Jesus’s “Lost” Years?

When [Jesus] was twelve years old, [Jesus, Mary, and Joseph] went up to the festival [in Jerusalem], according to the custom. After the festival was over, while they were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but [Mary and Joseph] were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.  When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.   And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.  (Luke 2:41-52)

Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.  (Luke 3:23)


Much has been made about Jesus’s supposed “lost” years.  (What happened to him when he was a teenager?  What happened to him when he was a young adult?  What happened to him during those years?)

That said, much has been speculated about what happened to him during those supposed  “lost” years (at times, people have suggested that he traveled to Egypt and India, lived with the Essenes, traveled to Persia and Atlantis, etc.).

In order to answer this question, we need to consider how the ancients defined what we would call a “biography”.

(n.b., our modern word “biography” is derived from two Greek terms:  bios, meaning “life”, and graphia, meaning “to write”.  It goes without saying that a biography is a written account of a person’s life.)

Getting back to what the ancients regarded as a biography, they had a completely different concept of it than we do today.  Most of us today tend to define a biography as a written, sequential listing of the events of a person’s life (“This event happened … after that, this event, this event, this event, and this event happened, followed by this event”).

The ancients, on the other hand, were much more interested in the character of a person (What did they believe?  How did they live?  What did they teach, if anything?  What made them tick?).

This is why the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) have long stood as biographies of Christ, even though none of them agree with each other (Christ names Peter the head of the church in the gospel of Matthew, but not in Mark, Luke, or John.  Christ re-instates Peter as the head of the church — this after Peter denied knowing Christ three times prior to his crucifixion — in the gospel of John, but not in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Matthew and Luke contain nativity narratives — both of which differ significantly — while Mark and John do not.  All of the gospels contain wildly differing accounts of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection.)

The short answer to the question that I posed above (What happened during Jesus’s “lost” years?) is thus:  nothing that the ancients would’ve found particularly interesting.  In all likelihood, he grew up living the typical life of a Jewish boy of that era, working alongside his father Joseph and going to the synagogue, where he learned the Hebrew scriptures that he himself — as a grown man in his early thirties — would someday preach.


Can You Handle The Truth?

Lt.  Kaffee:  “I want the TRUTH!

Col.  Jessup:  “You can’t HANDLE the truth!”

— A Few Good Men (1992) —



Those who preach the “Health, Wealth, and Prosperity” gospel enjoy trotting out Matthew 7:7 :

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

The truly ambitious ones will trot out John 14:12-14 :

“[W]hoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

“I will do whatever you ask in my name” … as if Almighty God can be commanded like a genie in a bottle! (“Hello, God?  I’d like a BMW, an iPhone 6, and a waterfront house.  Oh, and can I have it all by next Tuesday?  Thanks!”)

According to the Prosperity gospel, the poor simply lack faith.  If they just click their heels and keep affirming that they’re wealthy, all the treasures that this world can offer (expensive cars and house, vast fortunes, expensive jewelry, exotic vacations, etc.) will be theirs for the asking.

As far as preachers of the prosperity gospel are concerned, such things as the overall economy and world events have absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with a person’s earning capacity.  They enjoy trotting out such bromides as “If you can believe it, you can achieve it!”

Is this something that we should really be encouraging?  Would Christ encourage His followers to wallow in the things of this world?

The prosperity preachers hardly ever mention Luke 6:24-25, where Jesus says:

“But woe to you who are rich,  for you have already received your comfort.

“Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.”

Or His advice to the rich young man in Matthew 19:21 (“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”).

Or further down the same chapter in verses 23 and 24:

“Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

How does one reconcile the Jesus of Luke 6:24-25 and Matthew 19:21 with today’s trendy “prosperity” gospel?

To make matters worse, not even pastors — those whom God has chosen to preach His Word  — are immune from this sickness of materialism (Pastor Creflo Dollar recently appealed to his congregation for money to buy a $65-million Gulfstream jet).

(Seriously?  Are you and your wife Taffi too good to fly Coach just like the rest of us?  When the shepherd is flitting about the world in his private jet, who’s tending the FLOCK?)

The man whom we serve, Jesus of Nazareth, WALKED wherever He went (He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as He was on His way to Calvary, but that ranks as an exception).  He was born in a manger and had no need of horses or fancy carriages during His years in ministry.

