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When I was in grade 1 of school, all that the nursery rhyme / poem ‘Mary had a little lamb’ ever meant to me was simply to impress my teacher and get a chocolate from her and a star in my report card. Now after more than two decades, that rhyme has been the inspiration of contemplating about something more significant and special and heartwarming.
Mary, the Blessed Virgin of Nazareth, was chosen to be the mother of God. She conceived Him by the Holy Spirit and she raised Him up under the shadow of the Spirit. The son of the living God dwelt among men, but at the same time, He was also the son of man. As an infant and child, Jesus had a modest and righteous upbringing, as God continually guided His earthly parents through His commands. On one hand Jesus was this adorable young Jewish boy, who would have spent His growing childhood praying diligently as The Law instructed, playing around the house with His parents and children around the neighbourhood, running towards and throwing around His arms around His parents and asking them to carry Him in their arms. And on the other hand, Jesus was also the little lamb of God, who was sent on earth as ransom to be paid for the remission of Sin in the world, by His very death on the cross one day.
The rarity of information about the childhood of Jesus in the canonical gospels led to a hunger of early Christians for more detail about the early life of Jesus. This was supplied by a number of 2nd century and later texts, known as infancy gospels, none of which were accepted into the biblical canon, but the very number of their surviving manuscripts attests to their continued popularity. Most of these were based on the earliest infancy gospels, namely the Infancy Gospel of James (also called the “Protoevangelium of James”) and Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and on their later combination into the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (also called the “Infancy Gospel of Matthew” or “Birth of Mary and Infancy of the Saviour”). The other significant early infancy gospels are the Syriac Infancy Gospel, the History of Joseph the Carpenter and the Life of John the Baptist.
One of the most vivid documented witness / testimony of His childhood were about the time when He went to the Temple of Jerusalem with His parents to celebrate the Passover. This journey to the temple itself was nothing less than a spiritual experience for the Jews, especially to those who made this pilgrimage with their young children. And so, just like such families, Jesus would have travelled with His mother Mary and Father Joseph, on foot, or rode an oxen or ass, since it took several days to reach there. The distance from Nazareth to Jerusalem is seventy miles. The feast was held near the close of March or the beginning of April. This was springtime in Palestine, and the whole land was bright with flowers, and glad with the song of birds. As they traveled, parents told their children of the wonderful things that God had done for Israel in ages past. And often they sang together some of the beautiful psalms of David.
Lamb of God (Greek: ἀμνὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, amnos tou theou; Latin: Agnus Dei) is a title for Jesus that appears in the Gospel of John. It appears at John 1:29, where John the Baptist sees Jesus and exclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
This Lamb of God, Jesus, who was to be sacrificed, from the plague of sin that constantly devours men and women in the world, would have been this humble, gentle, fair, young lamb in the arms of his young, adorable and loving mother Mary. While sleeping, lambs seek out their mothers and will sleep as close to them as possible. The most adorable, young Lamb of God, Mary’s Jesus, would have been His mother’s singular delight when He would have cuddled with her while going to sleep. Just like a healthy lamb which usually stretches when it rises this little Jesus, lamb of God, would have been the apple of His mother’s eye, especially when his tiny little soft hands would be stretching as He wakes up in the morning and rubs His eyes, with a cute little yawn making His Mother waiting to run towards Him and hug Him rightly and kiss Him good morning.
A number of apocryphal texts, the Infancy Gospels grew up with legendary accounts of the intervening period, and these are sometimes depicted. These stories were intended to show Jesus as having extraordinary gifts of power and knowledge, even from the youngest age. One common tale has the young Jesus fashioning sparrows out of clay. When admonished for doing so on the Sabbath, he causes the birds to fly away.
Mary’s little lamb is the heavenly Father’s most precious possession. He is the lamb who willingly came into the world, to be born as a man, completely vulnerable to every possible assault of sin, corruption and death. He is the lamb who brought such immeseaurable delight to His beloved parents on earth, by being an obedient and righteous Son. He is the lamb whose gentle, kind and loving heart, calls every human person (irrespective or religion, belief, rationality, caste or creed), to be part of the flock of His Father, and enjoy an eternal feast in the pastures of heaven.