He could have come as a full-grown man, of course. He could have just burst onto the scene “out of nowhere,” beginning His ministry without having to hassle with the first 30 ordinary, mundane years.
But oh, how wonderful that He came as He did! Helpless, poor, unable to do even the simplest things for Himself. We’ll never know just how much divine knowledge he had as a baby, or as a growing child. That is a mystery of incarnation too deep for human understanding. But we do know this: Our Lord has been through every sort of trial that we’ve gone through. And among other things, that means that somehow the omniscient God of the universe had to go through a very human process called “learning.”
“So Jesus grew both in height and in wisdom, and he was loved by God and by all who knew him.” (Luke 2:52 NLT)
He had to learn. He had to learn to walk, to talk, to read…He even had to learn wisdom. I can’t comprehend that. He never sinned, so He must have learned wisdom through the process of resisting temptation, through watching others, through talks with His earthly parents, and of course through talks with His Heavenly Father.
No wonder He was so eager to welcome little children! He understood! He knew what it was like to fall down and scrape His knee. He knew what it was like to grow up with siblings and playmates who weren’t always kind. He knew how it felt to watch in longing as adults did important adult things that He wasn’t allowed to do yet. He knew what it was like to get all those nasty childhood illnesses. He knew what it was like to not understand things (just imagine that!) He knew how it felt to become gangly and awkward as His body grew in those early adolescent years.
So do we, of course. We went through all of those things, too. But we forget. Oh sure, there are some things we can remember, either the very good or the very painful. But the mundane details of our lives slip out of memory, making whole years of our lives blur in retrospect.
I don’t think Jesus ever forgot. Surely He didn’t. And so He rebuked the disciples for shooing the children away. He understood. He remembered. He loved them as their God, but He also loved them as their fellow man, better than any other man ever could.
Did they fully understand Him? Of course not. Whatever faith they had would have been very immature. But it was delightful to Him because it came running to Him without theological debate, without pretension, without pride, without demanding a sign. How different from the adults! (See Mt. 12:38,39) The adults, especially the Pharisees, were convinced that they had God figured out. Their heads were stuffed full, but their hearts were empty. Such men as these met with resistance every time they talked to Jesus. (See James 4:6b). The children came with little knowledge, but with open hearts. These He received and warmly welcomed, along with those few adults who were equally childlike in their faith.
Praise God! Because I don’t know about you, but I’m still growing. My faith is very immature, compared to what it ought to be.
Jesus understands. Somehow, even in His divinity, He grew in wisdom, and He is incredibly patient with us as we do the same. He doesn’t despise our baby steps, any more than we parents despise the baby steps of our precious children. I am so glad for that!
Once I had the privilege of attending a baptismal service in which over 60 people participated, including children. Each child gave a clear, beautifully simple testimony about his or her faith before being baptized. It seemed like a joyous occasion to me, but not everyone saw it that way. I was very saddened by a comment I overheard afterwards, a comment made by one of the more prominent young people in our church. He said, “This was an exercise in rhetoric. Those kids had no idea what they were doing. That’s why you see so many people being re-baptized when they’re older.”
Did those kids fully understand what they were doing? Maybe, maybe not. Will they choose to be re-baptized later when they understand better? Who knows? But what I saw was certainly not an exercise in rhetoric. It was an exercise in faith and obedience, little children obeying Jesus as best they knew how. And Jesus did not sneer at their immaturity. He did not despise their baby steps. And neither should we.
Because we’re taking baby steps, too.
Read more articles by Betsy Markman or search for articles on the same topic or others.
I really enjoyed this piece. I liked what you had to say and how you said it.
It's something I've thought about myself, especially at this time of year (Christmas) when we are focusing on baby Jesus.
Thank you for sharing, and I hope to see more of your writing.
Oh, one additional comment - I think I might have been more drawn to this article with a different title.
betsy, your writing is excellent. well thought out and expressed. that's an interesting perspective, too. it would certainly have been permissible for Jesus to have just "appeared" as an adult, but He didn't. He lived a complete life. best wishes for you and your writing career--keep that unique perspective!
Betsy, this was lovely. I guess I have thought about Jesus as a child before, but something about the way you wrote brought it even more to life - made it more real. The connection then with children was very good, particularly the comment about baptism. Even if the children didn't fully understand the significance, I know that God definitely honored their personal step of faith. His hand would be on them from that day on. So good work Betsy and welcome to FaithWriters. With Love, Deb
Very well said! I was baptized at ten and at the time I understood what I was doing. While in college, I grew a lot spiritually and in some ways started feeling like I hadn't been ready. I went to my preacher's house to talk to him and his wife. She said something I'll never forget, "Did you understand it then?" which I did. "Then that's all you need." We don't need to know it all when we accept Christ -we can't! We just need to know we need Him and then keep growing!