Jesus’s Lost Years

Posted by Roberta Grimes • March 23, 2024 • 17 Comments

Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, let me stand.
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on through the light,
Take my hand, precious Lord,
And lead me home.

– Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993), from “Take My Hand Precious Lord” (1937)

One question about which there is much confusion is how Jesus might have spent what are called His “lost years.” After He was briefly left behind at the Temple in Jerusalem by His parents at the age of twelve, so they had to go back and fetch Him (see LK 43-50), there is nothing in the Biblical Gospels about what Jesus was doing with His life until much later, when He was baptized by John the Baptist at the age of thirty and He then began His public life. So, what was Jesus doing during those eighteen early years of his life? 

This has always been a puzzle. The notion that He might simply have been growing up, living as a carpenter during His teens and twenties, caring for His mother and His younger siblings, assisting His carpenter father, enjoying His friends and living His life, is impossible for most people to contemplate. So the theory has grown that He must have been traveling to the Far East and learning the wisdom of the ancient sages of that part of the world. Yes! That’s the ticket! A book is currently being written comparing Jesus’s teachings with the wisdom of the Tao Te Chingwhich dates to the late fourth century BCE. Some people firmly believe that Jesus journeyed to India, to Tibet, and perhaps even to China, and He studied under various sages along the way, so His teachings surely incorporate wisdom that He learned on those distant travels.

Let’s pause and consider this idea for a moment. Jesus spoke Aramaic. There is no Gospel evidence that He was fluent in other languages. Of course, He also could read the ancient Hebrew scrolls, and there is evidence that He had a good Hebrew religious education, but that is the whole extent of His literacy. So, how did Jesus communicate with people in India and Tibet and even perhaps in China, and with those who spoke all the many different languages that He would have encountered in the course of His long journey to the east, and then His similar journey back toward home? It Is more than two thousand, eight hundred miles from Israel to India. And if Jesus went as far as China, that would have been almost four thousand miles, and there are some pretty big mountains in the way. And how did he go? By camel? On foot? Jesus was poor. How did He purchase and transport provisions? Because it is hard to imagine what He might have managed to find to consistently eat on a journey like that, and never mind how He could have afforded to transport Himself.

And did He go all that way alone? I find that idea to be inconceivable. Jesus was always surrounded by companions, and especially as He went through the wild tribal lands of Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, a man alone who didn’t speak the local language would have been slaughtered without a thought. And my dear ones, there is frankly no other way to get to India and China from Israel than through those hostile areas. All I can think is that Jesus has to have made such a trip as part of a trade caravan, if indeed He made it at all. But that would have cost quite a lot of money. Why He did it, without knowing what He might have encountered along the way, and what He could have hoped to find at journey’s end that would have been worthy of such a tremendous effort, and then how He might have calculated His odds of ever making it back home again, and also why He later never mentioned having undertaken such a long journey, are all questions which seem to demand some answers that are never even whispered about in the Gospels.

Now, I know what you are thinking. This is Jesus we are talking about here! He could probably speak every language on earth, and he could teleport himself right over the Himalayas. You see no problems for our Jesus at all. But, yes, this is Jesus we are talking about. And there is no Biblical evidence whatsoever that He ever spoke any other language, or used any magical powers at all in His lifetime as Jesus. No smiting enemies dead with a touch. No teleportation, either. In fact, whenever Jesus healed anyone, He always made a point of using the faith of the person being healed to effect the healing (see, e.g. MT 9:28; LK 8:50). There were no companions around Him in the Gospels who ever gave any evidence at all that they had traveled with him to exotic climes, and no turbaned or otherwise exotic fellows who seemed to have returned with him as trophies of His visits to far distant places.

There is no Gospel evidence at all that Jesus ever traveled beyond the bounds of what is now modern Israel. None whatsoever. Everything that Jesus taught was knowledge that He brought to earth from the Father. We have no reason to believe otherwise.

And in fact, there is a much better explanation for the so-called “lost years” of Jesus. While there is no evidence for the travels-to-the-east theory, and there is considerable evidence against it, this new theory so neatly fits so many details of the life of Jesus that until now were oddly inexplicable, from the fact that apparently He didn’t marry in His teens, as every other good Jewish boy would have done, to the oddity that His ministry didn’t begin until He reached the ancient age of thirty, that frankly I don’t know why it wasn’t noticed much sooner. I have to think that scholarly squeamishness about the word “slave” was the main reason why no one has raised this possibility until now.

