Is this your picture of Jesus as a baby? Super Toddler? The Bible paints a very different picture:
“When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.’
‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Luke 2:39-52)
It’s fascinating to consider that this passage is all the Bible tells us about the early life of Jesus. “The child grew…” Even though there are many apocryphal tales, it’s clear that these were made up much later to satisfy a miracle-hungry paparazzi.
But with Jesus, there’s nothing to see here. “The child grew…” Well, what did you expect? He was a normal human being, and he developed his muscles, his appetite, along with his mind and heart. Here’s how he grew: He grew in body (“strong”); he grew in mind ( “filled with wisdom”) and he grew in spirit (“the grace of God was on him”).
There was a power and a life in Jesus which was to be developed, which could only be developed, like all human strength and goodness, by toil of brain and heart. It was real life. Life up-hill all the way.
And thus he showed us holiness by living it. It’s wonderful. It’s human. He sanctified our life by living through it. Every bit of it. And that draws us to him and explains us to ourselves. It shows how we might live. So think of those three areas of growth: strength, wisdom and grace.
And ask the question: can I grow in the same way?
Yes we can. But there’s a few basics! First, if I would hear God, I must first recognise His voice. That’s how it began for Samuel. Even as a small boy, he learnt to say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Let’s do the same! God is speaking. And so we learn to listen.
Second, we must see how earth and heaven interract, and connect. That’s what God showed Jacob in the vision of a ladder. In a time of crisis, God showed him a picture of a ladder like a bridge between earth and heaven, and angels ascending and descending. It’s a picture of connectivity, and our task is to learn to recognise what’s happening in the world from a spiritual perspective!
This is what’s happening in the narrative of Luke 2 here. The young Jesus is identifying “My Father’s business” and “My Father’s house.” It’s a moment of destiny, whereby His life is taking on a new shape of mission. It took a while for his parents to catch up! Mary “stored all these things in her heart” but didn’t necessarily understand at the time. And the last verse in the chapter is powerful: it connects the spiritual and the domestic. He returns to Nazareth, and submits to them.
He waited on God’s time. He grew in God’s word and he learned from God’s world. He developed patterns of prayer and learned to listen. And when the time was ready, He was ready.
Help me Lord, to grow up,
In body, (I want to take dieting, self-control and exercise seriously, for a start!);
In mind, (I want to think things through more, and reflect more carefully on the world around me);
And in spirit, (Lord, let your grace be upon me, and make me ready to receive all that you have for me).