The four Gospels tell us little about the Lord Jesus’ life prior to the beginning of his public ministry.
These 30 years of near-silence have elicited much speculation about the ‘hidden years’ of Jesus. There is, for example, the apocryphal story in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (believed to date from the second century) about the child Jesus forming figures of little birds out of clay, which came to life and flew away. This illustrates the understandable, but irresponsible, effort by some to fill the gap left by the Gospel writers.
Brown has sought to fill this gap more responsibly by following the clues that the Gospels themselves give us, as well as his own research into the cultural background of first-century Judea. The result is this accessible booklet, which helps us get a real sense of our Lord’s humanity, rooted in time and space.
The author takes us to Galilee and the village of Nazareth. He helps us to imagine the gossip and stares young Mary received when it became clear that she was pregnant outside of marriage. He points out the synagogue and the ordinary home of Joseph and Mary, introducing us to the other members of Jesus’ family.
He shows us round the school where Jesus would have learnt his ABC and played with the other children of the village. He shows us the carpenter’s workshop where Jesus learnt to use the tools of the trade. He helps us imagine the joy of family weddings and the sorrow of Joseph’s funeral.
But this is not a purely academic tour. In the last chapter the author shows the beautiful relevance and application of Jesus’ human, earthly life, for our salvation and our ongoing encouragement as we live out our earthly lives in his footsteps.