The clatter! I tremble from the noise, but more from the peace I receive from his words.
Crowds flock all around him. His face is calm; he wears a modest woolen garment. He enthralls. He teaches. He preaches. The people flock from villages near and far. All are here. I see rich. I see poor. The lame and the lepers are here, as are the farmers and shepherds. Women and children are here, too. People yearn to hear what he says. They reach out to him. I see one woman fall to her knees, crying tears of joy, and throw her arms open to the sensation around him. They touch his garment. They kiss his sandals. They do anything to feel oneness with him.
"Quiet! I must hear this man speak!" shouts a man.
"His words! Listen to his words!" A woman is desperate to hear his discourse.
He does not raise his voice, yet all can hear his message as clear as a cymbal. His face radiates love. The man's words mesmerize me, for they are as a riddle. My heart pounds inside my chest as I repeat his words in my mind trying to understand his wisdom.
Ach! What is this? Now I see a tiny baby, an infant. This baby boy—how beautiful he is! He is pure and innocent. And his aura; how it glows! The baby is wrapped tight in clean swaddles with a man's mantle rolled under his head. He lies in a bed of fresh hay on a crude wooden feeding trough. The baby sleeps with a gentle smile on his face. I can see he is content. Near him I see his mother, a radiant young woman. There is a man, too, the baby's father. They seem to be settled in a sort of grotto, in a place I do not know. What am I to learn from this?
I hear a voice whisper in my ear—no, cry into my head! "The child—you must protect the child! It is imperative to do so! He is as innocent as the stars are unnumbered!" I quake in my sandals. The voice continues. "The child will grow into a man of great consequence. His teachings will live on forever. He is long-awaited by your people. It is your duty to help him grow into manhood. You are to teach him, to guide him, and keep him safe from harm. Be his friend, give him love, and provide him guidance. This is to be your life's work. Abide these commands greatly."
Now another crowd engulfs me all around. I am consumed with the mixed passion of it all. This multitude is even more frenzied than the first one. I stand in the middle of these mad people. They jostle and tumble all about in turmoil. I hear shouts and screams. None of the faces do I recognize; none of the people do I know. Lights flash in the sky. Thunder beats upon my ears. I am disoriented on this hillside. Roman soldiers are here in great authority, and in great numbers. The soldiers are intent on the execution of a man—do I know him? Women and men are crying and wringing their hands in anguish over what they see. One woman falls to her knees, wailing hysterically, shrieking and pulling at her hair in frustration. She loves the man passionately. It takes four soldiers to pull her away from the crude cross. She does not notice the blood dripping onto her scarves.
The mob screams over the din, "Stop the foolishness. This man is innocent and without blame. He has done nothing wrong!" A shiver races up my spine. "The man is not guilty of any crime!"
The man hanging there is stripped nearly naked of his clothing. His hair is unkempt. Red trickles from his side. I cannot stare at him for a long time, but only take quick glances. The images I see imprint on my brain. The man's death is imminent. I would pray for his soul, only my heavy breathing and racing thoughts take priority. Somehow I force a supplication for him.
Suddenly, like an earthquake, the violence on this hill shakes me awake. Sweat drips from my face. I cannot breathe; I cannot move from my pallet. I rub the sleep from my eyes. Was I dreaming? What is the message? What am I to do?
"He is my friend and I love him." I cannot stop saying those words. Everyone calls him Jesus except his mother. She calls him—ach! That is for later.
I want to tell everything I remember about his life, as best I can, as much as I can. I do not know why or how, but I am compelled to relate this narrative. I make a vow to myself to do so. My memory is not sharp like an adz any more, and I cannot write in words. Neither can I read those words that others have written. I have never attended school. By a miracle that I do not understand, I am able to recall those events around the boy Jesus. I am not a scholar.
My name is Chaim. It is a strong name and it means in Hebrew, "Life." My intuition allows me to see the events and hear the words around him, even though I am absent from him. Compared to my friend Joseph, I am an old man because I have seen the tunnel of time pass before my eyes more so than he has. That gives me more than five decades of wisdom. For my age, I am strong, and I am strong because of my work. I think of myself as not handsome. I am an ordinary man living an ordinary life. My strongest desire is to relate this story.
I am not a married man any more. My wife Chesed, which means, "Mercy," died last year of a terrible disease for which I have no name. She gave me three decades of dedicated marriage. In the end, her body withered in size; she stopped eating and felt pain throughout herself. She slept to flee the pain. She said there was a hard swelling, like a stone, deep inside a secret part of her body that she would not disclose to me. She told me that the swelling was the source of her illness. She simply became quiet, save for her painful outcries, and wasted away. The physician could not heal her. In the end, she became incoherent and spoke in tongues. She passed peacefully in my arms. She left me with two daughters; both of them are married in the village.
Release. Losing my partner was hard. Words do no justice to the intensity of my feelings. As many times as I have cried in my sleep, she will not be here in her physical body any more. It is because of this knowledge that I release her now. I let her go fully and without condition. The brownness of my life I accept. I pray to God to give me color in my eyes, to see the world as beautiful once more.
