Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Childhood of Christ

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has a suggestion to new parents. Ask God to give you a vision for the years that you have with your children.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: That will help you to be intentional as you're parenting and to realize that the patterns established in their childhood, the seeds sown in their childhood, will bear fruit in their adulthood.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, February 24, 2015.

Nancy: During these weeks leading up to the Passion Week of Christ and the celebration of the resurrection on Sunday—some would call this period Lent—we're taking this season to focus on Christ—to behold Him, to consider Him, to look at different aspects of who He is, who He was, why He came to this earth, what He did on this earth.

We're using as a track to run on, a great devotional book called The Incomparable Christ. Some of you are following along in that book. If you are, we're going to be looking at chapter 4 today on the childhood of Christ.

Apart from one incident at age of twelve (which we’ll look at tomorrow), there is almost nothing in recorded in Scripture about Christ between His birth and the age of about thirty when He began His public ministry. So in light of that silence, it's not surprising that some people over the years would have tried to speculate about what took place during those years.

For example, as early as the second century A.D., people were writing books about this, some of them are known as the Apocryphal Gospels. One called The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is very speculative and fanciful about some of the things that this author thought that Jesus might have been doing during His childhood.

I will tell you, there is almost no correlation to fact. These are almost entirely fiction. They are not the inspired word of God. Let me read to you some excerpts out of this Infancy Gospel of Thomas written about the second century A.D.:

This little child Jesus when he was five years old was playing at the ford of a brook: and he gathered together the waters that flowed there into pools, and made them straightway clean, and commanded them by his word alone.

And having made soft clay, he fashioned thereof twelve sparrows. And it was the Sabbath when he did these things. And there were also many other little children playing with him.

And a certain Jew when he saw what Jesus did, playing upon the Sabbath day, departed straightway and told his father Joseph: Lo, thy child is at the brook, and he hath taken clay and fashioned twelve little birds, and hath polluted the Sabbath day.

And Joseph came to the place and saw: and cried out to him, saying: Wherefore doest thou these things on the Sabbath, which it is not lawful to do? But Jesus clapped his hands together and cried out to the sparrows and said to them: Go! and the sparrows took their flight and went away chirping.

And when the Jews saw it they were amazed, and departed and told their chief men that which they had seen Jesus do (II 1–5).

Now, the people who wrote these claimed that they were true. We know that they are not. Let me read a little more.

Now the son of Annas the scribe was standing there with Joseph, and he took a branch of a willow and dispersed the waters which Jesus had gathered together. When Jesus saw what was done, he was wroth, and said unto him, "O evil, ungodly, and foolish one, what hurt did the pools of waters do thee? Behold, shalt also thee be withered like a tree and shalt not bear leaves neither root nor fruit." And straightway that lad withered up wholly. Jesus departed and went up to Joseph's house. Now the parents of him who was withered took him up, bewailing his youth, and brought him to Joseph, and accused him, "Thou has such a child that doest such deeds."
After that, he went again through the village and child ran and dashed against his shoulder. Jesus was provoked and said unto him, "Thou shalt not finish thy course. Immediately he fell down and died. But certain when they saw what was done said, "Whence was this young child born so that every word of his is an accomplished work?" The parents of him who was dead came unto Joseph and blamed him saying, "Thou that has such a child canst not dwell with us in the village, or do thou teach him to bless and not curse, for he slayest our children."
After a certain number of days, a young man was cleaving wood in the neighborhood and the axe fell and cut asunder the sole of his foot, and losing much blood he was at the point to die. When there was a tumult and concourse, the young child, Jesus, also ran thither and by force passed through the multitude and took hold upon the foot of the young man that was smitten and straightway was healed. He said unto the young man, "Arise now and cleave the wood and remember me." But when the multitudes saw what was done, they worshiped the young child saying, "Verily the spirit of God dwelleth in this child."

And just one more here. There are lots of them. There are ones about Him going to school and how He criticizes the teachers when they make mistakes because He knows everything. Here is one more:

Again in the time of sowing, the young child went forth with his father to sow wheat in the land. As his father sowed, the young child Jesus sowed also a corn of wheat. He reaped it and threshed it and made it one hundred measures. He called all the poor of the village unto the threshing floor and gave them the wheat. Joseph took the residue of the wheat and he was eight years old when he wrought this sign.

Well, that's the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. And as I said, it is entirely fictitious. We have the Word of God that tells us what we need to know about Christ, and there is very little in Scripture about the childhood of Christ—almost nothing. Which, by the way, is very interesting in light of this very child-centered world that we live in, where everything revolves around children. They think the world revolves around them as children. Some parents think the world revolves around their children.

