Friday, June 6, 2014

Speculating from the Bible: WWBJD?

Imagine the comments Mary must have gotten.

“How long does he sleep at night? I hope you know how lucky you are.”

“Wow, does that baby never cry?”

Okay, I know this isn’t Christmas, so it’s not really the time for a discussion about baby Jesus and “Away in the Manger.” Jesus was a baby for a lot longer than Christmas time, though.

We aren’t told how he acted as an infant, since that’s not part of the story being told in the Bible. Still, it makes for interesting Speculative History: What Would Baby Jesus Do?

Let’s think for a minute about how the perfect baby would act... 

That means perfect not as in “never cries,” but as in “never sins.” 

We know Jesus wept over other people’s pain. We also know he sweated in agony before his crucifixion. Obviously, Jesus cried as a baby, right?

The general consensus in child development books seems to be that newborns cry to express a need. They aren’t aware enough of their surroundings to realize that they can manipulate people by crying. That seems pretty simple. No sin in asking mom for a snack if you're hungry, so no sin in crying to get fed as a baby. As a newborn, Jesus might have cried primarily to communicate that he was hungry, or because he was tired or he needed his diaper changed. 

The question gets trickier with time, however. Older children occasionally learn that they can get what they want by crying. As a perfect toddler, Jesus wouldn’t try to manipulate his mom into giving him an extra cookie after she said no. That would be ‘disobedience to parents.’

But what if Mary put him down for a few minutes, while she took the bread out of the oven? A normal toddler doesn’t understand why mom is worried about burning the bread, and he cries because it’s significantly more lonely on the floor than in mom’s arms. Besides, it’s a scary thing—not knowing if you’re ever going to see someone again.

But perfect love casts out fear. So, as since Jesus was fully God, and God is love, would Jesus have been frightened as an infant or a child? Would he have cried because he startled himself awake at night and didn’t know where his mom was until she picked him up?

And pain—since Jesus was able to heal other people’s disease’s, maybe he never got sick himself? Or, perhaps because he took on humanity with all of its weaknesses and temptations, he also felt normal illnesses and had the flu as a child. Maybe he was also susceptible to colic as an infant.

As an older child, say about seven, it might be easy to imagine Jesus patiently putting up with the flu and having mom tell him to stay indoors. As an infant with colic? It’s not a sin to ask for help, and crying is the only way babies can ask. Perhaps Mary had some sleepless nights after all, rocking Jesus and trying to sooth her baby’s collywobbles.

Still, there's that manipulation issue again, and Jesus wouldn't have thrown a fit because Mary told him to shake his bedroll out and put it away. Would he have cried because he lost the rattle Joseph made for him? I don't know, but I doubt an older Jesus would even have cried because his sister took his toy sword away.

(Imagine the pressure his siblings must have gotten.)

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