I first learned of this alternative explanation during the summer before last. I was working on researching materials for Jesus’s website at the time, and meeting with Jesus in the astral plane on many nights to discuss what I was finding, So I brought this question up to Him during one of the almost nightly meetings that I was having with Him. “Is it possible that You were born into slavery?” I asked Him. And He just smiled His enigmatic half-smile. He wouldn’t give me a yes-or-no answer, but that is just the way He is. Jesus really won’t answer personal questions. So I researched the idea further, and the more I researched it, the more perfectly all the details seemed to fit.

I first blogged about this possibility last fall. And rather than asking you to follow a link, I will give you the key points here again. Let’s look together at the facts: 

  • Slavery was common in that time and place. But slavery in the area where Jesus lived two thousand years ago was a milder condition than is our image of chattel slavery in the pre-Civil-War American South. For most of those held in bondage then, it was not even a permanent condition. People often sold themselves or their children into servitude for a period of time in order to pay back a debt, or even because they could not otherwise afford food and shelter. The Greek word translated as “servant” generally did mean what we would call a bondsman or a slave, but sometimes it meant just a person hired to do some task; and these people were often bound for a time, and not for life. There were, moreover, strict Biblical rules about how slaves were to be treated (see, e.g., Exod 21.2-6; Lev 25.10, 38-41; and Deut 23.15,16).
  • Jesus’s mother, Mary, identifies herself to the Archangel Gabriel as a slave. She uses the female version of a Greek word which is translated as “slave” whenever it is used for a male (see LK 1:38). And if Mary is a slave, then her child will be born into her same legal status. In which case, insofar as I can determine, Jesus’s status as a slave at birth would have been for life. But when Jesus was four, the Roman Emperor Augustus decreed that those born into slavery as Jesus would have been born into slavery were now to be freed at the age of thirty.
  • If Jesus was a slave until He was thirty, that very well explains both why Jesus was not married in His teens, and also why He did not begin His teaching ministry until He reached the age of thirty. He would have been Joseph’s bondsman working as a carpenter during all His so-called “lost years.” And even though Jesus may have been Joseph’s bondsman, it is clear that Joseph treated Him as His eldest son and gave Him a good religious education. Joseph received and heeded Gabriel’s announcement of Jesus’s impending birth, and he protected Him from the slaughter of the innocents when it happened and educating Him well in preparation for His free adulthood. We have no complaint to make against Jesus’s nominal father.
  • A mere stable is considered to be sufficient shelter for a woman who is about to give birth. We fondly think that the “no room in the inn” story of Jesus’s birth is charming, but in fact it is a sign of Mary’s low status, especially in view of her late stage of pregnancy. Would a free woman of respectable rank have been shuffled off to give birth in a barn?
  • Joseph may never have officially married Mary. Jesus from the cross asks His disciple, John, to look after His mother (see JN 19:27), so we know that Jesus is not certain that Joseph will care for his mother after His own death. As indeed apparently Joseph does not care for her, according to a close reading of the Gospel of Luke, since Mary soon moves into John’s household.
  • Jesus was oddly despised by His childhood neighbors for speaking with authority at the start of His ministry, and for calling Himself the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy. After Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, He returned to Galilee. And then comes an astonishing scene that never made sense to me before, in which He speaks in His home synagogue and announces that He is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy. And his home-folks immediately try to throw Him off a cliff. Huh? Here it is:

14 And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding region. 15 And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.

16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Him. And He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

20 And He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all the people in the synagogue were intently directed at Him. 21 Now He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all the people were speaking well of Him, and admiring the gracious words which were coming from His lips; and yet they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” 23 And He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! All the miracles that we heard were done in Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” 24 But He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. 25 But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a severe famine came over all the land; 26 and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many with leprosy in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and brought Him to the crest of the hill on which their city had been built, so that they could throw Him down from the cliff. 30 But He passed through their midst and went on His way (LK 4:14-30).

This reaction of Jesus’s childhood neighbors may be the greatest “tell” of them all. A presumptuous local boy who had grown up as a slave among them and only just been emancipated might inspire such rage, but surely not a local boy who had been freeborn!

We all plan our lives on earth before we are born, and that was especially true of Jesus. The Jesus that you and I know would have planned an earth-life as the poorest of the poor, and in that time and place, that may well have meant that Jesus deliberately chose to be born of a slave mother, and to live as a slave Himself during most of His life on earth. My Thomas tells us that Jesus was born as God on earth so God could “look through His eyes,” as Thomas puts it, and observe and come to a very much better understanding of humanity. And how much better could God come to understand people when viewing us from the perspective of the very least of these (see MT 25:44-46)?

