Now we're turning in our Bibles to Luke chapter 2 - Luke's gospel and chapter 2 - and we're going to begin to read at verse 40. Luke chapter 2 and verse 40: "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man."
Let us pray: Our Lord Jesus Christ we come before Thee, and we have read within Thy holy word of Thy blessed childhood. Lord we have found it, in weeks gone by, difficult to take in the magnitude of the incarnation of Thy being - yet Lord Jesus, we seek to understand Thee in the little measure that we can, to take strength, decipher guidance, and have blessing within our hearts, as we contemplate the holy Child, Jesus. Lord, give us of Thy Spirit, that we may say nothing amiss, that we may not speculate with our sinful imagination - but Lord that we would understand what Thy inspiring Holy Spirit would wish us to understand: that our Saviour was a child. For we pray in His name, Amen.
The words that we have read, in Luke chapter 2 and verse 40 right through to verse 52, is about all that we know from the word of God about the childhood of the Lord Jesus Christ. And yet, these few verses assure us of the fact of what we were thinking of last Lord's Day morning: that the Lord Jesus Christ was a man - He had a childhood. But what I want us to think about this morning is this: that although the Lord Jesus Christ was a perfect child, we must never forget that He began as a child. He didn't burst [in] upon the world as a full-grown human being, a full-grown man. He was not like the Greek demi-gods, who descended from heaven, and came in the being and appearance of a full-grown person with many supernatural powers and abilities. But the Lord Jesus Christ, in His incarnation, He actually submitted Himself, He humbled Himself to the sinless limitations of growth and development that we read about in this passage. Look at verse 40, it says: 'And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him', verse 52, 'And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man'. He, the God of all time, the pre-existent Christ, the Divine, the One who always was, who is, and always shall be, the One who could say 'Before Abraham was I AM' - He submitted Himself to the limitations of growth and development inherent in the membership of the human race. It's amazing, isn't it?
But you need to be careful what you read about the childhood of the Lord Jesus Christ, there are many apocryphal legends, stories and fairy tales that are told. And like many other biographies within the word of God, when you read them - about John the Baptist, and you read them about other characters and prophets and so on - you find that many of those other biographies give a feature, at least a cameo, of the childhood of the primary character of the book. They tell of his beginnings, but then they tell of how he grew into his infancy, into his childhood, and then into his youth as he matured. But within the gospel biographies there are no stories about a maturing child - and the silence of the gospel writers, I believe, is so significant when you consider so many of the stories that float about, about the childhood of the Lord Jesus Christ. I'm sure you've heard of the Apocrypha - it's a part of the Scriptures that we do not believe in, the part that was rejected by the early Church as being not real, false, made up, speculation. But there are two apocryphal books that are entitled 'The Gospels of Infancy' - do you know what you find within them? You find stories about the Lord Jesus Christ in His childhood, and when other boys and girls ran at Him, or interrupted Him in the Nazareth streets as He was playing, He would look at them with disdain, strike them down in death. What blasphemous fables! Blasphemous nonsense! Attributing to the child-Christ puerile displays of divine power and even acts of vengeance.
But this is the reality - and this is sometimes the thing that we, as Christians, can't get our minds around when we talk about His childhood: that there are no extraordinary, amazing incidents recorded within the word of God. Why? Because none happened, none happened. The silence of the inspired writers assures us that His growth, His development as a child, was as a normal child - not as some youthful prodigy of God. There was nothing, nothing unnatural about the progress of the Lord Jesus Christ. He did not advance in 'turbo' above all His fellows in His growth, or in His mind at that point in time. Yet, on the other side of the coin, He was not immature by one second, or by one day - but we simply take what the word of God says, 'He grew in body, He waxed strong in spirit, and He increased in the wisdom of His mind'.