Not to say that children are not important—they are. Jesus loved children. I think it's instructive that Scripture tells us so little about these years. They were years of obscurity. Not that Jesus didn’t have family and friends that He was known to, but he wasn't out doing spectacular things. First of all, remember when He came to this earth, He restricted the use of those attributes of God. He put on our humanity. It was important that He grow up and develop as a child the way human beings have to.

So let's take a look based on the Scripture, not some fictitious report. What do we know about Christ during this very silent period? First of all, we know that He had a childhood. You say, “What's the big deal?” Well, that is a major contrast—which would not have been lost on the Greeks of the first century—to the Greek gods who were said to have come to earth fully grown and well-armed. Jesus did not come down to earth as a mature adult, but as a tiny, weak, helpless, newborn baby.

I have a newborn living in my house. A set of young parents who have their first child, Addie Grace. While I’ve been studying this series, I've been looking at Addie with new eyes, looking at how helpless she is, how dependent, how tiny, how weak, and thinking that’s what Jesus became when He took on flesh. He didn’t arrive like these Greek gods, ready to hit the world and take over the world. He came into the world the same way we come into the world—weak, tiny, helpless, and dependent. He was a child.

Again, when you compare him to these Greek gods, He is the incomparable Christ. There is no one like Him, no other religious leader like Him. In this pluralistic world where people try to tell us he's just one of many and every god is kind of equal and on the same kind of footing, don't believe it. It's not true. Jesus is the one and only incomparable Christ. We see it in this little detail of the fact that He was born as a baby and had a childhood.

We also know from the Scripture that Jesus was born into a home here on this earth with devout, godly parents—Mary, His mother, and Joseph, His earthly father. We know that His parents were faithful worshipers and that they were committed to raise Him according to the commands of Scripture.

Luke chapter 2 tells us that when Jesus was born, “they performed everything according to the Law of the Lord” (v. 39). All the rituals, all the going to the temple and offering of the sacrifice, they did everything according to God's commandments.

Then we read in Luke 2:41, “His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.” That's not just because they liked going to Jerusalem or celebrating the Passover—I assume they did—but that's because God had commanded observing Jews to do that very thing. So Jesus had parents here on earth that were obedient to the law of God. He grew up in that kind of home.

And yet, His childhood was not trouble free. Just because He was God, He was not spared adversity or challenges of living life in a fallen world. Think about some of those things. For example, His mother had an unexpected pregnancy, to say the least, that was surrounded by rumors and misunderstanding. There is no reason to believe that when Jesus was born that all of a sudden everyone believed that this was the virgin-born Son of God. I'm sure that there were people who still considered Mary defiled and outcast, so Jesus grew up in a home surrounded by suspicion, rumors, and misunderstanding.

His mother had been forced to give birth seventy-five miles away from home—walking that distance—in an inhospitable environment. Not a birthing center in a modern hospital but in a cow shed. So from the start, His life had challenges.

He was born into an era where there was a repressive, totalitarian Roman government. Not an easy time to be alive. While He still toddler or younger, his life was threatened by jealous king, so His parents had to flee to Egypt. They were already away from home, and then they had to flee to Egypt 300 miles away and stay there for a period of maybe up to a couple of years until the threat had passed.

Then they moved back to Nazareth. We think highly of Nazareth, but in those days Nazareth was kind of a byword, “can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” It was not the kind of place you'd want to be from. It wasn’t a popular city. It wasn’t a commercial area. It was small. It was despised. It was not any great place to be from.

Jesus was born into a poor family. We know that because of the kind of sacrifices that his parents brought to the temple when He was born. So he wasn’t born into wealth and "pomp and circumstance." He was not born with a “silver spoon” in his mouth. Now, He made all the silver in the world. He was the creator of the world, but when He came to this world, He came to a lowly place.

Just to be born as a human would be lowly enough, but the Scripture says, though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor that we through his poverty might be made rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

So He was born into a poor family. That means they had the challenges of having to make the ends meet. Just think about what it is like being poor today, living in poverty, scraping to have enough to feed the family.

Speaking of family, He was born into what became a large family, by our standards for sure. In Mark 6:3, four brothers of Jesus are named and at least two sisters who were born to Joseph and Mary after the birth of Jesus. So we see Him then as the first born of the half-brothers and sisters—at least seven kids in that family.

They were a poor, and they didn’t have these eight bedroom homes for six kids. We’re talking small homes—large family, poor family. He grew up in that.

It helps, I think, to picture some of His childhood. We think of Him as the King (and that He is), and Lord of the universe (and that He is), and the Lord of hosts (and that He is). But He also came and was born into and grew up as a child in these simple, obscure, poor circumstances.

There is one verse in the Scripture, Luke 2:40 that sums up Jesus’ childhood years. I want to take a look at that verse for the next few moments. Luke 2:40 says, “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor [or the grace] of God was upon him." That verse, with the exception of the incident that we’ll look at in tomorrow’s session is all that we’re told about Jesus growing up as a child.