I let go of all that stands in the way of God's good for me. I let go of all negative thoughts, feelings, and beliefs from my consciousness in order that new thoughts may come to me. I have no fear, misunderstandings, or sorrows. All is good and all is perfect. I forgive and I free my mind and body from this loss. I am transformed by the renewing of my mind.
I build houses. My sweat exchanges for my wages. The houses I build are practical with a beauty of their own. Within my group, I am the one to mix the straw-and-mud mortar for those who affix the stones together.
Each house attaches itself to the next one to give strength. Many times the houses arrange around a central shared courtyard and well. The women take turns carrying water from the public well to their homes. Everything looks like the earth, for everything is from the earth. Earth represents those material thoughts that are part of each one of us. Any contrasting color comes only from the garments the people wear and from the earthenware they make and decorate. The women adorn their homes with flowers and plants, and those colors make me happy.
Most houses I build are small and have but two rooms. As an example, I describe the house where my friend Mary lives with her parents. I am familiar with it; I helped to build it. It is located not far from the central part of the village.
The entrance is a plain, open doorway covered with a drape. Pulling the drape aside is the way to enter the house. The front room holds the meager furniture, consisting of a low table made of cypress as the main piece. Surrounding that are three stools and a lampstand that bears the single oil lamp. Mary's loom and yarns fill a corner. In another corner are an arrangement of stone dishes and stone pots and a small collection of earthenware eating utensils. Rolled up are the woven sleeping mats made of reeds. A small mat covers the stone and earthen floor.
The room in the back encloses the oven and the mill for grinding grain. Mary operates the mill alone, but it is easier if one of her family helps her. One person turns the grinding wheel and another feeds the grain into the slot that funnels the grain to the wheel.
Nearby this back room is the animals' annex. In this simple shelter Mary keeps the family's donkey, a goat, and a few chickens. It serves as a storage place for the extra clay jugs and a few sheepskin rugs. The sides are wood and mud up to eyelevel, where they become open to the weather. Rough-hewn logs hold up the roof.
I overheard Mary talking aloud one day in the oven room. Her parents were not present, but the donkey was standing in the stall nearby. "I wish I had someone to help me when I grind the grain for my family." She sighed in mild frustration as she poured the barley down the slot. "Maybe I could hire a young boy from the village. He would make my grain grinding easier, and I would have more time to weave scarves on my loom."
Mary knew the value of keeping the donkey. She stroked him tenderly, and talked to him as if he could understand her every word. Some days she thought she heard him speak, and she carried on a full conversation with him. When she went about her daily duties, he watched her, for he had nothing else to do except swat the flies with his tail. When sleepy, he locked his knees and slept standing up. He knew his place in the family and he was obedient and faithful. Indeed, he was highly respected in every way because he gave Mary freedom to travel about Nazareth and the countryside.
I am here only to be truly helpful.
A Growing Friendship
What a fine woman Mary is! I know her character. She maintains high standards for her appearance and for the appearance of her home. She dresses modestly, keeping her head covered properly.
I am honored to know Mary. Her twinkling brown eyes reflect her character, purity, and grace. Ever she is cheerful and bright in her disposition. She expresses her feelings with respect. She wears a faded cerulean mantle, as that is her favorite from her youth, and a matching tunic. She is an exemplary neighbor and I think she will be a fine mother when the time comes. Her face emits a radiant countenance. She is intuitive and wise; she knows the Jewish laws and can discuss them in detail. Being a woman bars her from doing so in public, but I know that she would if she were permitted. In private with our mutual friend Joseph, she expresses her viewpoint vigorously on many subjects.
Everyone knows Mary. Everyone admires the works she performs. It is not beneath her to wash the clothes of the elderly or to mend the rips in their mantles. She sweeps the public courtyards and carries water and charcoal for the lame. In her spare time, she delivers honey cakes and lentil soup to the elderly. From her mother, she learned the household arts well.
One of Mary's pleasures is gardening. Of all the gardens in her neighborhood, her family's is the most prolific. It is behind her row of houses and she can walk to it in two minutes. Early one morning, I was walking where the gardens grow. Mary was there already, busy tending to each plant as required.
"Boker tov, good morning, Chaim. I am pleased to see you today."
"Good morning to you, Mary. How is your garden this fine day?"
"It grows well. Can you see the new growth coming in? Look over here. See? This row is cabbage, this one is leeks." She smiles with pride and shakes the dirt from her hands. "Here are turnips and lettuce."
"Is that the row of lentils?" I point.
"It is, and over there are the beans and peas. I am pleased with God's handiwork."
Mary feels fulfilled when her garden includes watermelon and cucumber. Near the front entrance to the garden, she cultivates a small plot of herbs—mustard, chicory, and cumin. And not far away she nurtures a small grove of mulberry trees. From the mulberries she ferments a small quantity of sweet wine for her family and neighbors.
