Bringing Up Baby

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Once we get past the visit of the wise men to the home of the child Jesus (sometime around His second birthday) and the subsequent flight to Egypt to escape Herod, we know next to nothing about the childhood of Jesus.

Luke 2:40 says: “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.” This was said of Him BEFORE the famous scene of the boy in the temple asking questions that astounded the teachers of the law.

You are only supposed to be smart about spiritual things after you go to seminary, right?

But Jesus never went to Bible College, or Seminary. In fact, He never went to Sunday School.

We’d like to assume that because Jesus was God’s Son that He had an advantage over every other kid on the block when it came to knowing “stuff.” Sources of outside the Scriptures attribute to the child Jesus extraordinary miracles, an exercise of His divinity that overshadowed His humanity.

But Hebrews 4:15 tells us: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was with sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” For a child or a young person to identify with this truth, he needs to believe that Jesus was an ordinary child and youth who struggled with the same problems that every kid has to deal with.

But that still leave us wondering how it was that an “ordinary” Jesus became “filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.”

In the culture into which Jesus was born, religious instruction was a critical component in the home. It began with mom and dad. It was taught, first of all by influence and example, and learned through what was seen and heard before it was ever read from a book. Jewish mothers and fathers were committed to bringing up their children in the way of the Lord from birth (Deuteronomy 6). Every household had a copy of at least part of the Old Testament scriptures. Paul commended Timothy’s mother and grandmother (apparently, in this case, without help from a male role-model): “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice…how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15).

Formal education didn’t begin until a child was six or seven.That education was highly focused on religious instruction. Up to ten years of age the textbook was exclusively Scripture beginning with the book of Leviticus.

We think very little of Mary and Joseph after the birth of the Saviour, but we can only imagine that, because they knew Who their child was, they committed themselves to His spiritual nurture with great care. And Jesus, as the Son of God, would have responded to that nurture like, as they say, a “duck takes to water.”

God’s choice of Mary as the mother of the Lord, and Joseph as His step-father, was no accident. He would have chosen the most dedicated of His servants for such an important task. As the grace of God covered Christ in those growing years, so that same grace would have covered His earthly parents as they taught Him everything they could about His real Father.

Long before the Lord’s official ministry began, the examples from His life instruct us on how we need to live. Even His childhood, as little as we know about it, provides counsel, particularly for parents. How mom and dad handle the spiritual training of their children is critical. Aristotle is credited with saying: “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.” But long before Aristotle an even wiser man said: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Sunday School is too little. Bible College and Seminary is too late. If you have children, it is up to you to provide the environment at home that will nurture the spiritual lives of those entrusted to you.

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