The Tweens

By Marcy Barthelette

No, I don’t mean that awkward time when pre-teens are attempting to spread their wings a little more than parents would like and feeling caught between childhood and full-fledged teen years.

I’d like to explore those weeks between Advent and Lent, that time when we have just celebrated a miraculous birth, and all too soon will contemplate a tortuous journey leading to a lonely cross on a hillside. We are offered little about the human Jesus between his birth and his ministry and that allows fertile ground for imaginations to wander.

Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised.

 I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people,” Luke 2:28-31

We know that Jesus was taken for circumcision at eight days, as required by Jewish Law. He was also, by law, presented at the Temple on the fortieth day after his birth, where he encountered Simeon and Anna. And, of course, we remember that when his parents lost him as they were returning home from Passover, they later found him teaching his elders in the Temple. That’s a very thin biographical resume for anyone, but for one destined to be King of God’s chosen people, we would expect more.  

In today’s world, parents would take endless photos, especially of a firstborn child. There would be anxious moments as this bundle of joy pierces the night with cries of hunger or pain. There would be the usual firsts; first smile, rolling over, sitting up, first steps. Then comes the first day of preschool or kindergarten, the first boyfriend or girlfriend, first dance. There would be teenage dreams of what the future might hold residing right alongside athletic aspirations and preparing for a driver’s license. Let’s not forget high school graduation, going off to college, or into a new job. Perhaps this child would follow in the parent’s footsteps but most often, would branch off in an entirely new direction. Then the cycle begins again. The child marries, becomes the parent, and eventually the grandparent….and life just keeps rolling along.   

Obviously, the culture was much different in Jesus’ day. But he would still have wanted his clothing changed when soiled, he would have needed someone to feed and dress him until he could accomplish those tasks for himself. Most likely, he would have followed his father in the family trade. I have often pictured the boy, Jesus, standing alongside Joseph wielding a hammer or sawing a piece of lumber. I think he would also have loved animals and participated in their daily care as well as rollicking with them in the grass. But I can envision him at Mary’s side in the kitchen as well, for I believe he, being God in the flesh, respected and revered his mother and enjoyed spending time with her. We read about his sharing equality with women throughout his later ministry. I believe he must have engaged in the games of the time with siblings and friends. I can certainly imagine that he would have lived life to its fullest in those early years, but I find it harder to visualize him as a young man in that decade before he began his ministry in earnest.

Because he never traveled far from home, we must assume that he continued to help his parents during his twenties and to deepen relationships with his contemporaries. But he didn’t follow the typical path of marriage and family. He did not experience that aspect of human life. When the day came for his earthly ministry of bringing an understanding of God to the human mind of his day, he was greatly focused. Earthly family members, while not forgotten or neglected, were no longer part of his closest circle. His focus shifted to training trustworthy disciples who would be prepared to carry the message in his eventual absence. 

Think about it, from before the beginning of time, Jesus carried the burden that he would one day come to earth in the form of a helpless human infant. He would experience every human condition and emotion yet remain free of sin. He came knowing that his very own creation would convict him of a crime with no merit in a mockery of a trial. They would then beat and torture him, before attaching a crown of cruel thorns to his head, march him through the streets carrying his own cross, and then nail him to it. They would pierce his side, cast lots for his clothing, and leave him for dead. Who would willingly assume that burden?

Jesus did!

He did it for me and he did it for you!

It seems we are in a state of constant preparation, first birth, then death. We’re just a few weeks from the beginning of Lent. It’s time to sharpen our focus on eternity. Are we as prepared as Simeon was?  Let’s use our “tween time” well!

One Response to “The Tweens”

  1. Rhonda says:

    Thank you so much Marcy. Wonderful insight

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