And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.
Other than this little snippet from the Gospel of Luke & 'The Slaughter of the Infants' we read about in Matthew's account, Scripture really offers no real glimpse into the life of Jesus before He was baptized by John at the age of 30. What follows, then, is purely a work of fiction, although it is based, in part, on a limited knowledge of what life was like in those days & expressly, in that ancient culture & corner of the world. I must apologize beforehand if I offend anyone's sensibilities, but the only recourse I can offer is, 'STOP HERE: go no further, if you are easily offended!'
Jesus was born under some very difficult circumstances; not only was his legitimacy questionable at birth ( His mother was pregnant out of wedlock ), but the land of His birth, Palestine, was under Roman occupation! How Mary ended up in this messy situation was somewhat enigmatic, although she insisted that the Holy Spirit of God had impregnated her: her betrothed seemed to keep up the façade too. The case being what it was, Joseph chose to marry his betrothed anyway & even traveled quite some distance soon thereafter, when she was nearing the end of her pregnancy. There was talk going on around their little village that one of the Roman occupiers had taken a shine, so to speak, to this young woman, although there was no actual proof, other than Mary's pregnancy itself, so Joseph wasn't too anxious about leaving town for awhile; he had a good excuse, being required by law to present himself for census in a city some several days journey away.
By all accounts, Jesus' humble beginnings followed Him throughout most of His life! His adoptive father, Joseph, who was quite a bit older than Mary, was a stonemason. Not much more than a day-laborer, Joseph was used to breaking his back to put food on the table for his growing family. As his family grew, Joseph had to work harder & longer just to survive. Thus, it wasn't too long after Jesus became a full-fledged teenager, that He was bereft of His adoptive father. According to Jewish law, or Hebrew law, more correctly, Joseph's somewhat younger brother married Joseph's wife & fatheredseveral more children. Although he was a bit younger than his brother, he died after some time, leaving Jesus with the responsibility, not only of fulfilling the duty of the eldest son, but of raising his younger brothers & sisters. Needless to say; Jesus, having learned masonry as a trade from his adoptive father, went to work in earnest!
In those days, the king of His small country, or region, really, was embroiled in many building projects. One of those just happened to be a fairly short distance from where Jesus lived with His relatively small family. Being a fairly experienced stonemason & even somewhat notable Himself, aside from Joseph's good reputation, Jesus found work fairly easily. In time, His stonework came to be highly prized & He, with His family, was able to breathe a small sigh of relief. As near as they were to the Sea of Galilee, Jesus' younger brothers were also making a name for themselves as fishermen; His sisters, along with their mother ( who wasn't young anymore, relatively speaking ) were augmenting their livelihood by their considerable effort in the growing textile industry.
At the ripe old age of 25, Jesus had a pretty decent list of accomplishments under His belt! A mason of note, as well as a sailor & accomplished fisherman, Jesus decided to take a break & see the world. Having, in His previous travels, explored the desert region south of Jerusalem & met with its intriguing inhabitants there, He decided to expand His horizons a bit more, taking several years in traversing both the Jordan & the mighty Euphrates Rivers ( several times ) in His search for Purpose. What He found in His travels was akin to Divinity; those Teachers with whom He communed in the Far East taught Him many of the principles He would employ in His own ministry, later in life!
During His sojourn there, Jesus learned much about Himself & His own Divinity, much of which He had known previously, but not really had time to explore to a great extent. These Teachings, while somewhat different than the traditions Jesus had been brought up in, were essentially not too far removed from these traditions. He might even have conjectured that these Teachings seemed to form the basis, more or less, for what He had been taught. The more He traveled in those distant lands, the more Jesus became convinced of His own Divinity & the stories that His mother & adoptive father had related finally made sense! He had always known that He had been born for a special Purpose; now He knew what that Purpose was & Jesus returned to the Land of His Nativity to fulfill that Purpose!
All in all, Jesus' Journey had consumed the better part of 5 years! It was as He was nearing the exalted age of 30 that Jesus once again set foot in the Land of His Nativity. His first stop, of course, was in the region of the Galilee to check in on his family. Finding them as well as could be expected, Jesus moved on to renew acquaintance with His cousin John, but found that John, in his own Journey of Discovery, had left his home & family to take up residency in the wilderness south of Jerusalem. Although Jesus decided not to extend His search at that time; He & His cousin were soon to cross paths again, anyway!
In His absence, many of the building projects that Jesus Himself had worked on were nearing completion, while some had been finished while He was away & yet others had begun. The population had thus been growing as well, yet even though Jesus found Himself in the midst of a growing metropolis, the stigma that had followed Him all His life had not lessened one bit; if anything, it had grown right along with the population. Taking up the reins once more, Jesus took His mother, brothers & sisters, moving further toward the holy city, Jerusalem, not only to escape the wagging tongues, but to lessen the stress of the yearly journey.
The Return of Jesus had sparked some controversy, as was to be expected! Born of a questionable union ( although, if His detractors cared to remember, so had more than a few of their exalted ancestors been! ), He faced, not only that stigma, but also shouldered His newly-found Purpose. He knew what He had to do; He also knew that it was likely to go over like a ton of bricks, so to speak! With this Purpose in mind, after making sure His family was well cared for, Jesus set about His Father's purpose; He went looking for His cousin.
This is a work of almost pure fiction. While the last three years of Jesus' life are chronicled, to some extent, in what we now call the New Testament, the point of the words above is to possibly give a bit of insight into how Jesus might have gotten to the point of His meeting with John the Baptizer at the Jordan River. In no way whatsoever is this meant to be a historical account, just an attempt to explain, with the aid of what we can glean from history itself, some of the events that transpired in the Life of Jesus as we know it. To this end, I now invite any constructive criticism or discussion engendered by this endeavor!
Charles Haddon Shank