The Scripture says that the child grew. Don’t skip too quickly over that. That’s part of what it meant for Jesus to become a man and take on a human nature. It’s part of the humiliation of the Incarnation. He didn’t just take on a human body, but He took to Himself the complete human nature, including a human soul with mind, will, emotions, reasoning capabilities, etc. He had to go through the same developmental stages in every realm—physically, intellectually, socially, psychologically that we all have had to go through.

We talk about little children and how they are concrete thinkers, and then they learn to think more abstractly. Developmental stages. Jesus went through those stages as a human child—physically, intellectually, socially, psychologically. He had to do that in order to fully, truly represent us as our Savior.

As you think about the growth of the Lord Jesus as a child, let me just make several observations. First of all, it was balanced growth. It was growth in all areas, all realms—mind, soul, spirit, body. You see some kids today who are “super kids” in some areas. You’ll have some kids who are amazing athletes. They can do anything athletic, but they can’t read or write. Then you have some kids who are brainiacs—they can speak five languages, but they are klutzy or uncoordinated or socially inept. (I'm not talking about your kid, okay?) Or you have some kids who have great social skills. They are highly relational, but they are weak in other areas and may be oblivious to what is going on around them, they are just so people oriented.

Well, Jesus showed the importance of growth in every area, as a whole person, integrated—body, soul, spirit. That’s the way we are supposed to grow. That’s the way we would have grown had it not been for the Fall. So He came here to live our life, but to model for us what true humanity was intended to be. Integrated growth. Physical growth. Rational/intellectual growth.

Now, that’s hard to understand how Jesus could have had to grow intellectually. As God, He was omniscient; He knew everything. But as man, He had to grow in knowledge. He had to go to school. Unlike the Infancy Gospel of Thomas which talks about Him going and yelling at teachers because they got something wrong, Jesus had to go and learn His alphabet. He had to learn how to put the letters together and how to learn how to read and write. He had to grow intellectually—in knowledge. That’s a mystery, but it is true.

He grew morally. Verse 52 of Luke 2 tells us that He “increased [or advanced or grew] in favor with God and man.” Even though He was God, there was some sense in which He had to grow in His moral capability, His moral functions—not that He ever sinned (He didn’t). But He had to grow in making wise, godly choices. He had balanced growth in every area, and that’s the way it should be with us.

His growth was gradual. There were no short-cuts! He didn’t skip any grades that we know of. He didn’t skip any stages of life. He didn’t go from being two to twelve. He went through those stages in a gradual period of growth. It took him twelve years to get to twelve years of age. You say, “Well, duh.” But I think it’s important to realize that when He took on our humanity, He took on our humanity!

He had to grow gradually the way that we do. There is a patience there. There’s no hurry there. No, like, “Hurry up so I can get to thirty and start my life work.” No, there is going through the stages to get there. It’s the process of growth. It doesn’t happen overnight for us. It doesn’t happen overnight for your children, and it didn’t happen overnight for Jesus.

It required time and training and a family with disciplines. He gained knowledge the same way we do—by observing, asking questions, being taught. This shows the humility of Christ. The incomparable Christ, that He would be reduced to this without sacrificing any of His God-ness. There was gradual growth as a man. Balanced growth. Gradual growth.

Then it was fruitful and purposeful growth. It was growth with an objective. It was heading somewhere. There was an outcome, and the outcome was maturity. Now, that is supposed to be the outcome of all growth, but sadly, for a lot of people today, they may grow up physically, but they don’t grow up intellectually or morally or psychologically or relationally. They get stunted in their growth. Jesus didn’t get stunted. He moved toward that point of maturity—physical maturity, spiritual maturity. It says he “became strong, filled with wisdom.” It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened. He moved toward maturity.

These childhood years were years of preparation for His life calling—learning the Law, learning the Word of God, learning the ways of God. He took on our limitations, our humanity. He went to Hebrew school. He was taught the Hebrew Scriptures. He learned these things. He learned obedience. Each step of growth was preparing Him to fulfill His Father’s eternal mission for His life. Balanced growth. Gradual growth. Fruitful or purposeful growth which was moving to an outcome of maturity.

There’s a patience throughout the childhood years. I think the fact that the Scripture doesn’t tell us much, it hardly tells us anything about these childhood years, and that is significant. It says that these are slow years. They happened in the process in which they happened, and you can’t skip over them.

It says that during this time the favor or the grace of God was on Him. That’s essential for growth. You can’t grow in the way God intended for us to grow apart from the favor or grace of God. You see in Jesus as a man a dependence upon the grace of God. In spite of His circumstances, some of them adverse as they were, in spite of the dysfunctions, some around Him and some in the world in which He lived, in spite of the challenges that He faced in that era, the favor and the grace of God was on Him.

