Geri and Rob traveled from Hawaii to be amongst us and together presented some deeper insights into the early years of Jesus – the child.
There is no better inspiration or example of one’s growing personal relationship with God than the life of Jesus.
In our spiritual growth, we are not asked to experience anything that Joshua –Jesus – did not also experience. As we read about his early years, there are numerous incidents that stimulated his growth and development, some with significant detail and other events that were casually mentioned and left for us to ponder.
Rob: What did he say to the heavenly Father during his little chats?
Geri : What kind of questions did he ask his family, the chazan, friends, and even strangers, that left his parents thinking he was a “walking question mark.”
Rob “…But his real education—that equipment of mind and heart for the actual test of grappling with the difficult problems of life—he obtained by mingling with his fellow men…” [Paper 123:5.8, page 1363.1] What did that look like?
Geri: As he became aware of his mission in life and pondered the nature of this mission, how did he handle being an adolescent with his newfound awareness?
Rob: Image the multitude of decisions he had to make following the death of Joseph—and most particularly postponing his mission to serve God, in order to raise his father Joseph’s family—at the age of 15.
Geri: As his mind became more spirit coordinated and his understanding of God grew, how do you think he explained Yahweh’s love to his family?
Rob: To whom could he turn when he was confused and perplexed? – Well, to that question there was a clear answer— there was no human to whom he could turn, and so he deepened his relationship with his Father in heaven.
Geri: These are but a few questions. We all have many more. Rob compiled a detailed, though not an exhaustive list, of the events in Jesus’ pre-baptismal life that describes significant moments or decisions in his growth and development. We are happy to share the list with you -we have a few handouts, and we can email the list to you. Here is a sign-up list.
Rob: Geri, back to the questions. I have wondered what Jesus said to his Father in heaven during his little chats with Him. And I am glad you mentioned he was a ‘walking question mark’. What do you think he asked?
Geri: We know he was often in trouble at school for his persistent and embarrassing questions about science and religion. And of course, he bombarded his Abba Joseph and Immah Mary with questions about nature and Jewish laws.
Rob: Joseph and Mary were remarkably patient parents. Can you imagine how hard it was for them to raise such an inquisitive child?
Geri: Well as a matter of fact I have a story about that. In this imagined story about the earthquake, Joshua is almost 6 years old, James is 3 and Miriam is in her first year.
The boys were building with the blocks of wood, that Joseph set aside for them. Suddenly the blocks tumbled down and the ground shook– for seven, eight or maybe ten seconds, though it seemed like an extremely long time to the boys. They felt their legs tremble. They watched a stool shake and water in the bucket slosh about. The branches in the tree swayed, even though there was no wind. It felt as though the whole house was moving.
The boys looked at each other, their eyes full of questions. “I didn’t knock it down,” James quickly said.
“Why is the ground moving?” asked Joshua.
Carrying a crying Miriam, Mary dashed out of the house to the back courtyard to where the boys were. Hearing Miriam’s cries, Joseph, who just arrived home, came running from the animal pens into the yard to check on Mary and the children.
“Are you okay?” he asked Mary. “Is Miriam hurt?”
“We are fine. Some dishes fell off the shelves and a bowl hit Miriam’s shoulder. It scared her more than hurt her,” Mary replied, as she cuddled and soothed Miriam.
Kneeling, Joseph looked carefully at his sons. “Are you well?” he asked. “Did anything fall on you?” Sensing his parents’ concern, James started to cry and Joseph picked him up and held him tenderly.
“We’re not hurt,” Joshua answered. “But what happened, abba? Why did the ground move?”
After a moment’s thought, Joseph replied honestly, “I don’t know.” Joseph’s impulse was to say the earthquake was caused by Yahweh (ya way) But on second thought, he knew such an answer would not satisfy Joshua and would only generate more questions that Joseph could not answer.
Now Joshua was doubly stunned, not only by the moving ground but by Joseph’s admission. He had always thought his parents knew everything. Joshua contemplated this new thought before he returned to his original question: what made the ground move?
After a while, and with no aftershocks, Joseph and Joshua headed for the carpenter shop to check on both the shop and their neighbors. They stopped first at Mary’s parents’ home to be sure no one had been injured.
“Savta, did you feel the ground move?” Joshua asked his grandmother.
“Yes, Joshua I did,” Savta Hannah answered, looking searchingly at Joseph. “It was scary to have no control over what was happening, so I prayed hard to Yahweh to keep everyone safe.”
