While it’s true that the whole Bible is about Jesus, what we know about his life on earth is found in four books, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The story of his birth (Christmas) is only recorded in two of those, Matthew and Luke. What we know about his childhood is very limited, basically one paragraph in Luke 2. Yet even in this short story Jesus provides us with an example we can learn from.
First notice in verse 51 that Jesus was submissive to his parents. Jesus was God. He created the universe and all that is in it, and it was all done for his sake. He will someday sit at the right-hand of God the Father and rule the nations for all eternity. This same 12-year-old Jesus that amazed and astonished the scholars in the temple went home with Mary and Joseph, a simple carpenter and young mother, and submitted to their authority. Why? Because they were his parents. Did he know more than them? Absolutely. But honoring father and mother was never about who was smarter. It’s about respecting the family structure that God created. In his wisdom, which is mocked as foolishness by many people, God devised for a man and woman to marry and have children. Men and women may be of equal worth, but it is a lie of our culture that they are the same. Men and women are not the same, and the unique qualities and skills of each are required to raise godly children. The command (Ex. 20) to honor father and mother is the first one given with a promise. This fact is pointed out in the New Testament, as well as instructions for being good parents and obedient children (Ephesians is one example). Jesus showed his parents respect and honor not because they were more intelligent or more powerful but because that’s what he was supposed to do.
The second lesson has two sides. Jesus grew up. Verse 52 tells us that he increased not only in physical stature but in wisdom. The lesson here is that kids do that; they grow up. Parents, teachers, church pastors, etc. should not expect children to be small adults. Up until the Enlightenment that was the norm. Because of the Scientific Revolution and the invention of vaccines more children lived through childhood, and created a whole new market for things like rocking horses and jigsaw puzzles. Children were given a chance to have play time, and we just now understand how important that is for mental and sociological development. Growing up is a process, and it doesn’t magically happen the day a child turns 13 (or any other age). Adults, listen to me – if you child is never allowed to be a child, then he/she cannot grow up. Now it’s the children’s turn.
Jesus grew up. The lesson is that you are supposed to grow up. Paul said when he was a child he thought and acted as a child, but when he became a man he put away childish things (1 Cor. 13:11). Today we have some very large, grown-up looking 18-25 year old children. I teach high school. I hate dealing with teenagers that reason like 5-years-olds, but it takes place almost daily. The Toys-R-Us song about not wanting to grow up has somehow become the gospel message to our kids. When a 21-year-old “man” spends most of his income on basketball shoes, Hilfiger shirts and video games, there has been a failure to launch somewhere. We used to make fun of guys that lived in their parents house ’till they were 30, but more and more that’s considered pretty normal. Jesus increase in wisdom and stature… and wisdom.
I’m not saying there are no good parents out there anymore. I know plenty, including some single ones if you thought I was ragging on you. I’ve also meet some high school students that outgrew their parents in terms of being the mature, responsible one. What I will say to everyone, on this issue and every other, is let’s look at the examples Jesus gave us to follow and make sure that’s what were doing.