Children and games are inseparable. Childhood is the happiest period of human life. It is full of playful activities. Children try to gather themselves in playing games. That is the first step of learning to live in a harmonious society.
GAMES OF CHILDREN
Children of all times in history were involved in playing games. Evidences of ancient civilizations expose various factors about the children playing games. They played both indoor and outdoor games. They had seasonal games. What the elders carried out in their professions were played by their children in team games.
TEAM GAMES IN JEWISH LITERATURES
The Jewish children in he time of Jesus Christ were no exception. The Biblical and Talmudic literatures describe some of the games played by those children. The Jewish heritage and scriptures had great influence on these games. Their festivals, social customs, family functions, seasonal changes, etc. were imitated in these plays. The Jewish children commemorated their ancestors’ glorious victories through their team games.
GAMES OF NAZARETH
The children of Nazareth, where Jesus lived, played the game of David and Goliath in which Jesus would have been the winner David! They enjoyed the festivals of Chanukah-the festival of lights celebrated in the month of Kislev-and the Passover by playing them with their friends. The streets of Nazareth were echoing with cheers and laughter of the teams that played the Jewish adventure game which reminded the victorious Passover through the Red Sea.
DID JESUS PLAY GAMES?
Jesus would have learned self-discipline and the development of physical skills by leaping, climbing, racing, swimming, possibly playing team games which were inventions of his time. But as a boy He would never have gone beyond mere contests of physical strength which would not inflict either pain or injury on the other person. Jesus would surely have been involved in foot races, in tests of strength in regard to lifting, pulling, tugging, and other physical contests, including wrestling.
Wrestling has been a popular sport for millennia. It puts full focus on the character of the wrestlers as well as on their natural strength and technique. Wrestling, as a sport, without desire to injure or hurt the opponent, builds strength, develops perseverance, generates mental as well as physical endurance and instills personal confidence. We can be quite positive that Jesus wrestled as a boy. Remember the wrestling of Jacob (Genesis 32: 24-30)
JESUS MENTIONS ABOUT CHILDREN PLAYING GAMES
Does Jesus mention any thing about children playing games? If we read the eleventh chapter of Matthew we can see a beautiful picture. Jesus brings the playing children before our eyes and calls for a social analysis. Here are these lines. But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.”(Matt.11:16-17).
Do they not depict the wedding game’ and the funeral game’ played by the children of his time? Some children wanted to play the wedding game in which one team played the flutes and the other team danced. But the other team did not like this proposal. So the former team suggested the funeral game in which one team wailed and the others mourned. This similitude is taken from the common custom among the Jewish children, who imitated the fashions of grown people at their marriages and funerals. Children, being out of temper without reasons, quarrel with all the attempts of their fellows to please them, or to get them to join in their plays for which they wish to assemble.
CALL TO US TO BECOME CHILDREN
When we read about the games played in the time of Jesus, it is fitting to pay heed to his call:
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. “(Matt 18:3-5).
LET US PLAY THE GAME OF OUR LIFE
Children play games. Children in the time of Jesus played many games symbolizing many battles fought by the Israelites. Our life is also a battle. A battle against the Evil. Let us play this game of battle with the help of Jesus. As K. Chesterton says, “The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground”.