“Your prayers worked. We were well.” Joseph replied to Hannah’s unasked questions. “We are on the way to the shop but wanted to see you and Saba Joachim first.”
Shortly afterward, they continued down the road with Joseph looking carefully at each building and were pleased to see no damage to any of them. As they passed people, they heard everyone talking about the shaking ground. At the shop, they found Joseph’s younger brother, Benjamin, speaking with Jacob the stone mason and his son Jacob, Joshua’s best friend. Like Joseph, Jacob was checking on family, friends, and his masonry shop. They overheard the elder Jacob telling Benjamin, “When I was a schoolboy the ground moved so hard and so long that several buildings fell, and people were trapped inside. Our neighbor’s house collapsed. My father and my uncles worked with the other men to pull the wreckage away to reach the family. Even my brothers and I hauled bricks away. We found them all, but some were injured. Later we learned not everyone in Nazareth was so fortunate. Many died that day. This is why we are all talking to each other and ensuring no one needs help.”
“Jacob’s abba, do you know why the ground moved?” Joshua asked Jacob the Elder.
“Joshua, I do not know,” he replied. “As a youth, I asked the same question. My father told me that Yahweh thought we needed to remember his great power and our devotion to Him. So, Yahweh made the ground shake to remind us. I heard a Rabbi say Yahweh was punishing us for not keeping the laws.”
Joshua started to say something but a sharp look from Joseph stopped him. Quietly in his mind, he thought, “Yahweh would not do that.” He would ask his Abba Josephlater why people think God would hurt them.
On the way home, Joshua was deep in thought still pondering what could make the ground move. He thought of the camel caravans coming through town. The ground did not shake then. So, it had to be something bigger than 50 or 60 camels. Could a mountain fall? Could something happen under the ground? His thoughts shifted to wondering if mountains were made or if they were always just there. He vaguely recalled a scripture about Moses on a mountain with Yahweh that was consumed by fire and “the whole mountain quaked greatly.” He would ask his abba about that scripture.
Later, in his summer bed on the rooftop, Joshua reviewed the day’s events before his chat with his “Father in heaven.”
First, he thought of the earthquake and people saying the shaking ground was caused by Yahweh as punishment or a reminder of His power. Joshua could not believe his Father in heaven would intentionally harm them. Why would a parent want to hurt their child? He thought of how hard his Abba Joseph and his Immah Mary worked to give them a good home and how much his parents loved each of their children. Quietly he said, “Father, I believe you love us more than anyone else and would never hurt us. As I trust my abba and immah, I trust you even more.”
Rob — Joseph and Mary did their best to answer Joshua’s questions and educate him. As he grew, during his schoolboy years, he also learned from the chazan, visiting rabbis, and an assortment of people from the “four quarters of the earth” that traveled with the caravans. Have you ever wondered who they were? where they came from? and what he learned from them?
Geri– You mean other than the mathematician from Damascus?
Rob—Yes… other than that mathematician and Rabbi Nahor who had wanted Joshua to enter one of the Jerusalem academies.
Geri—Well I have thought about this and I just happened to have another imagined story in which a 10 yr. old Joshua meets a Zoroastrian priest, who traveled with a camel caravan?
As we begin, the priest is outside Joseph’s carpenter shop, in a conversation with a caravan leader. Joshua overhears a man saying:
“Ah! I have heard that question before. We are not fire-worshippers, though we use fire and water, in many of our rituals as symbols of God’s purity and power. We only worship the One God, the Lord of Lights, the Creator of all things, He who is most Beneficent and Good.”
“You speak as one with knowledge and authority. Might you be a priest?” the caravan leader inquired.
“Yes, I am a religious leader amongst my people, called a Mobed in our language. In Greek, the word ‘priest’ is close enough. I travel now to Alexandria to visit others of my order who live there. The great library commissioned further writings of our beliefs and an opportunity to teach. We hope to share the light of goodness amongst the people of the world.”
Joshua was captivated by this conversation. He knew little of other religions except for the ancient Egyptians, the Romans, and the Greeks– with their many gods. This was the first he heard of another religion that believed in one God.
Running out of the shop and standing now before the men, he paused politely waiting for a break in their conversation, though when they saw him, they stopped talking. Joshua introduced himself and handed the caravan leader the lengths of cord he had just purchased from the shop- all cut and trimmed.
Boldly Joshua said, “Through the window, I could hear you speaking. While I do not mean to be rude or interrupt you, may I ask a few questions?
