The attention of many godly people has been drawn to the early years of the
Lord Jesus Christ in the days of His flesh. Fulfilment of prophetic Scripture
is clearly seen in the Virgin birth and there is much to ponder in regard to
But what of His boyhood? Too often we may mentally dismiss such a consideration, thinking that the brief glimpse given of the Passover visit to Jerusalem when He was twelve is all that there is recorded. Yet from that passage in Luke, and a brief look at part of Psalm 119, we might be led to see things in a different light.
In Luke 2:40 we are told, 'the child grew'. Here a child is described, an infant so much enjoying the care and affection of His godly mother. We remind ourselves too that as He was fully human, that care was necessary; no miraculous knowledge or ability is attributed to Him in the home of His earthly guardians. Human strength and wisdom were attributes that He gradually displayed, as any child would. Perhaps additional emphasis can be placed on the Hebrews scripture that tells us that 'He also Himself in like manner partook' of blood and flesh (2:14), for the words 'in like manner' would be largely redundant unless they emphasize to us that His entrance into this world was the same as ours. Only in the Holy Spirit's intervention at His conception do we see a difference, and the eternal Son of God dispensed with none of the limitations of a human body in His incarnation. So later it could be recorded of Him that He was 'in all points tempted like as we are', and nothing of the reality of that temptation was removed by virtue of His divine Sonship. This makes the statement 'yet without sin' meaningful, and helps us to relate to the words 'Though He was a Son, yet
He learned obedience by the things which He suffered' when such words are linked with, 'He Himself hath suffered being tempted'. Born sinless, and with the true word applying to Him as Son of God, 'God cannot be tempted with evil'. He no doubt felt revulsion at the attempts of the evil one to put things in His way, things which, because He had become partaker of flesh and blood, were real temptations nevertheless. We can be sure that even as a child He suffered, being tempted.
When we read on in Luke chapter 2, we find that the Lord Jesus Christ is described as 'the boy Jesus' in verse 43. In Acts 20:12, Eutychus is likewise described as a boy, or lad, but in verse 9 we learn that be was a young man. Clearly the Greek word for boy covers quite an age range. It would seem correct to describe Jesus as a young man in terms of His maturity at the time of the temple visit, and indeed He there reflects a characteristic that is typical of young men: growing independence. It is clear He no longer felt so much need to be in the company of Mary and Joseph. Moreover, His independence in thought is seen in the way He asked and answered questions. These things are typical of youth; what is different about this account of a young man is the object of His attention: His Father's things. (There is no corresponding word for 'things' in the Greek sentence. It implies that all that belonged to His Father received His interest, and the context suggests the major focus of that interest was His Father's house, the place where God lived with His people).
Mary protested at the heartwrenching anxiety she and Joseph had suffered: 'Thy father and I sought Thee sorrowing'. But the words, 'My Father' on His lips revealed in His reply a deeper understanding of His independence from Joseph than His 'parents' apparently acknowledged. As a young man He was beginning to make His own way. What is important for us to see is that He did not lack guidance in this, for the Scriptures were the subject of His meditation and His joy. His delight to converse with the doctors of the Law was undoubtedly based on His love for that Law. Here was the One who fitted the mould of every Old Testament prophecy concerning Himself, beginning deliberately and voluntarily to evidence that fact. We must not imagine that such an objective was easy for Him as a young man, but as He recognizably advanced in wisdom, those close to Him would see that He was reading the Scriptures with understanding.
Any teenager is well advised to read and learn Psalm 119. No doubt the boy Jesus read it for Himself and perhaps committed it to memory, using the very same faculties you and I possess to accomplish such a task. He was a teenager who read and applied the words of Isaiah: 'He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as they that are taught' (50:4). Psalm 119 would perhaps have been easier to learn than other passages, for in Hebrew it is written so that the eight verses of each section each commence with the same Hebrew letter, and the sections themselves progress through the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Not only would it have been a Psalm for the young to memorize, it was and remains a Psalm to encourage purity in the life of young ones. The section comprising verses 9 to 16 deals especially with this subject, and readers are encouraged to pause at this point and to read over those verses.
Because He was ever holy, the Lord Jesus Christ had no need of cleansing. But verse 9 of Psalm 119 may accurately be rendered: 'How shall a young man keep his way pure' (NASB). This provides an answer to what the Lord Jesus as a young man attained: keeping His way pure, and this according to the Word of God. It is interesting to note that the thought behind the word 'way' is that of a well-worn track, or rut; something that by reason of use becomes a preferred course and increasingly difficult to depart from. Sinful men think they know best and go their individual ways, all of which lead to death (Prov. 14:12). But the Lord could truly say, 'I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies'. We can picture Him carefully observing the Way of the Lord as He grew up obediently in the home of Joseph and Mary, for surely they were a godly couple. Why then were they so surprised to see the evidence of His commitment to that Way at the age of twelve? Rightly He answered Mary, 'How is it that you sought Me?' Should not His actions have been more expected, as in keeping with the way in which He had been taught and trained up (Prov. 22:6)?
The Hebrew word for 'young man' (Ps. 119:9) seems to come from a root meaning 'to shake off. It is easy to see a connection between the root and its derivative, for it is a notable tendency of young men to shake off the dependencies of their earlier life. But independence of thought and action need not mean a change in adherence to the will of God. The young man Jesus made no departure from any of the commands of God to men in Scripture. Nor was His obedience just mental assent. Rather He could say from full experience, 'With My whole heart have I sought Thee'. For Him there was no wandering away like a sheep which moves into lostness a nibble at a time, for the directing Word of God was treasured in His heart. The psalmist uses the same expression, here translated 'laid up' (v.11), as was applied to Moses' mother's action in hiding her treasured son (Ex. 2:2). How deeply did He love the Law of God! It is therefore correct to see Isaiah's words fulfilled in Him:
'I set My face like a flint' (50:7). While that expression might refer plainly to His commitment to go to Jerusalem, it surely reflected an earlier commitment obediently to follow His Father's Word.
Whatever she understood from her son's words at the temple, Mary certainly found His words worth treasuring. And so it is with every godly mother and father as they witness the growth and development of their children in spiritual things. There comes a time when young disciples must make their own tracks by obediently following the commands of the Lord, not because their parents say so, but because it is their own whole-hearted purpose. When godly young men and women do this, they become imitators of Christ. And like Him they will find they can walk in that godly way while continuing in subjection to godly parents (Luke 2:51).
Psalm 119 presents the heartfelt desires of one who is striving for continued purity in life, which is a continuing challenge for all Christians but especially so, perhaps, for younger ones. With only a very few exceptions (where personal failing is inferred) we can hear the words of this Psalm on
the lips of the Lord Jesus in His youth. If we can see from the few extracts from the Psalm considered in this article a little more of the young life of our Lord, we shall benefit greatly. This will especially be the case for those younger ones who are coming to terms with their increasing independence from those who have led them thus far. The difficulties faced at this stage of life were fully experienced by the Lord; we can be sure His trials did not start at age thirty! But His total commitment to the Scriptural pattern is our example. And for those parents who are struggling with the process of 'letting g:~~ of their children there is comfort from the glimpse of this critical stage in the life of the Lord; we need not look for miracles, but simply pray for a disciple heart in our young ones.