The beginning of every school year, I get asked to republish this article about Jesus and school. Here it is with a few changes for a new and different school year for all of us.
What is happening this coming week that should be very exciting for you all? Yes, that’s right; school is beginning. I know this year the beginning of school is going to be very different for all of you and maybe a little bit scary too. If you are attending classes in person, you will be wearing a mask most of the time and social distancing from your friends. Most of your activities will be held in your classroom instead of different rooms for art, music, ect. If you are not going back in person, you will be doing school work online at home with your teacher via internet. Your desk may be the kitchen table or a table somewhere else in your home. Whatever way you are going back is OK, and I’m sure your parents have thought long and hard about what is best for you. Be patient and still work hard however you are attending classes. God knows things are very different and will be with you no matter what as you begin this year’s learning!
Did you ever wonder about when Jesus was growing up did He have to go to school? Being a former teacher myself, I often wondered about how Jesus was taught in those days. Now the Bible never actually says that Jesus went to school, but scholars believe that He would have from the passages about Him being called Rabbi or Teacher and the customs of that time.
Jesus would have learned a lot from His parents. His mother Mary would have taught Him things at home, and His Father Joseph would have taught Him about being a carpenter like he was. But when Jesus was probably about six years old, like every other six-year old Jewish boy, He would have gone to the local synagogue school called Bet Sefer. Only the boys went for five or six days a week. The teacher would teach his students the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy along with some other general basis education. On the first day of their school, the rabbi would give each boy a taste of honey and say, “May the words of God be sweet to your taste, sweeter than honey to your mouth.” from Psalm 119:103.
From ages 10-14, Jewish boys learned the rest of the Jewish Scriptures all the way to Malachi. Do you remember when Mary and Joseph thought Jesus was lost, but they found Him in the Temple? Do you know how old He was then? He was twelve and was sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening and asking questions.
Around 14 to 15 years old, if the boy was interested, he could do advanced religious studies. He would go and seek a respected and knowledgeable Rabbi to study with like an apprentice almost. He would study with this Rabbi until he was 30 years old when he could become a Rabbi himself. Do you know how old Jesus was when He started His ministry? He was 30 years old.
We know that Jesus also worked as a carpenter, possibly to help pay for His education. We aren’t sure. But in the New Testament, He is called Rabbi 13 times and teacher 41 times. (Rabbi means teacher.) So probably Jesus had to go to school at least some of the time just like you will be doing next week.
I hope you have a great year however you attend school! Remember still to be kind to everyone! Help any new students to your school or those kids who are alone. Ask them to play with you or even just talk to them. They may become a great friend, and they will certainly appreciate your friendship to them. Tell an adult if you see anyone being bullied. Being mean to anyone is never cool! If you are at home learning, you can still connect to your friends in many different ways – texts, facetime, phone, or in person. Be a friend to have a friend!
Let’s say a prayer together. Dear Jesus, bless all the children starting school next week no matter how they are going to be learning. Be with them, their parents, their teachers, and school staff, so they have a wonderful year and learn what they need to know. We ask You to keep them safe and be kind to each other too. In Your name we pray, Amen.
Ann Moody is pastor of Wilkesville First Presbyterian Church and the Middleport First Presbyterian Church. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.