by Rev. Fr. Dr. V. C. Varghese, Sugar Land, Texas
Saint Luke tells us about three important meetings in the temple in Jerusalem by the Child Jesus. The infant Jesus met Moses (Lk. 2:20-24), Simeon (Lk. 2:25-35), and Anna (Lk. 2:36-38). How did Jesus meet Moses in the temple? Note that the word 'law' is used five times in Luke 2:20-40. Though He came to deliver His people from the bondage of the Law, Jesus was "made under the Law" and obeyed its commands (Gal. 4:1-7). He did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17-18).
Jesus' parents obeyed the Law first by having the child circumcised when He was eight days old. This was the sign and seal of the covenant that God made with Abraham (Gen. 17), and it was required of every Jewish male who wanted to practice the faith. "A child only eight days old was already beginning the blood-shedding that would fulfill His perfect manhood. The cradle was tinged with crimson, a token of Calvary. The Precious Blood was beginning its long pilgrimage. Within an octave of His birth, Christ obeyed a law of which was to find its last application in Him. There had been sin in human blood, and now blood was already being poured out to do away with sin. As the East catches the sunset the colors of the West, so do the Circumcision reflects Calvary" (Life of Christ: Fulton J. Sheen). His circumcision- first blood shed- was His first suffering for us which symbolized the work the Saviour did on the cross. Simeon and Anna, like Zacharias and Elizabeth, were a part of the faithful Jewish remnant that eagerly looked for their Messiah (Mal. 3:16).
Joseph and Mary traveled to Jerusalem every year to celebrate Passover. At the end His twelfth year, which would have been His thirteenth birthday, Jesus was taken to the temple for His Bar-Mitzvah (Bar-misvah) which was and is the custom of the Jews. The Bar-Mitzvah is the point in life when a Jewish boy becomes a man. Jesus went into the temple as a boy, He came out of the Temple as a man. When Mary and Joseph left the Temple and discovered that after one day's journey that Jesus was not with them, they returned to the Temple to find their son in a dialogue with the scholars (Lk. 2:44-48).
That statement alone is proof that Jesus was thirteen, because a child of twelve would not have been allowed to sit in the midst of the doctors, much less discuss theological subjects. Among religious Jews, the Bar-Mitzvah marks a significant turning point in a boy's life as he starts to experience growth toward adulthood. He is now counted in a Minyan (prayer quorum) which according to traditional Jewish law must be composed of ten adult men. Many Christian teachers say, "we know nothing about the life of Jesus from His twelfth year until His public ministry began at age of thirty. Not so. Because Jesus was Jewish, we know what He was doing at every phase of His life. From "Everyman's Talmud" we read: "At five years, the age is reached for the study of Scripture; at ten, for the study of Mishnah; at thirteen, for the fulfillment of the commandments, Bar-Mitzvah; at fifteen, for the study of Talmud; at eighteen, for marriage; at twenty for seeking livelyhood as a carpenter following father's trade; at thirty, for entering into one's full strength ( life's work; full priesthood for Levis).
Jesus therefore, began studying the Scripture at the age of five; He studied the Mishnahat the age of ten; and Bar-Mitzvah at the age of 13 in the Temple; at 15 He studied the Talmud, knowing the Cross was before Him, He did not marry at 18; at 20 he worked as a carpenter with His father Joseph and began his public ministry at the age of 30 having reached his full strength. Those who say that Jesus did not practice traditional Judaism have no knowledge of history or Scripture. The fact is, the only faith on the face of the earth during the life of Jesus that believed in a single Omnipotent Supreme Being was Judaism. It was the lone voice of Judaism that shouted to a pagan world saturated with polytheistic deities, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One!" (Shema Israel) Deu.6:4. Every word of the New Testament verifies that Jesus, His family and His disciples practiced traditional Judaism every day at their lives.
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