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January 15, 2013 / Daniel

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52)

Jesus from the Deesis Mosaic

Jesus from the Deesis Mosaic (Photo credit: jakebouma)

Luke 2:41-52 is truly a fascinating story.  Scripture tells us very little about Jesus’ formative years.  The gospels tell us stories about his birth as a child and about his ministry as an adult.  However, the gospels are almost silent concerning the years in-between.  We are left with questions.  We can only speculate.   Did Jesus play games with his friends?  Did he have a lot of chores?  Was he an apprentice for Joseph?

This silence is especially unusual to modern ears, since today most biographers pay special attention to this time in someone’s life.  Recently I read Amazing Grace, Eric Metaxas‘ biography on William Wilberforce.  Metaxas focuses several chapters on Wilberforce’ adolescence years.  He shows how these early years were very influential in the development of Wilberforce’s convictions and beliefs.  This was time shaped the man that Wilberforce was to become.

This means that what little the Bible does tell about Jesus’ adolescence must be critical to our understanding of Jesus.   In Luke 2, we find one story about Jesus’ formative years.  It’s the account of his family’s trip to the temple for the Feast of Passover.  The story takes place when Jesus is 12.  After spending the week in Jerusalem, his family returns home, but they accidentally leave Jesus behind.

When they do think to look for Jesus, they discover that he’s not with them.  So, they head back to Jerusalem and find him in the temple.  Jesus is conversing with the teachers of the law.  Jesus’ response to his parents’ fears is astounding.  “Why were you searching for me?  Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

On the one hand, Jesus sound like that of a typical 12 year-old boy.  It looks like he’s not concerned about his parents’ plans and intentions for him.  However, on the other hand, Jesus is an exceptional 12 year-old boy.  What normal 12 year-old astounds the teachers of the law?  This gives a glimpse into the mystery of the God-man.

Luke’s conclusion is profound.  “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”   This statement alludes to Proverbs 3:1-4.

3 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.

Here the father instructs his son about the secrets to the good life.  It all begins with the pursuit of wisdom.  And wisdom can only be found in the fear of the LORD (Prov. 1:7).  The father tells the son to internalize God’s love and faithfulness.  This happens by mean of studying God’s Word.  The final result is given in v. 4.  If you pursue wisdom, then you will receive God’s favor upon your life.  Others will take notice.  So, when Jesus was in the temple, he was there to pursue God’s wisdom.  He was about his Father’s business.  Internalizing the truth of God’s Law.      It was this commitment to the pursuit of wisdom that made Jesus an ideal man.  He was always focused on his Father’s intentions for him.  He lived a perfect obedience to God.  This is what qualifies him to our Savior.  As a perfect man, he died not for his own sins, but for the sins of others.  Therefore, when we put our trust in him, his righteousness is transferred to our account.


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