In a recent homily I mentioned the five year old Jesus in the overall context or question of when did Jesus know he was God’s Son and I was quite surprised at the amount of reaction it got.
Some expressed surprise, in that they had never really thought of Jesus as a five year old or a ten year old, others felt we cannot know anything about Jesus at this stage in his life because the Gospel tells us nothing on this matter. Despite a range of reactions I was also quite taken by the desire of people to hear more.
This brings me to a topic dear to my heart that of the historical Jesus in other words Jesus of Nazareth. The most important thing for me to say at the outset on this topic and I appreciate it may sound a bit corny, is that this is a most exciting adventure. I mean the adventure of coming to know about Jesus. It is of course a huge area. Some scholars have spent years studying the notion of waiting for Jesus, others got immersed in studying his actual life whilst others still, have given their lives working on the implications of the life death and resurrection of Jesus for us today. Obviously these areas whilst having an independence are also closely linked.
The area I am focusing on is the life of Jesus, as they say, from womb to tomb. Even as we use those words we are into huge areas such as the incarnation and the resurrection, in that Jesus was born of the Virgin through the power of the Holy Spirit and whilst there was a tomb, we gather at an empty tomb. Why look among the dead for one who is alive? He is Risen!
So to address the question how well do we know the historical Jesus we might play a little with some issues. Do we ever consider that the threat of death hung over the infant Jesus even before he was born? Herod the dysfunctional and dangerous king was plotting to kill the ‘infant king’ even as he was born in Bethlehem. Did the five year old Jesus fall whilst out playing? Presumably he played. What kind of childhood would it be without play? Did the ten year old Jesus ever cut his thumb or finger in Joseph’s workshop? What do you think happened then? Was the wound healed by magic? Did he feel no pain? This is dangerous. This is the road to a Harry Potter or Star Trek like Jesus. Before we know it we are saying maybe he was not in agony in Gethsemane or Calvary. Did he really die or just go though the motions? This is the realm of heresy, and serious heresy at that. This is the denial of the humanity of Jesus. Essentially what we end up doing here is to take the extraordinary gift from God of his only begotten Son out of love for us and throw it back in his face. When we give in to gobbledygook religion we miss out on the deep and real beauty of our faith. That would be more than a pity.
Yours fraternally, Joe McD.