I remember in the early years of my teens when I used to lie in bed at night, my legs aching as the bones reached unsolicited for manhood. Yet Napoleon would argue it is not the length of one's body that makes the stature of a man. This to me begs the question: what is stature?
During what we call the “lost years of Christ” we know this: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man”. Luke 2:52
There is no doubt Christ grew physically during these years - it is unavoidable - every human does. Yet if that is all we glean from “stature”, we have missed the depth of what God is telling us here. And since what He’s told us in this verse is pretty much ALL He’s told us of Christ’s lost years, we would do well to consider it.
C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, when speaking of needing God’s help to guide our flesh journey, had this to say: “But unfortunately now we need God’s help in order to do something which God, in His own nature, never does at all - to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God’s nature corresponds to this nature at all. So that the road for which we now need God’s leadership most of all is a road God, in His own nature, has never walked. God can share only what He has: this thing, in His own nature, He has not. But supposing God became a man - suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God’s nature in one person - then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die because He was a man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God.”
So what can we be certain of as far as what Christ did during those lost years? We know, whether present or absent, He was the Lamb without blemish, which meant He was perfect. We know then that He was the perfect Son, the perfect Sibling, and the perfect Friend; the perfect Student, and the perfect Instructor; the perfect Employee, and the perfect Boss. He was humble, sincere, hard working, loyal, honest, compassionate and charitable. We know this because He was perfect, and perfect means being every single thing God’s Word tells us we should be in every moment, of every day of His life.
But perhaps most importantly what Christ was doing was learning about the one thing we most needed Him to guide us in: flesh. And as Master of all, lacking nothing, is it any wonder He grew “in favor with God and man”? Is there any question as to the indescribable magnetic nature the stature of a perfect, humble, singularly focused Messiah must have exuded? A stature that is not manifested solely by the uncontrollable forces of nature, but perhaps more chiefly by the choices we make, and the purposes that drive us.
Christ in those lost years learned the pain of flesh growth; He suffered loss, and betrayal and physical injury. He felt sweat on His brow, aches in His legs, a sunburn, a mosquito bite, as well all the other irritants and thorns that come with humanity. It is inescapable that during those years Christ discovered, from adolescence to adulthood, what it meant to be human. And yet He handled it all with divine perfection.
Through time what has made leaders of men was not that they never struggled, but how they handled the struggle. It was not whether or not they suffered, but whether or not they pushed through in spite of suffering. What makes leaders of men is an individual who not only puts the greater purpose above everything else, but perhaps most importantly, above self. And we only know who will do that - who can be that kind of leader - when the metal has been heated, and tested.
The great leaders of history, be they wicked or righteous, were followed not because of their height or weight, but because the singularity of their mission was so infectious that by its very nature, it demanded both attention and unwavering dedication. And whether the spotlight was on them or not, their own dedication to their cause was without exception.
Before Christ began His ministry, He lived a full life of experience in flesh. And when the time came - when He had merged His perfect godly wisdom with temporal human experience and prospered in doing so - He came to us in perfection, tried and true, to teach us how it must be done. And to accomplish Himself, what He knew we could in no wise overcome without Him. He came to do what no other could - perfect in action and thought - to give His life that His children might live.