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THE STORY OF THE CHILD IN THE TEMPLE

Jesus was brought to Nazareth when he was a little child not more than
three years old; there he grew up as a boy and a young man, and there he
lived until he was thirty years of age. We should like to know many
things about his boyhood, but the Bible tells us very little. As Joseph
was a working man, it is likely that he lived in a house with only one
room, with no floor except the earth, no window except a hole in the
wall, no pictures upon the walls, and neither bedstead, nor chair, nor
looking-glass. They sat upon the floor or upon cushions; they slept upon
rolls of matting, and their meals were taken from a low table not much
larger than a stool.

Jesus may have learned to read at the village school, which was
generally held in the house used for worship, called the “synagogue.”
The lessons were from rolls on which were written parts of the Old
Testament; but Jesus never had a Bible of his own. From a child he went
with Joseph to the worship in the synagogue twice every week. There they
sat on the floor and heard the Old Testament read and explained, while
Mary and the younger sisters of Jesus listened from a gallery behind a
lattice-screen. The Jewish boys of that time were taught to know almost
the whole of the Old Testament by heart.

It was the custom of the Jews from all parts of the land to go up to
Jerusalem to worship at least once every year, at the feast of the
Passover, which was held in the spring. Some families also stayed to the
feast of Pentecost, which was fifty days after Passover; and some went
again in the fall to the feast of Tabernacles, when for a week all the
families slept out of doors, under roofs made of green twigs and bushes.

When Jesus was a boy twelve years old, he was taken up to the feast of
the Passover, and there for the first time he saw the holy city
Jerusalem, and the Temple of the Lord on Mount Moriah. Young as he was,
his soul was stirred, as he walked among the courts of the Temple and
saw the altar with its smoking sacrifice, the priests in their white
robes, and the Levites with their silver trumpets. Though a boy, Jesus
began to feel that he was the Son of God, and that this was his Father’s
house.

His heart was so filled with the worship of the Temple, with the words
of the scribes or teachers whom he heard in the courts, and with his own
thoughts, that when it was time to go home to Nazareth, he stayed
behind, held fast by his love for the house of the Lord. The company of
people who were traveling together was large, and at first he was not
missed. But when night came and the boy Jesus could not be found, his
mother was alarmed. The next day Joseph and Mary left their company and
hastened back to Jerusalem. They did not at first think to go to the
Temple. They sought him among their friends and kindred who were living
in the city, but could not find him.

On the third day, they went up to the Temple with heavy hearts, still
looking for their boy. And there they found him sitting in a company of
the doctors of the law, listening to their words and asking them
questions. Everybody who stood near was surprised to find how deep was
the knowledge of this boy in the word of the Lord.

His mother spoke to him a little sharply, for she felt that her son had
not been thoughtful of his duty. She said: “Child, why have you treated
us in this way? Do you not know that your father and I have been looking
for you with troubled hearts?”

“Why did you seek for me,” said Jesus. “Did you not know that I must be
in my Father’s house?”

They did not understand these words; but Mary thought often about them
afterward; for she felt her son was no common child, and that his words
had a deep meaning. Though Jesus was wise beyond his years, he obeyed
Joseph and his mother in all things. He went with them to Nazareth, and
lived contented with the plain life of their country home.

As the years went on, Jesus grew from a boy to a young man. He grew,
too, in knowledge, and in wisdom, and in the favor of God. He won the
love of all who knew him, for there was something in his nature that
drew all hearts, both young and old.

Jesus learned the trade of a carpenter with Joseph; and when Joseph
died, while Jesus was still a young man, Jesus worked as a carpenter,
and helped his mother take care of the family. And so in the carpenter
shop, and the quiet life of a country village, and the worship of the
synagogue, the years passed until Jesus was thirty years of age.

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