There was nothing ordinary about the conception and birth of Jesus. Was his childhood also extraordinary? The Scriptures offer limited insight. After dedicating Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem when he was eight days old, Joseph and Mary returned to their hometown of Nazareth (Luke 2: 21-38). Luke summarizes his early years by stating “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom. And the grace of God was on Him” (Luke 2:40, MKJV). Luke describes John the Baptist in a similar way (Luke 1:80, NASB). Could Luke’s statement be a general description that applies to all children, or was his intent to show that Jesus was unique?
What effect did this manifestation of God, cloaked in the child Jesus, have on his parents and siblings? Were they mesmerized by his presence, or frightened by his power? What if your son or your brother could predict the weather? Or change it? Explain the transition of egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly? Would you wonder why you couldn’t do the same? Like any other child Jesus got hungry and ate, grew tired and rested. Did Jesus ever catch a cold or fall and break a bone?
After recording the miracles and prophecies surrounding the birth of Jesus, Luke describes an event in Jesus’s childhood that hints at his deity. Jesus, at age 12, attends the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem with his parents. After the celebration his family heads home. Jesus stays, unknown to His parents. They find him three days later in the temple, listening to the teachers and asking questions. “And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.” (Luke 2:47) This episode foreshadows many future occasions when those who hear Jesus react in a similar way. For example, “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes (Matthew 7:28-29 NASB) and “He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? (Matthew 13:54 NASB).
When Joseph and Mary find Jesus in the temple, Jesus appears to challenge them about their anxiety, asking why they were looking for him. Didn’t they understand that he had to be in His Father’s house? (Luke 2:49-50 NASB) Jesus returns to Nazareth with his earthly parents and “continued in subjection” to them. “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). How can the Son of God, the creator of heaven and earth and all living creatures, increase in wisdom and stature? As the Son of God he was already perfect and complete in every way; however, by living as Jesus of Nazareth he experienced the human condition from birth to death — the process of maturing not only physically, but also intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. He came to earth as a baby, lived first as a child, and then grew into a man; presenting us with a perfect role model. The Son of God did not give up any of His power when he lived on earth as Jesus of Nazareth, he simply restrained it.
The words of A.W. Tozer, from his book “The Knowledge of the Holy”, provide a fitting summary. “The truth is that the Man who walked among us was a demonstration, not of unveiled deity but of perfect humanity. The awful majesty of the Godhead was mercifully sheathed in the soft envelope of human nature to protect mankind.”