Prophecy played a vital role in the life of Jesus. Before Jesus began His ministry God sent someone to prepare the way for Him. That man was John the Baptist. John was in the desert preaching repentance to prepare the way for the One who would go to the cross. The work of John was important to direct the minds of the people toward the things of God and to soften their hearts to receive the gospel after Jesus rose from the dead.
When John became popular the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent men to investigate. They may have been curious but their primary motives were probably suspicion, jealousy and possibly fear of losing some financial support if the people followed John instead of coming to the temple and giving offerings there. John saw right through them and called them vipers. They asked John who he was. Their tone was most likely “just who do you think you are? You are not from Jerusalem. You are not one of us. Who gave you the authority to preach to people out here?” These were the same people who questioned the authority of Jesus when He came to the temple. John answered their question by quoting prophecy from the Old Testament. He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness make straight the way of the Lord.” John was referring to the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3.
John somehow knew that prophecy was about himself. For him that prophecy defined who he was and what his purpose in life was. So prophecy played a vital part in the life of John who in turn played an important part in preparing the way for Christ and His gospel.
In Luke 2:40 NKJV we read this about Jesus, “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” Jesus grew physically and emotionally just as any human baby. When He was a baby He did not know who He was or what His purpose in life was. So the question is when and how did Jesus learn that He was the Messiah and that His purpose was to bring salvation through the cross? There is no indication that He had any special revelation from the Father by way of visions, dreams, messages from angels or people. Then how did He discover who He was?
The educational system for Jews during the time of Jesus was for boys to attend school at their local synagogue beginning at the age of 6. Girls did not attend school. The boys learned to read and write and to do math. At the age of 10 the boys would begin their study of the Torah (the Old Testament.) They would continue that study thought the age of 12. I believe it was during that time period between the ages of 10 through 12 that the boy Jesus came to understand who He was and what His purpose in life was.
When Jesus was 12 years old he went to a Passover feast in Jerusalem with His family. As the group returned back home they discovered Jesus was missing.
They went back to Jerusalem and found Jesus in the temple discussing religion with the teachers there. His mother Mary scolded Jesus for causing them to worry about Him.
Jesus then said something very revealing. He said, “…Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Luke 2:49 NKJV The business of Joseph was as a carpenter. Jesus was not discussing carpentry with the temple leaders. He was referring to His heavenly Father and the business of true religion. I believe this reveals to us that by age 12 Jesus understood He was the Son of God and not the son of Joseph.
As he was growing up did Mary and Joseph tell young Jesus about the unusual circumstances of His birth? Most certainly not. They would not have told Him that His mother was a virgin and had conceived without a man being involved. It was their secret. As Jesus studied the Old Testament scriptures He would have studied all the prophecies about the Messiah they contained. By age 12 He was smart enough to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Daniel told when the Messiah would be born. Jesus certainly knew when He had been born. So the first clue was that He had been born at the time the Messiah was to be born. Next, prophecy told where the Messiah would be born, in Bethlehem. Jesus would have known where He was born. So how many boys were born in Bethlehem at the time He was? There would not have been very many. That really narrows things down. Prophecy revealed that the Messiah would live in Egypt for a while. Jesus would have known that He had lived in Egypt. Prophecy revealed that He would live in Nazareth. So with those prophecies and His knowledge about His own life Jesus had all the clues He needed to know that He was the Messiah. He did not have to have visions, dreams or angels to learn who He was and what His mission in life was. His heavenly Father had designed all of the information Jesus needed into the prophecies recorded in the Old Testament. Thus prophecy played a vital role in the life of Jesus.