What happened to Jesus between 13 and 30 years of age? Two upcoming television projects intend to answer that question. Fox is developing “Nazareth,” a TV show which follows the formative years of Jesus’ life. Lifetime is developing “The One,” a TV movie which is described as “a coming-of-age story exploring Jesus’ early life and formative years as he comes to learn he is the Son of God and is destined for greatness.”
Of course, the Bible says nothing about these “silent years” in our Lord’s life. But with Bible-themed projects drawing record viewership these days, it’s not surprising that producers would try to film even the parts of Jesus’ life for which we have no record.
I hope the writers will not fill in the gaps by using ancient literature such as The Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Here we learn that Jesus, at the age of five, cursed a boy who angered him so that the child “withered up wholly.” When another child accidently ran into him, Jesus was so angered that he cursed the boy and he died. Others who criticized Jesus “were smitten with blindness.” The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus tells of the time when Jesus’ carpenter father made a throne for the King of Jerusalem. It was the wrong width, however, so Jesus miraculously stretched it to the proper dimensions.
These accounts and others like them are known as Christian “apocrypha” (meaning “hidden”). They have this in common: they were all rejected by scholars of their day as fiction. None were written by apostles or eyewitnesses (The Infancy Gospel of Thomas was spuriously written in the disciple’s name). All present portraits of Jesus that are clearly contradicted by biblical revelation. If “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), he cannot be both a murdering child and a loving Savior.
I have no idea what the writers of “Nazareth” and “The One” will make up to tell the story of Jesus’ “silent years.” At the same time, I’m glad there is such interest in Jesus that shows and movies about him continue to be produced. More books have been written about our Lord than about any other figure in history. What does this say about him and about us?
Boston University sociologist Peter Berger lists five “signals of transcendence”: our passion for order (pointing to a Designer); our desire for play (showing our passion for eternal joy); our commitment to hope (refusing to believe that death has the final word); our conviction that true evil must be condemned; and our laughter at our limitations (showing that we believe they will be overcome). Is our continued fascination with Jesus another “signal” of his reality?
Here’s the best way to show our culture that Jesus is real: show that he is real in you. Are you working for God, or is he working through you? Are you seeing souls saved, lives transformed, God’s power at work? “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (John 12:21) is the cry of every heart. Will you ask the Spirit to manifest Jesus in you today?