The Young Messiah has received mixed reviews and is based on a fictional story about the childhood of Jesus Christ. The movie begins when Jesus is seven years old. He is starting to realize that He has supernatural powers. His parents struggle with when and how they are going to tell Him the truth about who He really is.
The only facts that we know about Jesus during the first 29 years of His life are the events surrounding His birth, His presentation in the temple as an infant, and when His parents lost track of him for three days when He was 12 years old. The life of Jesus as portrayed in The Young Messiah may be a nice story, but it’s completely fictional.
Let’s take a look at the real childhood of our Lord, starting with what St. Luke wrote:
Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was 12 years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great sorrow.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I would be in my father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Luke 2:41-50
Why did all this occur when Jesus was 12? Why not when He was 13 or 14? Is there any significance to the age of 12?
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen answered these questions in a presentation that he gave on “Mary, Mother and Spouse”:
At the age of 13, every Jewish child becomes a son of the commandments. He is empowered to teach. That really is the true meaning of the sacrament of confirmation. It is a kind of puberty rite. All pagan peoples have puberty rites in which the tribes can say, “This day, you are a man.” So, a youth passes a line. No longer a boy. Today, you’re grown up.
Why is it that the gospel speaks of our Lord at the age of 12? Why not 13? I asked many Jewish rabbis throughout the country and none of them could give the answer until I found a rabbi in Toledo, Ohio, who said, “Oh, yes. We have one exception. If the father was dead, then a child could become a son of the commandments at the age of 12. In your case, because you believe that Christ was born of a virgin, then he had no earthly father and he became a son of the commandments at 12.
So at the age of 12, Jesus was considered a man by His Father in Heaven. In the Jewish tradition there was no such thing as a “teenage” boy. At the age of 13 — or the age of 12 if the boy’s father was deceased — a boy was no longer a child. He was a man.
When Jesus told His mother that he was in his father’s house, He wasn’t talking about St. Joseph’s house. He was talking about the house of His Heavenly Father. He was making a declaration that He was now an adult and it was time for him to attend to His father’s business. From that point on, there is no mention of St. Joseph in sacred scripture.
The only other time there was a conversation recorded in sacred scripture between Jesus and His mother was when they were both at the wedding in Cana. Here’s how St. John described what happened:
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. John 2:1-7
After that, the water was miraculously turned into wine. The famous poet Richard Crashaw provided us with the best description of what happened: “The conscious water saw its God and blushed.”
According to Bishop Sheen, the correct interpretation of the original text of Jesus’s response to his mother “What concern is that to you and to me?” is “What to me to thee?” which meant “We’re in this together. Once I reveal Myself, your life will change and you will be destined to suffer with me.”
This statement harkens back to the Presentation of Jesus when He was an infant:
Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed; and a sword will pierce your own soul too so that the secret thoughts of many will be revealed.” Luke 2:34-35
Our Lord left it up to his mother to make the final decision as to when He would reveal His divinity. She knew that once He affirmed that He was the Messiah, He would begin the process in which He would be delivered into the hands of man to be crucified.
According to Bishop Sheen, it was also at that moment in time that Mary’s role changed from being the mother of Jesus to being the universal mother of all mankind.
The Mother of God spoke seven times in sacred scripture. The last words that she spoke were, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Something to contemplate during holy week.