That perspective of “the least of these” would have additionally suited Jesus’s purpose as He fine-tuned His teachings in preparation for His active teaching phase. And God could easily have influenced Caesar Augustus’s mind to decree an emancipation at the age of thirty for those born into slavery, in plenty of time for Jesus to begin His planned teaching phase when He became thirty years old. That coincidence of ages seems simply too neat for it actually to have been just a coincidence.

So I have come to accept the likelihood that Jesus did indeed begin and live most of His life as a slave, a bondsman, and He did so by strategic choice, so he could better serve God’s need to more perfectly understand people. He also did it by His personal choice. The Jesus that I have lately come to much better know, the Jesus who loves each individual person to the point of obsession, could not have borne the thought of planning a lifetime to be lived among so many slaves unless He also was going to be a slave Himself. Remember that Jesus has lived the past seventeen hundred years doing nothing but loving hundreds of millions of Christianity’s victims back into mental and spiritual health, even though He had no part in causing any of their pain!

But of course, my dear ones, it doesn’t matter. You can believe this new wrinkle about Jesus or not, as you like. One thing is for certain, though. Jesus  did not travel to the far east during His “lost years”. Thomas has helped me to work through and accept that fact. He tells me that Jesus spent those years closely studying people and further refining what He was going to be teaching during His coming ministry, and whether He did this as Joseph’s bondsman or as a yeoman carpenter in Joseph’s shop really doesn’t make any difference. But the more I have lived with this slavery theory, the more I have come to rather like the idea. Whoever were the least of those around Him, we know that our so dearly beloved Jesus would always have been right there with them, and eager to share His closer walk with them.

When my way grows dreary,
Precious Lord, lead me near.
When my life is almost gone,
At the river I will stand,
Guide my feet, hold my hand.
Take my hand, precious Lord,
And lead me home.

– Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993), from “Take My Hand Precious Lord” (1937

Roberta Grimes
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17 thoughts on “Jesus’s Lost Years

  1. There are quite a number of people who channel Jesus, at least, so they say.

    In these “revelations” Jesus is quite talkative about his past, his amazing marital relationship with Mary Magdalene, even the children they supposedly had together, his travels to Egypt, India and who knows where, about Joseph supposedly a being a well-to-do man, with a house in Jerusalem, and with business contacts in Egypt, and the list of events goes on and on. Other say that Zechariah was the physical father of Jesus, etc.

    Then some of these channelers claim that there is no such thing as reincarnation, and others say we have lived a thousands lifetimes easily, even on other planets in different bodies.

    I myself am supposedly a StarSeed, having helped God to create, lived in Lemuria and went down with Atlantis. Several others are affirming that we have SoulMates, as we have Twin Flames, Twin Souls. Others say, this is not so.

    So, now for the obvious question: why all these differences? Whom can we believe? Are these stories actually even important at all vis a vis Uncoditonal Love, which -surprisingly or perhaps not surprisingly- is at the heart of all these contradictory messages?

    These differences I do not find helpful. Fake news from the spirit realms?

    1. I wonder about all this too Adrian. It’s taken me awhile to unhook from the religious dogma surrounding Jesus and Roberta’s descriptions have been enormously helpful in guiding my way. There is a huge smorgasbord of information out there and sensing into Love’s guiding hand, nudges from my spirit guides and discerning old vs new wine-skins is an ongoing process. I get a background sense of deep peace when you described Unconditional Love being at the heart of these contradictory messages, thank you.

    2. Oh my very dear Adrian, actually I have never found any medium who channels the genuine Jesus. I have consulted my Thomas, and he also thinks that it never has happened. If Jesus spoke through one medium, He would feel obliged to communicate through them all, and He simply doesn’t have time for that!

      But in fact, there are far more fake mediums, and mediums who have only an intermittent gift, than there are mediums who are reliably able to contact the dead. I think that what has happened is that you encountered an extremely creative and extremely fake medium or mediums, because wow, those were some pretty amazing fake stories!

      To answer your question, first, please don’t expect any medium to be able to contact someone that you didn’t personally know in life. And second, test the common-sense viability of everything that is said. Actually, my dear, you were the first one who brought this topic up to us, and then I had a couple of emailed questions about it. So thank you for suggesting this topic!