Looking at the Zoroastrian Mobed, he asked, “Sir, Where do you come from? Do you worship Yahweh? How did you learn about Him? Do you follow the laws of Moses? What does a Mobed do?”
Turning toward the caravan leader, he inquired: “Sir, where is your home? What is the longest trip you have taken and the largest caravan you have commanded? Have you always worked with camels? Where do camels come from as they are not native to this area? At least, I do not think they are?”
Taken aback, the men were surprised by Joshua’s barrage of questions. However, his genuine curiosity and eagerness to learn, along with his friendliness and excellent manners, charmed these men.
“With such interest to learn as you display, how can we refuse you? But I must to tend to other duties. Perhaps this teacher of Zoroaster will answer your many questions. If you are at the caravan lot this evening, I will tell you about camels and the land of my home,” said the caravan leader as he departed.
“So many questions young Joshua ben Joseph! You must be an industrious student, but I wonder if you exhaust your teachers?” said the Mobed with a twinkle in his eyes.
“I am called Ardvan, from the land of Parthia, east of Damascus, across the wide desert. My home is in Susa, the home of our ancestors for thousands of years. It was once part of the land of Elam, noted, I believe, in your holy writings by Daniel and Esther, maybe by others too,” he told Joshua.
After learning about Ardvan’s homeland and some of his travels, Joshua asked, “Sir, would you tell me more about the God of Lights, whom you called the Creator of all? Do you worship Yahweh? Do you keep the laws of Moses? Have you read the scriptures?”
“There is only one God, one Creator who made the world, all the things upon it, and all the people in it. You call the Creator Yahweh, we call Him Ahura Mazda, He who is beneficent and good. Ardvan answered all of Joshua’s probing questions for the next few hours.
Later that night, from his rooftop bed, Joshua reviewed and assessed what he learned that day. He thought long and hard over what Ardvan told him. Joshua had been taught that the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians with their pantheon of gods, did not have a real religion. Only Judaism was the one, true religion of Yahweh.
But Ardvan had told him that the followers of Zoroaster worshipped the Creator of all beings and to follow Ahura Mazda was to follow the path of goodness, with good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. He said they encouraged acts of kindness for their own sake not seeking reward. Those who chose goodness would reside forever with Ahura Mazda in the life hereafter.” This sounded a lot like Judaism.
Ardvan also said that God had revealed His goodness to Zoroaster, just as He revealed himself to Abraham and Moses. God spoke to them. “Was this possible? Is this true?” “Did Yahweh really reveal his goodness to Zoroaster?” Joshua pondered this new information carefully, assessing each detail against what he had been taught.
Having recently read the Psalms, Joshua recalled the phrases:
“The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his creation…
The heavens declare God’s righteousness, and all the people have seen his glory … God who has made us … his people, the sheep in his pasture.”
It was the word “all” that got his attention and the words ‘all the people’ lingered in Joshua’s thoughts. He reasoned that Yahweh would want all people to know about him. If Yahweh spoke to Abraham and Moses, to Isaiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets of old, then Yahweh, if He wanted, then He could have spoken to Zoroaster and maybe others as well. Yes, Joshua admitted to himself, this had to be possible, for His Father loves all his children and He can do all things.
Then he thought that just because there were other teachers did not mean the descendants of Abraham and Moses, the Hebrew nation, were not selected by Yahweh to be His chosen people– to share his truth and his laws. Yes, that also could be true.
Joshua recalled how the caravan travelers and camel drivers brought information to Palestine from lands far away. This would work both ways. The people who learned from Abraham, Moses, or the other prophets of Judaism could take the truth of the One God to people in other lands. Yes, that was likely.
Joshua reflected on Ardvan’s words – that you can feel the truth inside you. He advised Joshua to stay open to truth, even if it came in an unexpected manner.
Lastly, Joshua thought about the school that Ardvan had attended on an island in a great lake. He has said that was where he learned of Judaism and of several other religions that also shared a belief in the one God. Joshua wondered what it looked like and if he would ever see such a school.
As he looked at the stars, Joshua intended to again review his earlier thoughts about Yahweh wanting all people to know Him, but instead, he found himself thinking of the words from the Book of Ezekiel “I will put my spirit in you, and you will see that you follow my laws and all the commandments.” As the words floated through his mind, they slowly changed to, “my spirit is in you, follow my spirit.”
Joshua fell asleep assured that he rested in the love and comfort of his Father in heaven.
ROB & GERI dialogue
Rob- Our time is getting short— do you have another story that imagines Jesus’ growth and development?