Now the first thing I want you to notice is this: that He had a Nazareth home. You can turn to Luke chapter 4 - two chapters from the one that you're at, at this moment in time - and from verses 16 to 30, you can read when you go home, about the home of the Lord Jesus Christ in Nazareth. The word of God tells us that Nazareth was a small town, it was a despised village that was inhabited by a rough, wild, rugged, rustic people. This was the home of the Christ-child. Do you remember Nathaniel's question? 'Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?'. And that shows you the mind of the Jews, as they thought about this hovel of a hole of a place - Nazareth - it was a place that nothing good could be spawned in. The word of God teaches us, contrary to the Roman Catholic Church, that Jesus Christ was the eldest of a family of at least eight, maybe more, children. Matthew names His brothers and His sisters, he says of His brothers, 'James, Joseph, Simon and Judas', and he adds 'and his sisters are they are not all with us'. Think of it: the little, despised, town of Nazareth, a large family within a little home - and in that Nazareth home, the Lord of Glory, the Eternal One, the Eternal Christ was being disciplined in the life of a common, large family living in a small hovel of a home, living in close quarters with sinful boys and girls. Yet He emerged out of His youthful experience with this record of Him: that He was without sin.
Do you remember your childhood? Maybe it's asking too much of some of you! But do you remember it? Do you remember the days where there was big families and small houses? And here we have that Christ lived in these humble beginnings, not in a palace, not in a stately home, not in a royal domain, but He lived in a little house.
And we read within the Gospels that the influence, and the example of the teaching of His holy mother upon Him, and upon His infancy, must have played an important part within the whole of His development as a human being. Everything indicates that Mary was a holy woman, a devout woman, one of these rare women that saw their calling as to bring a child into the world, and to bring it up in the way that it should go, in godliness and holiness. And she took as her calling the privilege to prepare a noble life before God - and she immersed herself in it! How different it is today: mothers in our world no longer immerse themselves in their children as much as they used to. Oh, they want to immerse themselves in their career - but Mary immersed herself in the privilege of preparing the noble life of the Messiah! He lived in a small home, He lived in a despised town, He grew up under the holy hand and influence of Mary, that holy woman of God. And oh, some of us, we look at our beginnings - don't we? - we look at where we've come from, some of us are even ashamed to say where we were born, perhaps, or our family background - but I am tempted to say this, with the poet:
'When I am tempted to repine
That such a humble lot is mine,
Within I hear a voice which saith,
'Mine were the streets of Nazareth''.
Think of this: Paradise, the Eden of God that was in the beginning in the book of Genesis, for a short space of time in the most despised place within Palestine, was restored in that little home! Have you got it? The Christ of God among men. And in Mary's home there was a holy hush, there was a holy reverence, there was a holy awareness of the presence of someone other - some transcendent being - though He was only a child, for that short span of His infancy, there within Nazareth, Eden was restored.
He had a Nazareth home. But I want you to see, also, that He had a natural development - this is important. You see, we read a few weeks ago, that it says of him that when He became human, He became man, He had to be made like unto His brethren - that means us. He had to be made like us in every single way, except for sin. Oh, grasp this: that He humbled himself, He submitted and relegated Himself to the level of the natural laws of a human baby! The poet says:
'He came, but not in regal splendour dressed,
The haughty diadem, the Tyrian vest.
Not armed in flame all glorious from afar,
Of hosts the Captain, and the Lord of war'.
He did not come in that way! He came as a child. He was neither premature nor immature. What I mean by that is simply this: that at five days old, He was just what a five-day old child should be - not a day more, not a day less. At 12 years old, He was just what a 12 year-old should be - not a year or two in advance, or in pre-maturity. No! But this Christ-child, the holy child-Jesus, you could take Him at any year of His life you like - He was neither a year younger, nor a year older in His appearance or His ability. As Paul said, like us all, when He was a child He spake as a child, He understood as a child, He thought as a child, but when He became a man He put away childish things - but never forget this: that my God and my Saviour was a child! Can you grasp that? He had a natural development and what that simply means, if I could break-up verse 41 and 52 for you - first of all it means this: that he grew physically, what does it say? 'The child grew, and waxed strong...Jesus increased in stature'.
Have you ever gone to a gallery, or to a foreign country, and you've seen some beautiful pictures - or maybe you've seen them in some Bibles - and they have this picture of the holy maiden mother and she is there, within the manger, and she holds that Child within her arms and roundabout her head, or roundabout His head, is this halo - this aura - of light. Blasphemy! To look upon, there was no ray of light, there was no holy halo. The fact is this: that if you were to go into a maternity ward today, and the Christ-child was there, you wouldn't be able to distinguish Him from all other boys, and all other girls - except for His sinlessness, He was the same.
