He was born outdoors, in a stable in fact. His first crib was a manger used to feed the sheep and oxen who shared that stable with him. Other than his parents, Jesus first friends were those animals.
Soon, he was visited by local shepherds, his second group of friends. Now shepherds were the minimum wage workers of that time…a mix of older men and tween age boys.
Fortunately, though, Jesus had yet unknown friends in high places. Three Kings (Magi or “Wise Men”) from Arabia and Persia paid him a visit and left valuable gifts of gold, incense and medicine with his parents. Good thing too because by the age of 2, Jesus was a political refugee, fleeing persecution, headed for Egypt.
Word of the Kings’ visit had reached Herod, the local king, who feared that Jesus might one day challenge him and his sons for their throne. Accordingly, he ordered the slaughter of all local boys under the age to 2. Jesus’ parents got him out-of-country just in time!
We don’t know for sure, but I suspect Joseph and Mary might have traded the Magi’s expensive gifts for necessities of life, and maybe even safe passage, during their dangerous journey.
Unfortunately, we don’t know much about the rest of Jesus’ early childhood. We do know that Jesus ran away from home at the age of 12 and was missing for at least a couple of days. When his frantic parents finally tracked him down, he wasn’t the least bit sorry. In fact, he tried to turn the situation upside down, “Why were you looking for me?” As if any loving parent would not search for their missing 12 year old child!
The next time we see Jesus, he’s with his mother at a wedding feast. By now, he’s probably going on 30. She asks him for a favor, “Our hosts have run out of wine, can you help them out?” Jesus turns her down flat! (Later though, he reconsiders and does what she asked.)
After that, Jesus leaves home for good. He heads off to the dessert for 40 days. When he returns to civilization, he shows up for Saturday services at his local synagogue and promptly introduces himself as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, “Today these scriptures are fulfilled in your hearing.”
Moments later, he’s running for his life, townsfolk chasing after him with the intention of throwing him off a cliff to his certain death; fortunately, he escapes. Now he’s all alone, no friends, no place to live, no place to call home.
Gradually, he recruits 12 men and boys, later known as his “Apostles”, and together they form a kind of ‘wilderness gang’. They travel from town to town, challenging the elite and performing good deeds. Along the way, they teach a new kind of religion (a new interpretation of the old religion) based on love and kindness rather than ritual and judgment.
Three years later, Jesus and his crew make their way to the capital city, Jerusalem. Jesus enters the huge temple compound and immediately knocks over the money changers’ tables and drives those selling doves for ritual sacrifice. “My house shall be a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves.”
Now ‘the cops’ (actually Roman soldiers and the Temple guard) are in hot pursuit. A few days later, Jesus and his apostles gather secretly in the upper room of a friend’s house to have their last meal together. Hours later, Jesus is arrested while praying in a near-by garden.
Over the next 12 hours, Jesus is tried in front of both Jewish and Roman magistrates. He refuses to plead guilty to any crime and he refuses to beg for mercy. For the most part, he remains silent when questioned. In the middle of all this, he receives a ferocious beating. It does not break his spirit and it does not change his behavior.
Finally, Jesus finds himself before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of the region. Pilate is the ultimate authority, the true decision maker. He holds the power of life and death. Somewhat surprisingly, Pilate is intrigued by Jesus. Perhaps he admires his courage, perhaps he is secretly attracted to some of Jesus’ ideas. At any rate, Pilate has no interest in executing Jesus but he is under enormous pressure from local religious leaders and from Rome.
At this point, Jesus could probably have saved himself with a simple, “I’m really sorry and I promise I won’t do it again”; but that is not happening! Pilate asks Jesus point blank, “Are you a king?” and Jesus seals his fate by answering, “You say that I am.”
In the end, Pilate sentences Jesus to the most cruel and humiliating punishment known to Roman law, crucifixion. Even then, Jesus forgives all those involved in this miscarriage of justice: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Yup, Jesus is badass, no doubt!