He was God’s Son. God’s favor was on Him, and God was growing Him up even in the midst of this corrupt town of Nazareth, born to sinful human parents, born in a sinful, decadent world and era.

Some of you trying to raise children in this kind of world. Doesn’t it discourage you sometimes? You think, How are these kids ever going to get it? The pull of this world is so strong. Remember that Jesus grew up in that kind of world. And the favor and the grace of God was upon Him. The favor and the grace of God can be upon your children and you as you seek to grow in this fallen, broken world.

His childhood was consistent with both His humanity and His deity.

  • He went through ordinary stages of childhood.
  • He had to learn, to grow, to develop.
  • He was human.
  • He had our limitations. He had our weaknesses.
  • But He was also God. He never, ever sinned!

So Jesus’ childhood demonstrates some of the things that ought be true about our lives. The objective of balanced, gradual, purposeful growth. The goal to become strong and wise. What a goal for our lives! Jesus became strong and wise and spiritually mature and mature in every way—dependence on the grace of God. Regardless of what you read in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, Jesus did not use His supernatural powers to make birds and to destroy people who didn’t agree with him. He laid that aside and He grew as we have to grow—in dependence on the grace of God

And for those of you who are Christian parents seeking to raise children for the glory of God, don’t underestimate the importance, the necessity, and the value of those childhood years. Don’t be trying to get your child to be twelve when he’s three. There’s a process. There’s growth. It take time and patience. Enjoy the season. Enjoy the moment. Some of you have grandchildren. Remember that.

Ask God to give you a vision, a sense of purpose for their childhood. That will help you to be intentional as you’re parenting as you realize that the patterns that are established in their childhood, seeds sown in their childhood, will bear fruit in their adulthood

What your children are doing at the age of two or three and six and eight and ten matters. It matters that they are growing, that you are being intentional in helping to steer and shape their growth in the dependence on the grace of God. Because they are being shaped in the person and the man or the woman they are going to be in adulthood.

As you pray for your children, don’t just pray for their safety and protection. You want that, but also pray and believe God for growth in every area of their lives—from infancy to childhood and into manhood for the glory of God.

Thank you Lord that You came into this world as a baby and You grew up as a child. You grew up into manhood to show us how we are to grow. I pray that You would do a work of grace, that Your favor and grace might be upon us as we seek to grow and upon the children represented in our homes and families and those that we love.

Oh Lord, may we see children growing up to be wise and strong as Jesus was. May we grow to be wise and strong as well. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss providing insight on the childhood of Christ and perspective for parents and grandparents. That message is part of the series "The Incomparable Christ." If you have missed any of the message so far, you can hear them at ReviveOurHearts.com.

How did you start listening to Revive Our Hearts? Nancy’s back to talk about the way some women discovered the program.

Nancy: We hear from so many women who tell us how they “happen” to stumble upon the program while listening to the radio. Then they tell us about the changes that follow in their lives. That's exactly what happened to a woman name Tina. She began her email to us:

“I can’t tell you how much Revive Our Hearts has changed my life.”

Now, we’re always quick to say that it is God who changed Tina’s life, but He chose to use Revive Our Hearts in the process. Tina started listening to Revive Our Hearts on the radio several years ago. She says,

“I was a new believer, and I was just starting to grow. I was dealing with fear, anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.”

She goes on to explain how God used this ministry to connect her with the Scripture. All the struggles she had been dealing with were addressed as she got into God’s Word. The Revive Our Hearts broadcast is continuing to encourage Tina, as she and her husband have now stepped out in faith to become foster parents and are taking on a whole new set of challenges.

When you donate to Revive Our Hearts, you're helping us to connect with women like Tina. When you support this ministry with your gift, you are helping us to stay on the air in your community and helping us to connect with more women like Tina, who "happen" to tune into Revive Our Hearts, perhaps while dealing with serious issues in their lives.

When you support Revive Our Hearts this month with a donation of any amount, we’ll say thanks by sending you the book The Incomparable Christ by Oswald Sanders. It’s the book that inspired our current teaching series, and it will help you appreciate the life and work of Jesus in a whole new way. 

You can make a donation by calling 1–800–569–5959. When you call, be sure to let us know the call letters of the station where you listen to this program. You can also donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Thanks Nancy. And you’ll also get the companion journal. The journal includes questions to help you make these chapters and this teaching personal to your life.  

We’ll send you The Incomparable Christ when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Call 1–800–569–5959, or donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com. We’re happy to send one book and journal per household for your donation this week.

Leslie: How do you impart wisdom to a teenager? Nancy Leigh DeMoss will show you how looking at the life of Jesus. That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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