Mothers think of this, think of this: you know what it is (I don't) to bring up a young boy (the girls are bad enough, but I don't know, you can argue about that when you get home: who's the worst). But think of this: to bring up the Christ-child. The poet said:
'A Son that never did amiss,
That never shamed His mother's kiss,
Nor crossed her fondest prayer'.
And no matter how good the child is that you have, or have reared before - no matter how many dreams that they have fulfilled for you - there's never been a child like this! A child that never did any wrong, a child that never brought a contradiction back to the request of a father or a mother - there's never been a child like this, who never failed to answer a prayer of a mother on her knees. She was never disappointed in the child, Jesus.
He grew physically, and it says, and it leads us to believe, that He grew to a well-built, well-formed, sturdy lad - who, I believe, delighted to climb, and would have had to climb the mountains around His home. Picture Him! Don't think of Him as something other, out of the universe, in this sense - as a boy. He was a lad, full of life, full of feeling, quick-witted, full of courage and of a warm heart. Can you see in your mind's eye: His keen-minded nature, His intelligence, His affection before His mother and His father, His sparkling eyed youth as He stood before them - all of their dreams encapsulated in a single body! He had within Him the fullness of life.
But never forget this: that the child Jesus grew at the same rate as other boys and girls. He was neither ascetic - and what I mean by this [is that] He wasn't some monk, who went away and prayed all day, He wasn't austere in His appearance, or devout, or some recluse that never played with the boys and girls. Neither was he stoic, and I mean unfeeling, cold to pleasure or pain. He enjoyed to play, He enjoyed the things of a full child's life in His youth. He was a normal boy, not some pretentious, eccentric, holy boy - He was a child. Physically, Psalm 45 verse 2 leads us to believe that He must have been an attractive child to look at, listen: 'Thou art fairer than the children of men'. The Gospels lead us to believe - as the temple guard exclaimed as he was about to arrest the Lord Jesus in John 7, 'Never a man spake like this man' - and I imagine that His child-like voice, even back then, must have been pregnant with the signs of the future richness and vibrancy that would reach the vast multitudes which later crowded around Him. And as He played the games, as He was in the playground, or in the home and He called to His friends, you could almost hear the future promise of the strength: that He would become the Prince of all preachers.
He grew physically, but it says this: that he grew mentally - look at the verse, 'Jesus advanced in wisdom', verse 40. He wasn't an 'adult infant', He wasn't born with the body of a baby, and the mind of an Einstein - but this Child was like any other child. He had to learn the power of speech, day by day He became familiar with the ordinary facets of human nature and knowledge - He even learned to read and write! It's possible to gain a little bit of knowledge about His education from the customs of the day in Jerusalem. As I said already, His first instruction would have been at the knee of His mother - think of it, think of it! The God-child learning upon the knee of a Hebrew, sinful maid! His devout mother would teach Him from the holy scriptures, teach Him to chant and to sing the Psalms, she would instruct Him in the highlights of Jewish history and the precepts of the law - the first five books of the Bible. She would show Him the Passover preparations, He would be told the whole story of the redemption of the Jews - and His education, and this is what I want you to get: it began at home! You have a duty, mother or father, and grandmother or grandfather, if your child is not saved you have a duty: tell your children and your children's children!
I wonder when Mary told Him of His birth. When she told Him of the words that the angel spoke to her on that day? I wonder when it started to dawn on Him - I don't know - but as we look at these verses together, we know this: that in His early childhood days His mother did not neglect Him, but His mother immersed herself in that Child. In the Jewish village of Nazareth, in a village the size that Nazareth was, there would have been a little school, it was called 'The House Of The Book'. And Jesus would have been sent along at the age of six, and the teachers would have been the rulers of the synagogue, and for five years - listen to this! - the children would have memorized and learnt the Old Testament, especially the first five books of the Bible. Do you know what Josephus, the Jewish historian, said? 'The Jew knew the law better than their own name'.
Now this touches my heart - do you know what the first book they learnt was? It's the last book that we ever read, what is it? Leviticus - that's the one you always skip over, isn't it? That's the one you can't get through a chapter - these Jewish children learnt it! The first thing they learnt, at the age of six, was the book of Leviticus to study it, and to study the sacrificial rituals and laws. And I just wonder - I wonder - as the Christ of God as a child, as He looked through the book, and He saw the blood, and He saw the sacrifice, and He saw the substitution, and He saw the scapegoat - did He see Himself? [In] the words of John the Baptist, did He say to Himself, 'I am the Lamb of God, that will take away the sin of the world'? He, don't forget that He had no clouded vision of the future concerning God's divine plan, but within this Child there must have been growing convictions that He was the one with whom the five books of the law and all of the prophets would find their fulfilment in - the Messiah Child.
