John the Baptist needed to be born before Jesus to prepare the way
Before we can look at Jesus’ childhood we need to see how the scene was set: (See the timeline from 600 B.C. to Jesus’ birth).
Before Jesus was born, Mary, Jesus’ mother, had a relative named Elizabeth who was old and barren.
Elizabeth’s husband was Zechariah a priest in Jerusalem and it was chosen by lot who would go into the temple to burn incense.
But while he was in there, an angel appeared to him:
…the angel said to him:Luke 1:13-17
‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.
He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.
He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.
And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
But Zechariah didn’t believe the angel, so he became dumb until his wife Elizabeth gave birth to their son John.
First prophesy ends over 400 years of prophetic silence
John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, started speaking at John’s circumcision (after being mute for 9 months):
His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:Luke 1:67-79
‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us – to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.’ “
In the mean time, Mary who was living in Nazareth, had a visit from an angel too and he said:
‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’Luke 1:26-38
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.
You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’
‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’
The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.
For no word from God will ever fail.’
‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.
Mary was engaged to Joseph who also had an angel visit him.
The birth of Jesus
The Roman census demanded that the people had to return to their original town, so that meant Joseph had to go to Bethlehem.
But because there were so many people doing the same thing, all the accommodation was full:
He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.Luke 2:5-7
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
On the same day that Jesus was born some shepherds came to see the baby Jesus in the stable.
According to early Christian tradition, Jesus was born in a cave that served as a stable for the inn at Bethlehem. This site is marked today by the Church of the Nativity. [ii]
An angel of the Lord appeared to them (the shepherds), and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.Luke 2:9-12
But the angel said to them,
‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you;
he is the Messiah, the Lord.
This will be a sign to you:
You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ “
So when was Jesus born?
Jesus’ early childhood: Joseph finds a house to stay in at Bethlehem
Magi from the east saw certain star movements that indicated that a King was about to be born in Israel, so they travelled to Jerusalem and saw king Herod to ask him about the new King.
King Herod hadn’t heard anything and he felt threatened by the story of a new King.
The Magi left Jerusalem and headed for Bethlehem:
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.Matthew 2:9-12
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.
Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
Notice it says: “coming to the house” so Joseph must have moved his family from the stable to a house.
Jesus’ early childhood: Two visits to the temple
The Magi had to visit the house within 7 days of Jesus’ birth or several months after the birth up to the first two years.
In Jesus’ childhood, Joseph had to take him to the temple at Jerusalem for his circumcision on the 8th day, but Mary couldn’t have entered the temple because her purification from child-birth was not complete.
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.”Luke 2:21
Joseph and Jesus then probably returned to the house in Bethlehem.
They then had to wait 33 days in accordance with the Law:
Say to the Israelites:Leviticus 12:2-4
‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period.
On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised.
Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding.
She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over.’ “
Then it was time to go back to the temple at Jerusalem for Mary’s purification and offering of two doves:
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’ ), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’Luke 2:22-24
Second prophecy in Jerusalem
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout.Luke 2:25-35
He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.
When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.’
The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him.
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:
‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ “
Third prophecy in Jerusalem
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher.Luke 2:36-38
She was very old…
She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Joseph, Mary and Jesus secretly go to Egypt
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.”Matthew 2:13
This verse in Matthew comes directly after the Magi, so does it mean that what follows came directly after the Magi had visited?
I would say not necessarily, because Matthew does not include Jesus’ circumcision, nor Mary’s purification, nor Simeon’s and Anna’s prophecies.
All it is saying is that (some time) after the Magi left an angel appeared to Joseph.
The verses continue with the angel saying:
‘Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.Matthew 2:13-16
Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.
And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.”
Notice it says; ‘take the child and his mother’ so affirming that Joseph was NOT the father of Jesus.
So Joseph takes his family to Egypt.
Jesus’ early childhood: King Herod dies
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,Matthew 2:19-23
‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.’
So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.
Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth.
So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.”
Jesus’ childhood: at 12 years old
Speaking of Jesus, Luke says:
And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.Luke 2:40-42
Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover.
When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.”
But Jesus stayed behind at the temple and spent the time discussing the things of God.
When Joseph and Mary finally found him, he answered them:
‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked.Luke 2:49
‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ “
John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying,Matthew 3:1-3
‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’
This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
‘A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ “
There was a man sent from God whose name was John.John 1:6-13
He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.
He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
[i] ‘The Virgin and Joseph with the Young Jesus’ 1710–40 After Carlo Maratti Italian. O.A. Public Domain.
[ii] Knight, G. W. (2001). A simplified harmony of the Gospels (p. 18). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
[iii] The birth of Christ digital painting, Jesus Christ, Christmas, HD wallpaper
[iv] HD wallpaper: Christ Jesus Teaching the people