  2. in the Christmas carol: “O Holy Night” it says: “for the slave is our brother.” I think it might be in the second verse. I’m sure it’s not in the first. I always wondered about that phrase.

    1. My dear Lorie, I’m not surprised to hear that, and I’ll bet that if you google the song you will find that it probably dates to maybe the 1830s through the early 1860s. Not to wonder, my dear, since slavery and who the slaves really were and the whole abolition question were pretty hot during that period.

  3. Your stories that we get to hear are simply amazing. What I would give!! I’m sure we all feel that way. I don’t understand why your spirit guide, Thomas, will communicate with you but ours won’t. Thanks for the story and I’ll be waiting for the next.

    1. Oh my dear lovely Amy, actually working with one’s spirit guide is not that difficult if you want to do it badly enough and for the right reasons. After Thomas first came out to me through a medium, we then communicated through her for a while – about a year, as I recall – but he didn’t trust the medium (and for very good reason, as it later turned out). Finally he put his metaphorical foot down and flat refused to continue to communicate through her, and he told me basically to suck it up, buttercup (not his words). Learn to communicate with me on your own. He did say, “Look, now I am outside your mind.” And there he was, I could feel and hear that he was talking from behind my left shoulder. But softly! Our guides speak softly, and they don’t want to interfere in our daily lives and our efforts toward growing spiritually, but if you undertake doing work for God, they are all over trying to help you.

  4. I think that Jesus never could have gone as far as they claimed. He would have been still a kid and never could have survived a trip from Judea to India, which is thousands of miles away. Even with a car, that trip would have been impossible. The language barriers is a good point as well. He would have to have been able to communicate with these other cultures almost perfectly. It is odd that he appeared “out of the blue” at around age 30, and the bible appears to have ignored this. However, I feel that his early years were deliberately left out, or maybe taken out for some reason. The bible has added or subtracted so many things over all this time that I’m surprised that people still think it is the “word of God.” It is more likely the word of the Council of Nicea.

    1. Hah! My dear Lola, I love it! The Bible is the inspired word of the Council of Nicaea! You are exactly right!!

  5. Adrian’s interesting comments tend to create a crisis of belief for me. If we criticize the contradictions of organized religion the inconsistencies noted here should be of great concern. I know next to nothing about channeling but am familiar with the power of thought. What really happens during the process of channeling? Is it possible we could be connecting more with a person’s thoughts during his lifetime as opposed to his actual physical experiences?

    1. Oh my dear beloved Thomas, please let not your faith be shaken. That is not at all what our beloved friend Adrian would want! During channeling, a possessing entity, with permission, takes over the mind and often the body of the medium, and if it is a writing channel, the body then writes what the possessing entity moves the hands to write. If spoken, then the entity speaks using the medium’s vocal cords. Now, it’s interesting to me that Jesus, who last lived on earth when they were using a sliver of wood or a reed dipped into ink to write, can actually type better and faster than I can! Your guess is as good as mine is as to how that works!

  6. Thanks for the explanation. If we are dealing with unidentifed entities with unknown motivations, it would seem that anything the medium speaks or writes is unreliable. It would be like seeking information from an unknown person on the other side of the world and expecting to hear the truth.

    1. My dearly beloved Thomas, you make a wonderful point. People are often far too willing to trust people who claim to be mediums speaking with the dead, when in fact goodness knows where their information is coming from!

  7. Dear Roberta. How easily the idea that Jesus studied in the east crumbles when simple logic is applied to it. Great work!
    I imagine that he came here with all the knowledge that he needed. It does all just come down to the ability to love. (Mikey Morgan confirms this).
    The accounts of when he passes through their midst (LK 4:30) are a joy to revisit.

    1. Oh my dear Ray, I feel just as you do. Each time that I read again these Gospel accounts, and no matter how often I read them, I find them thrilling!

  8. Roberta, I suspect you have read Delores Cannon’s Jesus and the Essenes. Although what you present above is very, very probable, Delores’s regression therapy is viable as well.
    Just a thought,
    Rita Carr

    1. Oh no, my dear Rita, I haven’t read any other theories about Jesus’s lost years. Thomas has policed my reading of this type pretty closely, and I guess I haven’t been very curious about it, anyway. But your question has prompted m to look them up, and they were just another Jewish sect in the area at the time that Jesus lived there. Again, Jesus had no reason or need, and probably no time, to be learning anything from anyone on earth, so no need to bother with any of these side theories, so I would tend to doubt it.

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