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The Good Shepherd by Anonymous

CHAPTER III THE BOYHOOD OF JESUS

The Bible tells us only a few stories about the time when Jesus was a little boy.

Nazareth is built up the side of a hill, and there are plenty of gardens and fields down below. Amongst these fields there is a fountain, where the women of Nazareth go to fetch water. Jesus must often have gone with His mother to that fountain; and sometimes, when she was tired, He may have fetched the water for her Himself.

[Illustration: Nazareth, from hill above.]

Mary wore a long blue dress, tied round the waist, and a cap with pieces of money sewn round it, and a white cloth over her head and shoulders, just as the women of Nazareth do now; and Jesus was very likely dressed in a red cap, a bright tunic, a sash of many colours, and a little jacket of white or blue, just as the boys of Nazareth are dressed now.

The houses of Nazareth are white. Grape vines grow over their walls, and doves sit and coo on the flat roofs. There is not much inside the houses: sometimes they have only one room. There is a lamp in the middle of the room, and round the walls there are waterpots. There are bright-coloured quilts on a shelf. People unroll these quilts at night and lie down upon them. There are mats and carpets in the house, and a bright-coloured box with treasures in it, and a painted wooden stool; and that is nearly all.

[Illustration: Jewish women grinding corn.]

When the people of the house want to eat, they put a tray of food on the wooden stool, and they sit round the tray on the floor, and eat with their hands. People in Palestine would not know what to do with tables and chairs, and knives and forks, like ours.

The streets of Nazareth are long and narrow, and they are full of chickens and dogs, of donkeys and camels, of blind beggars and children. There are little shops by the side of the streets, something like the leewans in the inn which I told you about. But the tailors, the shoemakers, the carpenters, and the coffee-grinders do not always sit in their shops. They like to sit on the ground outside, and do their work in the street; and the sellers of dates and of figs, beans, barley, oranges, and other things, sit down in the street to sell their goods.

Joseph, Mary's husband, was a carpenter, and Jesus became a carpenter, and often came out of the little shop and sat on the ground with plane, hammer, glue, and saw, and worked away in the narrow street, just as the carpenters of Nazareth do now.

When the Jewish boys were twelve years old, they were called 'Sons of the Law,' and they were taken to Jerusalem for the Passover. When Jesus was twelve years old, Joseph and His mother took Him up with them to the Passover. When the week was over, Mary and Joseph started for the journey back to Nazareth. But Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. Thousands of people must have been leaving Jerusalem just at the very time that Mary and Joseph went away. So when Mary and Joseph did not see Jesus in the crush, they did not at first feel frightened. They thought, 'We shall find Him soon with some of our friends.' All day long they kept on looking for Him in the crowd, but they did not see Him. And at last they went back again to Jerusalem looking for Him.

Next day they found Him in one of the courts of the Temple. Several Rabbis were there, and everyone who saw and heard Him was astonished. They asked Him questions too, and He answered them wisely and well. Nobody could understand how a young boy could be so wise.

When Mary and Joseph saw Jesus sitting here, with Rabbis coming all around Him, they were greatly surprised. But His mother asked Him why He had stayed behind, and said, 'Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing.' Jesus said to His mother, 'HOW IS IT THAT YE HAVE SOUGHT ME? WIST YE NOT (DID YOU NOT KNOW) THAT I MUST BE ABOUT MY FATHER'S BUSINESS?'

And now He went back with her and with Joseph to Nazareth, and obeyed them, exactly as He always had done. We do not know much more about Jesus when He was a boy. But we do know that as He grew taller, He 'increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.'

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