Luke 2 gives the account of the childhood of Jesus. Verse 21 starts with the account of His circumcision, and then the purification offering as required by the Law of Moses. As an infant of only eight days old, Jesus was taken to the temple and dedicated to God as was required by the Law. The offering would have been a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.
While Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus were in the temple, a man named Simeon prophesied over Jesus. Simeon was full of the Holy Spirit, and the Lord had promised him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s anointed One.
Simeon said of Jesus:
He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel! (Luke 2:32)
Luke 2:33 says, “Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.”
Everything about Jesus’ birth was unusual.
Jesus’ birth was announced by angels to both Mary and Joseph. Then on the night He was born, shepherds came in talking about angels announcing His birth to them.
Mary and Joseph marveled at all that was happening.
After His birth, Matthew 2 tells us that wise men from the east came to visit Jesus. Matthew 2:13-23 tells us that when the wise men had returned to their home countries, Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt to protect the baby Jesus from King Herod, who was trying to kill Him.
Mary and Joseph knew that Jesus was no ordinary child.
The angel told Mary, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:32, ESV)[ii]
His birth and the events of His infancy were extraordinary.
Luke 2:40 tells us about the young childhood of Jesus with two sentences. “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.” (ESV)
Luke 2:41-51 gives an account of an incident out of the life of Jesus from when He was twelve years old. Then verse 52 says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (ESV)
Verse 40 and verse 52 of Luke 2 summarize the childhood of Jesus as growing. He grew in three areas: Physically, Mentally and Spiritually. These, of course, correspond to the three parts of the human person: Body, Soul and Spirit.
As extraordinary as He was, Jesus also had ordinary aspects to His life.
Isaiah 53:2 says of Him, “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” (ESV) This describes an ordinary childhood. However, we must qualify this by saying He never sinned. He was normal except without sin, which is, of course, not normal. In fact, He is the only one who never sinned. I realize that I am contradicting myself by saying He was normal but not normal. However, it is important to understand that Jesus was fully human. While we understand that Jesus is fully God and fully man, how this can be is a mystery.
One of the normal things in Jesus’ early life was an annual trip to Jerusalem. Luke 2:41 says, “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.”
This reference lets us know that Jesus grew up with Jewish traditions under the Law of Moses.
Luke 2:42 tells us, “When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual.” (NLT)
This visit proved to be different from the previous eleven trips. Verse 43 tells us that after the festival was over, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. The expression “stayed behind in Jerusalem” leads me to believe it was intentional on the part of Jesus. His response to Mary reinforces me in this opinion when Jesus says, “But why did you need to search?” However, there is much speculation on this point since Jesus apparently did not inform Mary and Joseph of His intentions.
When they found Jesus, after searching for three days, they found Him in the Temple “sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions.” (Luke 2:46, NLT)
Luke 2:47 gives us insight when it says, “All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.”
Throughout His ministry, Jesus amazed people with His understanding, wisdom and teaching. At the age of 12, He is showing the beginning of the wisdom and understanding that drew large crowds to follow Him. However, this understanding and wisdom were something that grew. Up to the point of this visit to the temple, Mary and Joseph had come to view Jesus as their child. Luke tells us that when Mary and Joseph found Jesus they were astonished. (verse 48, ESV) The NLT translates this “they did not know what to think.” They were seeing a side of Jesus that they had never seen.
Jesus progressed from an infant to a twelve-year-old and then from a twelve-year-old to adulthood growing all the way.
In the process of growing up under the care of Mary and Joseph, a parent/child relationship had developed. When they found Jesus, Mary’s first word to Jesus was “why?” Jesus turns her inquiry on its head and begins His answer with “why?” Because Jesus was going through the normal growing process, Mary and Joseph came to view Him as a normal child. Therefore, when Jesus said, “Didn’t you realize that I should be involved with my Father’s affairs,” (verse 49 NLT marginal reading) they did not understand what he meant. This was a transition in their relationship. Jesus was no longer the little boy, but the growing young man. He had reached the age where Jewish boys were accepted as full members of the religious community.
Verse 51 says, “Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.” (NLT) We do not know how long Jesus continued in subjection to Mary and Joseph. The only comment the Scriptures give on the ensuing years is that He continued to grow in wisdom, stature and favor with God and man.
The next time we meet Jesus in the gospels, He is around 30 years old beginning His public ministry. There is an interesting side note on the life of Jesus contained in Hebrews 5:8, which says, “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.”
Growing and learning is a natural part of life. Jesus displays for us growth consistent with and appropriate to the various ages he passed through. We also need to demonstrate growth appropriate to our age. However, it is very easy to grow in stature, i.e. physically, but not demonstrate corresponding growth in wisdom or in favor with God and man.
Paul chastised the Corinthians about their lack of growth when he said:
Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3, NLT)
If my life or your life is characterized by quarrels, then we need to reflect on whether or not we have grown in wisdom and favor to the place we need to be.
I do not believe we ever reach perfection. Paul said, “I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” (Philippians 3:12, NLT) The only One who reached perfection was Jesus Himself.
However, we should fear lest people are amazed by us, not like they were amazed by Jesus and His wisdom, but by our lack of wisdom. We should fear lest we are like the Hebrews of whom Paul said:
12You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. (Hebrews 5:12-14, NLT)
Jesus shows us how true growth progresses. When He matured to the point of understanding, He put the things of God first. Then when He became an adult, He took on the Devil in the wilderness.
1 John shows us an interesting picture of Christian growth stages. He says:
12I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake. 13I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. (1 John 2:12-13, ESV)
Little children in the faith know God as the Father who loves them and forgives their sins. Young people, adults but still young, have grown to the point where they know what the spiritual battle is. The mature believer has come to know Him who is from the beginning. The spiritual infant knows the Father, but does not know His ways. Maturity comes with time and knowing God’s ways comes from walking with Him through battles.
Moses had an interesting request of God. In Exodus 33:13 he says:
Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. (ESV)
Moses did learn to know God’s ways, and he did this by leading God’s people through the desert for 40 years. Just like Jesus, he learned obedience by the things he suffered.
Time grows us physically. We feed our bodies and they grow.
Time also grows us mentally. We feed our minds and they grow.
Time grows us spiritually. We feed our spirits and they grow.
However, if we feed our bodies junk, they grow unhealthy. If we feed our minds junk, they too grow unhealthy. If we feed our spirits junk, they also grow unhealthy.
Notice what Jesus was feeding His mind. He was asking questions and listening to the religious leaders. He apparently knew the Scriptures quite well. Notice what He was feeding His spirit. He was in the Temple.
Friends, looking at Jesus’ example, we all need to continue growing.
Along with Paul let us say:
“I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” (Philippians 3:12, NLT)
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.