He would move, from the age of twelve, to another school. He would become what is called 'the son of the law' - it's the age thirteen today in the Jewish system, Bar Mitzvah. He would be robed in the garments of a man-child, and from then on He was regarded as a free moral agent - no longer a child, His parents were no longer responsible for His religious upbringing before God. Can you imagine what that would have been like? Because we are led to believe that when He went up to Jerusalem in this passage that we read, they were going to the Passover feast, and He was twelve years of age - He was going to celebrate His first Passover. He had been denied a university education - He wasn't like Paul you know, remember Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel - the Lord Jesus wasn't like that. But when He went into the presence of the doctors of the universities what did they say? 'How knoweth this man letters, never having learned?'. Think of this: what does the word say? 'He grew mentally'. Listen, there was never a day went by, not a day passed, that He did not learn, not a day that went by in school that He never paid attention to the older men that taught Him and spoke to Him. He was attentive at His lessons, whether at the synagogue or at school. He read every book that He could get His hands on that would bless His soul - but listen to this! It does not say that He was full of knowledge - for knowledge puffs up - but it says He was full of wisdom. And He had this divine ability to take what was knowledge and - as He changed the water into wine - change knowledge into wisdom. And Oh, if I could get what's in my heart to you today: Oh! That we would change our knowledge into wisdom! That we would obey the word! That we would live the word! Listen: the child Christ Jesus had got it even back there, that what He learnt was not for learning's-sake, but was for wisdom. Wisdom is to live by, not to crow about. Whatsoever things were true, whatsoever things were honest, whatsoever things were just, whatsoever things were pure, whatsoever things were lovely, of good report, He instinctively, immediately thought of those things. That was the whole wisdom both of the Christ as a child and as a youth.
The verse says this, 52: 'He grew with God and He grew with men'. Can you imagine such a child living in Belfast? And all the mothers are chittering and talking about, 'Have you seen that child, Jesus? The way He behaves, what He does, how He learns, how He is developing?'. And although He was like every other child except for sin, this character of the God-man was being manifested in Himself as the years passed by, in His purity, in His meekness, in His kindness, in His inherent goodness, and it caused Him to grow in favour with God and with men. Could you imagine this - now I know you can't imagine what God thinks - but just for a moment try and grasp this: as the Heavenly Father, for the first time in the whole of history, looks down and He sees the symmetrical, balanced development of the first ever human being. I'm sure that at that moment, His heart was filled with the words that He would later say: 'Behold My beloved Son, in Whom is all My delight'.
Think of the children - maybe there's some children here - think of this, children and young people: what age are you? I don't know what age you are, but think of it: Christ was your age! Have you ever thought about that? Christ was a toddler! Have you ever heard a sermon on the teenage Christ? Or Christ the adolescent? Christ the student? Christ the apprentice in the carpenter's workshop? What are you going through child? Young person? Through exams, through turmoil of education, through the stress of teenage years - listen - Christ went through it all, yet without sin! That's the amazing thing about it! He was tested at all points like as we are, He went through it all, that when we go through it, He can help us. The poet put it like this:
'Our God has sanctified all ages,
He, not for twelve years, but for those long thirty-three,
Dwelt in our world, the ever undefiled,
Loving, obedient, gentle, stainless, mild.
Exemplar He alike, to king and boy'.
I want us, for a few moments in our closing, to look at the youth of Christ. For when He came to the age of twelve then comes in, not just the silence of Scripture, but we find the story that we read about in our passage - and we don't have time to deal with it all today, but we know this: that He was going up to the temple - and can you imagine what it would have been like? This country boy coming into the big city, and as they would have come, as a caravan, a train of people from Nazareth together, they would have sung the Psalms. And as they would have come to that hill, and seen on the temple rock that white edifice of the place where God dwelt on earth, can you imagine what would have come into His mind, and into His heart as the people sang, 'I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help'. Can you imagine that boy as He saw the spires glittering in the sun, as He saw the officiaries of the priests within the temple court that were worshipping His Heavenly Father? Can you imagine what He felt when He saw the sacrificial lamb, when He smelt the incense ascending to Heaven - can you imagine? Can you? Oh, I believe that this must have been an epoch in the deepening consciousness that between Him and His God existed a relationship that was unique among men.
