Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jesus grew in stature and wisdom

In chapter 3 of the excellent book by Bruce Ware called The Man Christ Jesus the author deals with a passage of Scripture well-known to anyone who attended Sunday school for any length of time:
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:41-51 ESV)
Ware then makes note of two verses that surround this passage; one immediately after and a second a little earlier on:
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:40 ESV) 
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52 ESV)
Ware wants the reader to consider how Jesus lived his life. Arguably the main question he is asking himself is: Did Jesus live his life primarily out of his divine nature or out of his human nature? We see in the first passage above that Jesus had profound knowledge of the Scriptures, so much so that all were "amazed at his understanding and answers." One reading now might not be that impressed; he was God after all. But do not think that this awe-inducing intelligence was a result of his divine nature. Ware suggests otherwise stating, "what both of these verses indicate is that Jesus' wisdom is not a function of his divine nature but is the expression of his growth as a human being" (49). Ware points out that this growth in wisdom, indicated by his interaction with the teachers at the temple, is linked by Luke to his growth in physical strength and stature. This is a strong intimation that the growth and resulting wisdom was a function of his humanity.

But how could this be? How did Jesus, a mere boy, acquire the insight and intelligence to leave even the teachers of Scripture wonder-struck?

Ware explains:
Jesus was what might be thought of as the Psalm 1 prototype. He truly loved the law of the Lord and meditated on it both day and night. Because of this, he was like a tree planted by rivers of water that yields its fruit in season; its leaf did not wither, and in whatever he did he prospered. Out of his love for the law, he learned and mastered the law, and the Spirit within him illumined his mind and enflamed his heart to long to know it better and better as he grew. (53)
Ware ends the chapter with, in my estimation, a very helpful application; I hope you find it encouraging and helpful.
One lesson we learn from this early account of Jesus, the Spirit-anointed Messiah even in his youth, is how important the connection is between the Spirit and the Word. The Spirit came upon Jesus in part to illumine his mind to understand and then speak forth the truth of God's revealed Word. In order for Jesus to fulfill his mission, he had to learn the Word of God, and to learn this Word well and rightly he needed the Spirit within him to illumine his mind and heart. Another way to think of this observation is this: it would have been impossible for Jesus to accomplish the work the Father had given him to do were it not for the knowledge and wisdom he acquired, by the Spirit's enablement, from the Word of God. We darenot, then, separate Word and Spirit as if we can fulfill God's work and live in a manner pleasing to God with one but not the other. No, Spirit and Word are inseparable in God's economy, and Jesus bears glorious testimony to this truth. May we learn from Jesus that yielding to the Spirit and devotion to the Word are necessary companions. (55)

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