I'm Beginning to Wonder about Jesus
It was my good fortune to actually know a man named Yohanan ben Zakkai, who was one of the Rabbis in the temple when Jesus disappeared from the caravan heading back to Nazareth and joined this group of learned men. I asked him what happened.
"It began as a typical day," he said. "There were about six of us and we were just beginning to select the texts we wanted to discuss when this boy walked in. We looked up and he smiled at us. We welcomed him, as he seemed intelligent and serious. He sat down and listened to our discussions attentively."
"Did he say he was lost?" I asked.
"No, he didn't, in fact he seemed to know exactly where he was. He was definitely not lost. After listening for a while, he started asking us questions."
"What kind of questions?" I asked.
"Very interesting and puzzling questions, which demonstrated a maturity and intelligence beyond his years. He was well versed in the ancient writings."
At this point another of the rabbis joined us. Yohanan introduced him as Rabbi Shimon ben Gamaliel. He said "Yes, there were some difficult questions, and, surprisingly, we did not always have the answers."
"Then he started answering them himself!" Gamaliel continued. "And we had to agree with his explanations. His knowledge was most impressive."
"What was even more so," Yohanan intervened, "was that he answered them with authority, and not by referring to one of the prophets. He didn't say, 'as Isaias says…' or 'according to Ezekiel'. He said 'I say this is the meaning of this passage'. That created a little stir among us. We are not accustomed to lectures from children."
Gamaliel continued, "But I was still intrigued by his perception of the meaning of some of those ancient writings that we had been discussing when he showed up."
"It was at this time that his mom and dad appeared." Yohanan said. "You could tell that they were upset. This boy was their only son, and they thought he had been lost, when actually he deliberately stayed behind to involve himself in our discussions. We were happy to see them since we were starting to feel uncomfortable with all his questions and answers.
"But then we were surprised at how quickly he changed into a typical teenager and went home quietly with his parents. His comment that he was about his father's business shocked us, given that his father is a well-regarded carpenter. His mother put her arms around him and they all went off together. However, I hope he comes again. It was good to see such intelligence in one so young."
"Yes," Gamaliel added, "I think we will be seeing and hearing much about this boy in the future. I hope more of our young men will follow his example and study our sacred texts."
That was one of the things that made me wonder about Jesus. Where did that maturity and intelligence come from? I felt both Mary and Joseph were intelligent and mature beyond their years, so perhaps those traits were passed on to their son.
But why were they so accommodating to his disobedience? Why did they accept the fact that he stayed behind deliberately so he could interact with the rabbis? Most parents would have been irate at such behavior, but they weren't, and he went home with them like a typical kid. There is obviously a lot of love in that family.
Nevertheless, I had questions, and some of them went all the way back to that night in Bethlehem and his miraculous birth. Even back then I felt in my soul that there was something special about Jesus, and everything I have learned about him since then has confirmed it.
His parents were stone-faced, but somehow I felt they knew more than what they were letting on. What makes him so special? Where did this intelligence and maturity come from? What is it about this child that they know, but aren't telling us?