His successors in ministry — those whom God has appointed to prophecy and act in His name — would do well to emulate His example (at the very least, let us emulate Pope Francis, who is content to drive around Vatican City in a Ford Focus).


“Love is Patient … ” — What Paul REALLY Meant

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

More than a few couples have tied the knot to these words that were penned by the Apostle Paul.

One could easily conclude that Paul intended this to be a meditation on love … a paean to wedded bliss.

Contrary to what one might see inscribed on the decorative plaques staring back at you from the shelves at your local Christian gift store, that was NOT Paul’s intention at all.

Consider Paul’s audience:  the Corinthians.  Back in Paul’s day, Corinth was Sin City.  If there was a rule, the people of Corinth broke it.  If there was a sin, the people of Corinth committed it.  (Drunkenness?  Check.  Incest?  Check.  Idol worship?  Check.  Sexual immorality?  Check.  Jealousy, Quarreling, and Infighting?  Check, Check, and Check.  The list goes on … )

Earlier in 1 Corinthians 3:2-3, Paul vents his frustration with the church in Corinth:

I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.

If 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 should be read as anything, it should be read more in the manner of an exasperated teacher having to correct a group of wayward schoolchildren than as an ode to romance.

Paul is REALLY having to get down to basics here (“A is for Apple, B is for Banana, C is for Cat … “).  Anything more advanced would completely go over the heads of the sinning, stubborn, recalcitrant church in Corinth.

Something to consider the next time you hear this scripture passage recited at a wedding ceremony.

Christ vs. The Sanhedrin

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.


Luke 10:1 (NIV)



Why did Jesus send out EXACTLY seventy-two disciples?

A great deal of Christ’s ministry was directed against The Sanhedrin, the Jewish high priests in Jerusalem.

The Sanhedrin was comprised of seventy-two Jewish elders.  Jesus sent out seventy-two disciples with the intent of establishing his own church, separate and distinct from The Sanhedrin.

Scripture is filled with Christ lobbing brickbats against the Sanhedrin.  Take Christ’s driving the money changers from the Temple (Luke 19: 44-48).  The money changers were charging the poor usurious interest rates (a sin!) to exchange their common Roman coins for ritual Temple coins.

When Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple, he was sending a signal to the Sanhedrin; the money changers would not have been permitted to operate on the Temple grounds without THEIR consent.

The Sanhedrin was corrupt.  It was profiting from sin while giving the outward appearance of being pious.  It was for this reason that Christ drove the money changers from the Temple.  (In all likelihood, it was also one reason that he was crucified.  He was posing a threat to their income stream.)

Christ doesn’t stop there.  In chapter 23 of the Gospel of Matthew, we find Christ railing against the excesses of the Pharisees, the orthodox Jews of his day:


 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”


Matthew 23: 25 (NIV)



“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.   In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”


Matthew 23:  27-28 (NIV)


This too was ultimately aimed at The Sanhedrin.  The images Christ used in his discourses fit them to a T:  bowls that are clean on the outside and yet filthy on the inside.  Whitewashed tombs that look pure and pristine on the surface while at the same time being corrupt, filthy, and unclean within.

The corruption of the Pharisees was symptomatic of a far greater problem:  the religious leaders of the day (the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin included) had forgotten who they were supposed to be.  They had lost their identity as a people who were set apart by God.  They had become too enmeshed in the world.  (They might have made a public show of their piety, but in terms of what was in their hearts and how they actually lived their day-to-day lives, they weren’t all that different from their Gentile neighbors.)

This is a re-capitulation of the era of the Old Testament prophets.  If you read the books of the prophets (Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Amos, Malachai, et al.), you’ll see the same themes re-occurring:  the corruption of the priests, the corruption of society, etc.

Jesus of Nazareth was a comedian.  He was not above using humor to drive home a point.  When you read the Seven Woes passage of Matthew 23: 10-27, don’t do what most people do in their Bible Study class and read it in a droning monotone (“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites …” ). 

Instead, read it with passion … with feeling.  Christ was holding up the religious leaders of his day to public ridicule.  This too was one reason that he was crucified.

In many respects, Christ’s death echoes John the Baptist’s (Mark 6: 17-29).  He dared to chastise the ruling powers of his day for the sins … and was executed for it.