And then He gets lost, doesn't He? They've celebrated the Passover, and they can't find Him, and it says that they all went on their way home to Nazareth supposing Him to be in their company. And what used to happen was this: the boys and girls - I used to wonder about this were they not looking after Him right? - the boys and girls would have gathered together, they slept together, they played together in their own part of the caravan. Now think of this, before you point the finger at Mary and Joseph: this was a child that never caused them any anxiety at all. They had no need to worry where He was, He never wandered about, He never disobeyed them. But one moment they got to a certain point within in the journey, they realized He was not with them. And they went back, and it seems strange, it's not explained for us - but I wonder why they knew to look in the temple? And Jesus was almost as surprised that they didn't know where to find Him as they were that He wasn't in the train with them! And Mary turns to the child and what does she say? 'Why did you do this to us?'. Isn't that what you say to the child? You're worried, you're in the supermarket and you can't find it and then, when you get it, you blatter the life out of it! You thought something had happened to it, and then you make something happen to it! And she was so concerned, and Joseph himself, and it literally means this, you could turn it into the Scots translation: 'My bairn, why hast thou dealt with us?'
Now I think this is interesting: Mary came to Him and said 'Your father Joseph and I were looking for you'. And, if you look at the verse, Jesus turns round and He says 'Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?' And at that moment - I don't know how much it had come to Him, but something was there within His consciousness that He was here - that He must be in His Father's house, this was a home for Him, He had to be about His Father's business. Now can I ask you this, it says within the word of God 'a child shall lead them' - and we are here this morning, and by faith we look at the Christ-child at twelve years of age, and I know He was God incarnate, but He was still a child, and He is so far exceeding our position in His spiritual understanding and wisdom and maturity - why? Because He knew that His life was to be about His Father's business. Do you? Can you say, like Christ, 'my meat, my fuel, my life's existence, everything that I am here for, is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish the work that He has given me to do'.
Oh, this is our hour of decision, for you'll not have an hour of decision in eternity for this, you'll not be able to surrender your will, or consecrate your life, or your hands, or your wealth, or your intellect, or your use, or whatever power God should choose - you can't do it in eternity, you've got to do it now! Let these words grasp you: 'Wist ye not', this was a child that did everything to please His parents, never had disobeyed a command before, think of that! But when it came to the crunch, and He would have to disobey men and obey God - He did it!
And then began - it finishes here and the curtains close - and then began eighteen years of absolute obscurity that we hear nothing about the Lord Jesus Christ:
'And all that we hear is the come and go of busy feet,
With sound of hammer down the busy street.
A little two roomed house,
With scarce a breath of air, in busy crowded Nazareth.
Yes! Here for love of thee,
Through silent years oh pause and see,
If thou art wise,
The King of kings dwelt in disguise'.
For these years He learned obedience, He was tested in all points like as we are, to bring Him to that point, where one day the consciousness that He would go to Calvary, that the child Jesus would mature in His knowledge of what His calling was, to die for the sins of the world, to take my place, to bleed, to take the wrath of God for all my hell. Well might the poet say:
'And yet I think at Golgotha, as Jesus' eyes were closed in death,
They saw with love most passionate the village streets of Nazareth'.
Let us pray: Now I have tried - I hope by the help of the Holy Spirit - to bring to our spiritual consciousness this child Jesus. What are we like, Christians, in our lives? Are we about our Father's business? Are we doing the will of God rather than the will of men? Are we growing, day by day, in the knowledge of God, seeking, drinking in all we can get of Him and His word? Oh, let us take the example of this holy child Jesus who said: 'Except ye become as a little child, ye shall in no wise enter in'.
Our Father, take us, and make us little children. We thank Thee for the example of the Lord Jesus, but more than that: we thank Thee that Thou didst not leave us with an example, for we couldn't have followed Him. But Thou didst leave the Comforter, the Strengthener of the Holy Spirit, to enable us to live the life of Christ down here on earth. Lord help us, we feel so weak, we need Thy help, help us day by day to be more like Jesus. In His blessed Name we pray. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourth tape in his Man Of The Millennium series, titled "The Childhood Of Christ" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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