What was he like?

It’s a dusty summer afternoon in Palestine. The heat is the last thing a young couple worries about as they watch their soft-spoken benign son arrange His things as He prepares to leave for a prayer meeting. He knows they are watching Him, and He glances there from time to time with a radiant smile of approval.

“He isn’t like other kids”, Mary remarks as she snuggles herself tighter in Joseph’s arms that are reached over her in an affectionate side hug.

“The angel was right,” He replies, “He is truly special”. Mary sighs deeply and wonders out loud, “I wonder why He doesn’t come home with cuts and bruises like other 10-year-old boys”.

“That is totally fine if you ask me. He has never had an accident in the workshop even when dealing with dangerous tools”. You can almost hear the pride in Joseph’s voice.

This dialogue may never have happened, but what would you imagine Jesus must have been like? What would people who watched Him grow have to say about him? The Bible doesn’t say much about His childhood. Aside from the story of the temple visit at the age of 12, all we know about His childhood is summarized by Luke coincidentally at the end of that story;

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. KJV Luke 2:52

He must have been a pleasant yet firm young boy. He probably didn’t speak much, only occasionally chiming in with a piece of insight that had everyone wondering why they didn’t think about it that way before. His keenness and attention to detail was not lost on anyone. His calmness in the face of provocation may have been the reason His childhood was very unobtrusive. We can only speculate.

What we do know for sure is that He was clear on His mission from a young age. Mary had repeated the words of angel Gabriel enough times. He spent a great deal of His time gathering all the knowledge and experience He would need to navigate a turbulent ministry and a violent death.

His knowledge of Old Testament scriptures and how the prophecies pointed to Him was the subject of His study. He spent plenty of time reading the Torah and praying, a habit that He would carry with Him for the rest of His life. His abstemiousness and restraint must have been the fruit of thorough discipline.

Ultimately though, the most striking thing about Him must have been His genuine love for people. Later on in His ministry, He had a magnetic personality that drew everyone from lowlifes to the top kahuna of His time. He mastered different temperaments and knew just what to say. His enemies loved to hate Him because though they could not see eye to eye with Him ideologically, they could not fault Him for not being a good man.

Jesus was what a lot of us would love to be if it wasn’t for traumatic childhoods, a life of indulgence and lack of enough faith in the power of God to transform us from the inside out. But that’s why His promises are yes and Amen. By contemplating Him, we start to subconsciously be like Him and I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind being like Jesus.


~ Herman Tambo

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