Mary Did You Know? – Questions About Jesus’ Childhood

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A few weeks ago I created a page where you can submit questions or suggest topics. A reader sent in this question:

In John 2:3-5, Mary asks Jesus to do a miracle in order to save a wedding feast where they have run out of wine.

How did Mary know to ask Jesus for help? Was she even asking for help?

Did she know who he was and what he was here to do?

Why are there no stories of Jesus’ childhood, except in the gnostic gospels?

I recently taught this section at White Fields, during our Advent series. In the sermon I talk about how this first of Jesus’ miracles points to the eschatological hope of the gospel. You can listen to that message here: From Shame to Joy

Let me answer each of your questions in order.

Was Mary Asking Jesus for Help?

Yes, I think that is clear from two things we see in the narrative:

  1. Jesus’ apparent frustration with the request.
  2. Mary’s instructions to the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do.

How Did Mary Know to Ask Jesus for Help? Did She Know Who He Was and What He Was Here to Do?

Yes, Mary absolutely did know that Jesus was the Messiah! This is the woman who got pregnant without having sex. I think that’s something that would be hard to forget.

This is the woman who had the angel Gabriel appear to her to announce that she was pregnant with the Messiah (Luke 1:26-38). This is the woman who sang the “Magnificat” (Luke 1:46-56). This is the woman whose cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah also had a visitation from the Lord. Joseph also had a visitation to tell him the identity of the child (Matthew 1)

Lest we forget, this is the woman who also experienced:

  1. The visit of the shepherds who had heard the divine proclamation (Luke 2)
  2. The visit of the magi who came from the East following the star which proclaimed the birth of a new king (Matthew 2)
  3. Interactions with Simeon and Anna in the temple (Luke 2)

Furthermore, this is the woman who had to flee with her baby in the night to Egypt, where they stayed for several years as refugees until Herod the Great died, because he was committed to killing this one who was the rightful heir to the throne of David, i.e. the promised Messiah.

Mary and Joseph had an acute awareness of who Jesus was, and I would expect that they also talked about this with Jesus. One question that theologians debate is whether Jesus innately knew that he was the Messiah, or if it was revealed to him by the Spirit. I expect that his mother and father would have talked to him about it as well, recounting to him as a young child why they had to live as refugees in Egypt, and telling him stories of the angels’ visitations and all the crazy stuff that happened at his birth.

The word Messiah means anointed one. There were three people in ancient Israel who were anointed with oil as a symbol of the Spirit of God upon them to empower them for their ministry: Prophets, Priests and Kings. The eschatological Messiah was known to be one who would be the perfect fulfillment of all three of these offices: he would be the ultimate priest, the true prophet (remember Moses’ prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:15 of the prophet whom God would raise up… the Jews understood this to be a Messianic prophecy – see John 1:21), and the true king (for more on this, read: If Jesus is God, Why is He Called the Son of God and the Firstborn of All Creation?)

Being that Jesus is the true and greatest prophet, it would be expected that he would perform miracles, like the “wonder-working prophets” Elijah and Elisha. This is why one of the expectations of the Jews from Jesus was that he validate his ministry through performing miracles. Jesus pushed back at this, knowing their hearts – but the fact is that he did perform many miracles.

Why are there no stories of Jesus’ childhood, except in the gnostic gospels?

It says clearly in John 2:11 that this was the first of Jesus’ miracles, or rather “signs”, by which he manifested his glory. This, by the way, goes to show the dubious nature of the childhood narrative of the gnostic Gospel of Thomas, which purports Jesus doing miracles to heal birds.

My guess is that the reason there isn’t more written about Jesus’ childhood is because there wasn’t much to talk about. He spent his first several years in Egypt, then at age 12, his parents noticed that he had a keen desire to know the Father and study the Scriptures. Beyond that, Jesus and his parents would have always known that he was the Messiah, but he didn’t do anything in that role until his baptism at age 30.

Thanks for these great questions! Keep studying the Word, and feel free to send more questions to me by filling out this form.

New Feature: Ask a Question or Suggest a Topic

A lot of the topics that I write about here are inspired by conversations I have or questions I’ve received from readers.

In order to better serve you with content that is relevant to questions that you have about the Bible, culture or current events, I created a new page with a form that can be filled out to submit a question or suggest a topic.

You can access it from the menu or by clicking here: Ask a Question or Suggest a Topic

The 7 Most Popular Posts of 2018

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Thank you for taking the time to read and engage with this blog!

Our readership increased this year by 230% over last year, which itself was a 90% increase over the year before. At this point, the blog is being visited about 40,000 times a year by about 30,000 people.

These were the most popular posts from 2018:

  1. Pastors, Depression and Suicide

  2. Why Did Jesus Tell Some People to Keep Quiet About His Miracles and Identity?

  3. Anthony Bourdain, Suicide and the Bible

  4. Why the Dead Sea Scrolls Matter for Christians

  5. Will Studying Science Make You an Atheist?

  6. Making Sense of Different Bible Translations

  7. Expository Preaching: Structure and Progression

If you’ve found any of the content on this site helpful, please share it with others!

Thanks, and Happy New Year!

2017 in Review

This year readership of this blog nearly doubled!

In 2018 the plan is to begin creating video episodes to reach more people and elaborate on some of the topics addressed on this site so keep an eye out for that.

Here are 10 most-read posts from 2017:

  1. Take Joy in Being the People of God
  2. What is Over-Realized Eschatology?
  3. Grace Through Anna: Meet the Currats
  4. Want to Join a Korean Doomsday Cult?
  5. Politics and Identity
  6. Was Jesus in the Grave Three Days and Three Nights? Here’s How It Adds Up
  7. The Problem with Evangelism
  8. Racism is Not Merely a Matter of Ignorance
  9. What Happened that Made You Like This?
  10. Fearfully and Wonderfully Made? What About Those Born Handicapped?

Thanks for reading! You can let me know in a comment what topics you’d be interested in reading about in the coming year. like me to write about in the coming year.

Top 16 Posts from 2016

These were the top 16 posts on this blog from 2016, based on views and shares:

  1. The Impact on Kids of Dad’s Faith and Church Attendance
  2. Evangelism and Street Witnessing Now Illegal in Russia
  3. 2 Thoughts for U.S. Christians in the Wake of the Election
  4. A Refugee Story of Our Own
  5. Gender Roles in Marriage and Perichoresis: the Dance of the Trinity
  6. Debt Free!
  7. 4 Strategies for Families Divided by Politics
  8. One Day
  9. Vacation and Russian Novels
  10. The Etymology of God
  11. The Effect of Woundedness
  12. Was Paul Suicidal?
  13. When Linus Dropped His Blanket
  14. What Running Has Done for Me
  15. The US Election and Some Reasons to be Hopeful
  16. Going Back East, Way East

Why…

I’ve come to learn that everything we do begs the question “Why?”. We innately have reasons for the things we do, but if we don’t stop to consider the “why”, then it’s easy to lose focus – not to mention the fact that if we want people to join us on a journey, they will want to know the answer to the question “why?”. ‘Why is this worth my time in a busy world, where there are plenty of options to choose from, where there are already too few minutes in a day?’.

So, why am I starting this blog? Because I want to provide a pastor’s perspective on local issues here in Longmont and the surrounding area of Boulder County, the Carbon Valley and the northern Front Range.

Stay tuned!