Another way Mary keeps busy is nurturing a friendship with our friend Joseph. Joseph and Mary have known each other from the time of their childhoods, since they live only a few lanes from each other in the village. Even their parents are friends with each other.
I am proud to know Joseph. His visage is strong for a young man. His beard is growing in full and square, and his hair grooms near to his shoulders. When I look into his eyes, they sparkle with the joy of youth. His wardrobe is customary and proper, being woven of simple brown broadcloth. Underneath is his tunic. Over his tunic he wears a mantle. Wrapped tight around his waist is a leather sash. On hot days, he wears a headband around his forehead to keep the sun and perspiration from his eyes. He owns one pair of sandals, as do I. Joseph keeps his head covered properly at all times when in public. He knows the laws well and abides by them faithfully.
He is mild in manner but strong in character. He is conscientious with his duties, and faithful to the religious practices and conventions of our people. He speaks calmly, and says only what needs to be said. The plight of our people causes him much sadness. He hopes one day to become a prosperous and independent builder in his own right. Ach! Joseph is a blessing in my life!
Chapter TwoSummer 8 BCE
* * *
As the relationship between Mary and Joseph evolved from friendship to love, I knew that this was an important time for them. I saw that Joseph was nervous as I helped him carry a large lumber to his workshop.
"Joseph," I asked him, "What is wrong?"
"It is my age. I am eighteen years now. I have been very busy with my carpentry business. And because of my dedication to my business, I placed my friend Mary in jeopardy."
I asked, "In what way?"
"I delayed my social responsibility toward her. Do you know she is fifteen years of age already? She is nearly past her decisive years of marrying." He looked distressed. "I have delayed her marriage too long."
He took a deep breath and studied my face. "Chaim, she is almost past her prime years; she is nearly a spinster! She is two years beyond the age when all of her friends became betrothed. Most of the women here in Nazareth are married before age fourteen, you know that. What have I done to her? She did no action to deserve this tardiness in her life. I deprived her of her full womanhood by delaying our betrothal and wedding ceremonies. It is because of my self-centered interests. I feel responsible for her disappointment."
He looked at me intently. "I want to marry her."
"Calm yourself, friend, for you have done no wrong. Your dedication to your livelihood is your only misjudgment, and that is certainly no cause for concern. Be peaceful on yourself."
A few days passed. The first step Joseph took to fulfill his wish was to tell his parents of his interest in Mary. Of course they knew that! How could they not? He told them because our tradition is for the man to tell his parents. Then they deliberated his request at length. They emoted greatly and wrung their hands in anguish. They spoke in loud voices and paced the floor. They satisfied themselves that their son was genuine in his request. In time, when they had satisfied themselves of Joseph's sincerity and love for Mary, they paid a formal visit to Mary's parents.
It is our tradition that the parents of the groom-to-be visit the parents of the bride-to-be and ask that the two children be allowed to betroth and marry. The groom-to-be is not permitted to ask the woman directly for her hand, nor is it permissible for his family to ask the woman for her hand. Both families deliberated. Full negotiations ensued.
Today is the day that Joseph's parents arrived at Mary's parent's home, and after the full and formal greetings concluded, including serving fresh water to drink, the negotiations began. There was nothing to hide. All the neighbors knew what was taking place behind the draped door; it was the planning of a strategy to unite their children. By tradition, Mary did not know of the deliberations. By realistic fact, she knew all. Like all women of her age at this important stage of her life, she had dreamed and imagined of this event for many years.
Joseph, still somewhat naïve in this matter, thought the whole issue still unresolved. He did not know why his fellow tradesmen, myself included among them, made him the butt of gentle jokes. We stroked our beards and smiled inside.
Excerpted from A Jesus Childhood by Carl W. McClure Copyright © 2012 by Carl W. McClure. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Spring 8 BCE....................1
Chapter 2 Summer 8 BCE....................8
Chapter 3 Summer 8 BCE....................13
Chapter 4 Autumn 8 BCE....................18
Chapter 5 Early 7 BCE....................23
Chapter 6 Spring 7 BCE....................26
Chapter 7 Summer 7 BCE....................33
Chapter 8 Summer 7 BCE....................37
Chapter 9 Summer 7 BCE....................46
Chapter 10 Summer 7 BCE....................53
Chapter 11 Summer 7 BCE....................58
Chapter 12 Late Summer 7 BCE....................64
Chapter 13 Autumn 7 BCE....................69
Chapter 14 Late Autumn 7 BCE....................74
Chapter 15 Late Autumn 7 BCE....................81
Chapter 16 Early 6 BCE....................88
Chapter 17 5 BCE....................93
Chapter 18 3 BCE....................97
Chapter 19 1 CE....................104
Chapter 20 1 CE....................111
Chapter 21 2 CE....................117
Chapter 22 3 CE....................121
Chapter 23 5 CE....................129
Chapter 24 6 CE....................137
Chapter 25 6 CE....................144
Chapter 26 6 CE....................149
Chapter 27 6 CE....................155