Geri– Yes, actually I have a book full of them, In this story, Joshua is now 18 and raising his abba Joseph’s family.
His communication with God is more consistent, and he trusts his heavenly Father wholeheartedly. Over the past two years, Joshua has made progress “…in the organization of his mind” and in “bringing his divine and human natures together.” He has decided to be “… a teacher of truth and as a revealer of the heavenly Father to the world…” and He knows he will not become the expected Jewish Messiah.
In this story, Amos, his youngest brother who is a month shy of 6 years old, has died. Joshua tries to comfort his family and share his trust in the heavenly Father with them. Take note of the questions the children ask Joshua.
“I hate going to the well. They all look at us with pity,” said Miriam as she, James, and Joshua walked home with their daily drinking water.
“Most of our neighbors know the pain of losing a loved one. What you see in their eyes may be compassion, not pity, as they remember a parent or child they lost.” Joshua said to his sister.
With that 13 yr. old Miriam burst into tears, “I miss Amos and I still miss Abba so much.”
The death of their little brother reopened the wounds from the loss of Abba Joseph. As Mary and the older children mourned Amos, they remembered Joseph.
Simon and Martha (roughly 10 & 8) recalled little of the days after Joseph’s death, except the great sadness that descended upon their household, especially upon their immah. For months the girls heard Mary’s soft sobs during the night. Now they mourned their brother, Amos, understanding the seeming permanence of death.
Jude, at 7 1/2, understands more about what is happening than 3 yr. old Ruth, but for both, this is a bewildering time.
A few days after Amos’ funeral Joshua ended their evening prayers offering a time to talk about Amos or to ask any questions they had.
It was Martha who asked somewhat angrily, “Why did Yahweh take our brother from us?”
Jude piped in saying, “Why did He punish Amos? Amos didn’t do anything wrong.”
Shocked, Joshua uttered,” Where did you hear that?”
Jude’s voice scared little Ruth who cried, “Is He going to take me away, too?
Before Joshua could reply to Jude and soothe Ruth, more questions poured out from the others.
“Why didn’t Yahweh save Amos?” asked Martha. “We all prayed, asking Him to heal Amos.”
“Is Amos with Abba?” Simon asked, at the very same time that Jude said, “Why do people have to die?”
Miriam added, “It is comforting to think Abba and Amos are together. I hope they are, and I hope I get to see them when I die,” Ruth again broke into tears, as she hugged Miriam and cried “Don’t leave us too.”
Joshua picked Ruth up and whispered in her ear “Immah and all of us love you. You are safe. We are not going to leave you.”
Joseph was the first to say, “We are told if we follow the ways of Yahweh, we will be with Him in “the world to come”. What does that mean? Will we look the same as we do now? Will we be together? What will we do there?”
James quietly spoke, “Everything lives and dies, the plants, animals, and people. This seems to be Yahweh’s plan, but I am not sure why. And I have no idea what happens in the world to come.”
Let’s pause here to consider the children’s questions. How might Joshua have answered his brothers and sisters? What might he have said? How would he have assured them? Put yourselves into groups of 3 to 4 and share your ideas with each other.
Remember Joshua is 18 yrs. old, humanly aware of his mission in life, a young man just beginning to come to grips with his divinity— He has tremendous faith and full trust in his Father in heaven.
In a few minutes, we will hear your thoughts.
ROB: So what was your ending?
Geri: Joshua might have said: “It is hard to answer you all at once,” Joshua tells them. “Again, let me say that Yahweh loves us, each one of us. Sickness and death are hard to understand but it is not caused by Yahweh- and most certainly not as a punishment.
Joseph, your questions are good ones and ones we all think about. What will come next, in what the scriptures call ‘the world to come?’ This is a mystery, yet to be revealed to us, though we need not fear anywhere where our heavenly Father is. And as for knowing each other, I suspect I will know your laughter and your kind-heartedness anywhere.
James, I agree Our Father in heaven has a plan for all life. I have wondered about this too.
It seems that death is how we enter the “world to come.” It may be like a child who begins in the mother’s womb, and when it grows to fill the womb, it is ready to be born into the family. We begin in this life to know Yahweh as our heavenly Father, to be closer to Him in “the world to come”, as we join the family of God.
Only James and Miriam somewhat understood what Joshua was trying to tell them. Looking at their puzzled faces he added, “As much as we miss our Abba and Amos, they both are in Yahweh’s loving care. They know and feel His love. Of this, we can be certain.”