If you’re like a lot of people – and by “a lot of people” I mean “Will Ferrell’s wife in Talladega Nights” – you probably picture Jesus as a bearded white guy who looks like he should be playing drums for Creed. (Unless it’s December in which case you picture him as a head poking out of a cloth cocoon.) Don’t feel bad if this is you. You probably just don’t read your Bible that much. Or maybe you’re a Democrat. Alright, alright…same thing, I know.
Anyway, the point is: while Jesus did, in fact, spend most of his life looking like Eddie Vedder in a bathrobe there was also a stretch of years when he was not an infant and not an adult. This is known in the Bible (and also in science) as “puberty.” The Bible doesn’t tell us much about what Jesus was like as a teenager, but if the rest of his life is any indicator you can bet he was better at it than you.
The one glimpse we do get of Junior High Jesus comes during his family’s yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover. Like most blue collar families, Jesus didn’t get to go on many cool trips when he was little. “Going on vacation” usually meant “cramming all seven of us into a minivan and driving fourteen hours to gram-gram’s house” and Jesus wasn’t into it – not the sing-a-longs, not the weird smells, not the Adventures in Odyssey cassettes, not any of it.
But this trip to Jerusalem was different. A bunch of Jesus’ buddies from the old neighborhood were going to J-Town that same weekend, and they couldn’t wait to spend five days eating Slim Jims, watching Prince of Egypt, and pantsing each other. Mary and Joseph even let Jesus ride with his pal Ishmael’s family for part of the trip which was awesome since that meant Jesus didn’t have to deal with his little brother James hogging the AC and pretending to get motion sickness so he could sit shotgun.
After a couple days on the road, the whole caravan rolled into town and got busy partying like it was 99 A.D. They spent the next week schvitzing and schlepping, kibitzing and kvetshing until the Passover passed and the party was over. Joseph and Mary loaded the kids back into their Chrysler Town and Country and hit the road. They were a couple hours out of town when Joseph noticed there wasn’t much fighting coming from the backseat. Something wasn’t right.
“Hey, James!” he yelled back. “Where’s that one kid who rode down with us? You know, your older brother? What’s his name? Jonas …Jackson…Jesse…something with a ‘J’…Jesus! That’s it. Man, I was way off. Knew it started with a ‘J’ though. So yeah, where’s Jesus?”
James looked up from his Nintendo DS with a mouth full of marshmallow Peeps and shrugged as if to say, “am I my brother’s keeper?” Joseph turned to Mary. “You know where Jesus is?” She was engrossed in the April issue of Martha Stewart Living and didn’t even look up, “I dunno. Probably with Ishmael’s family.”
You’d be excused for thinking Joseph and Mary were terrible parents, but, in Mary’s defense, she did have a ton of kids and she was only, like, 16 years old. The girl had a lot on her plate and she handled it better than her 16 and Pregnant costars. But, on the other hand, if one of your kids is the incarnate son of the living God, you should probably check for him first. Just saying…
At the next truck stop, Joseph and Mary went on a scavenger hunt for Jesus among the other cars in the caravan. They couldn’t find him anywhere, and, just like that, their nice family vacation turned into a Macauley Culkin movie.
They booked it back to Jerusalem and started searching for the missing Messiah. He wasn’t at the Holiday Inn Express where they’d been staying. He wasn’t at the mall food court. He wasn’t playing Cruisin USA at Chuck E. Cheese’s. He wasn’t anywhere. Three days they looked for this kid without any luck. Finally, after all hope was lost, they headed over to the temple to tell God that they’d lost his kid.
Mary and Joseph were walking through the temple toward the “Family Only” section when they heard a familiar voice coming from the Sunday School room. There, in the middle of a crowd of old dudes who looked like a ZZ Top cover band, stood their son Jesus, scroll in hand, lecturing the assembled mob about the meaning of circumcision. It was clear from the looks on the old guys’ faces that they thought this kid was some sort of Doogie Howser wunderkind.
Mother Mary wasn’t as impressed. She called him by his full name and said, “Do you have any idea what you’ve just put us through?”
Jesus was confused, “Where were you looking? Didn’t you know I’d be at my Dad’s place?”
Now it was Joseph and Mary’s turn to be confused. They didn’t know what he was talking about, but they weren’t going to sit there and discuss it with a room full of mall Santas looking on. Mary grabbed Jesus by the ear and they took him home to Nazareth. She told him he was grounded until he turned 30, but it turned out to only be for, like, a week.