In my last letter to you last July I mentioned that we cannot imagine the boyhood of Jesus. I have been thinking about that again and have tried to learn more about it. There is a scarcity of details in the Bible of our Savior’s childhood; just a few remarks here and there throughout the Scriptures. This letter will be about that humanity of Jesus. We believe that Jesus was God-man; that is, He had two natures. God came down to this earth to take upon Himself a human nature. Human in all respects, but sinless. There is a special reason why I want you to understand that He was truly human, just like you are. In the last part of my letter I will show you what I mean.
First then, He was born of an earthly mother like each of you. The only, and big difference is that each of you have an earthly father. Jesus had a divine, heavenly Father. His Father was the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. But because of His earthly mother, from which He received His human nature, He was truly human. He was a boy just like your brothers and every other boy you know; grew up to be a young man like every other young man you know; became a grown-up man like your Dad and every other man you have ever seen.
Let’s look at some of those details found in the Bible. The day before Christmas Joseph and Mary came to Bethlehem to attend the census-taking required by the government. The city was filled with the crowds who had come for that event and all the hotels were filled up. Mary needed a quiet place to have her baby which was to be born soon. Joseph finally found such quiet retreat away from the noisy crowd. It was a cattle stall in which was a manger he could fill with hay to make a soft bed. There in that quiet place – it may have been a cave where the sacrificial animals were kept – Mary “brought forth her first-born son’’ as the Bible so simply states.
We wonder if Joseph got some help from some friendly neighbor woman. We do not know. That cattle stall had no hot and cold-water faucets, no warm water with which to bathe the newborn. The Bible states “she wrapped him in swaddling clothes”. We aren’t told, but I imagine that Mary had prepared those clothes ahead of time and had brought them with her. And, “she laid him in the manger” is all we really know about that greatest of all events in all history.
The next event is full of details: flocks, herds, and singing. All about, and above the cattle stall were gathered an un-countable number of angels! They were specially chosen angels whose privilege it was to announce and celebrate that special event. And to do it with choir music! I am sure we have never heard such beautiful singing in all our lives. Sopranos, altos, tenors and basses in perfect harmony, and in perfect pitch. Of course, we would expect angelic singing to be perfect, for all God’s work is perfect. The message of that song was unique – a once-in-a-lifetime message. You boys and girls know all about it, your Sunday School teachers taught you to join them, every Christmas when you take part in the program singing, “It came upon a midnight clear. …”
The next seven days are hidden from us. But on the eighth day another detail is revealed to us. Joseph, according to the law, had to present the baby to the priest to receive the rite of circumcision. At that time He was to be officially named. The priest asked Joseph what name He should have, and Joseph did not hesitate a moment to give his answer. He said, “call his name, Jesus.” I wonder if that priest thought that was quite a high-and- mighty name to give that ordinary baby. After all, that priest did not understand the whole thing. This baby looked like any other baby that came for the eighth day circumcision and naming. That is the point I want to notice with you, for He was like any other baby boy. Remember, He was truly human.
After that sacred rite had been performed Joseph and Mary went home. Where? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that they made their home in Nazareth. Un their slow trip to Nazareth they talked together about all the strange and wonderful things that happened back there in the town of Bethlehem. That conversation reminded them of the Prophet which had said that this little chap would have many names like Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. That was one of the most important prophesies in their scriptures. That promise had kept the true Israel expecting a Messiah. But looking at that babe in arms His parents could not see or understand it at all. But?? It was true because the angel said so!
There was still another detail from His boyhood we must not forget. That was the visit of the three wise men “from the east”. We know practically nothing about those men, but we do know that they believed the promise of the coming King better than did the Israelites. In their far away land they had seen a special star in the sky, and it was such a special star! It did not belong there with the rest of the stars with which they were familiar. The study of that star caused them to believe that the promised king had been born. So they harnessed their camels, loaded them with the provisions of the way, and with precious gifts for that king. To show their admiration for that newborn prince and to show their worship for Him they gave gifts of great worth: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Cannot you imagine the surprise and wonderment in the minds of Joseph and Mary? Surely the babe did not understand it, but neither did the parents fully grasp the truth involved. Even with the special revelation Mary had from the lips of the angel, it is said “she pondered those things in her heart.” All that mystery of their famous babe had to be learned step by step. That visit, plus those of Simeon and Anna were all necessary that Mary might know that her baby in our human nature was also divine. Remember what I am stressing in this letter? The Person of the Son of God was living on this earth in His human nature. He was truly man.
So He was raised in Nazareth. He learned to creep, to walk on hands and feet, and to walk upright, be it at first a bit wobbly, just like your little brother or sister, or the child next door. I can imagine Him creeping about on the floor of the carpenter workshop of the man He called father.
The Bible does not tell of His schooling, but we can learn from Jewish historians who have lifted the mystery of school life among the Israelites at that time. In good weather the classes were held outdoors, the teacher and children seated in a semicircle facing one another. In cold or rainy weather, it was held inside, of course, but in the same arrangement. It was compulsory to start school at age six when they would learn the alphabet. Have you ever seen the Hebrew alphabet with its horizontal and vertical lines? Whew! After learning to read they would study the Book of Leviticus with all its laws. The historian says it this way, “The teacher should impart to them the precious knowledge of the law with constant adaptations to their capacity, with unwearied patience, intense earnestness, strictness tempered with kindness, but, above all with the highest object of their training in view.” That description fits the work of your Christian school teachers to a “T”, doesn’t it?
The text book used through the 10th year of age was their Bible only. The study began with the Book of Exodus: laws, laws, laws and still more laws. The school hours were fixed with shortened sessions during the summer time. We also know that Jesus was a good student and apt pupil, for at one feast day visit to the temple we find Him, “listening and questioning” the Scribes. He was so very interested in the Scriptures which pointed to the coming Messiah. It was that time that His parents worried about His absence in the caravan and went back to find Him so engaged. They were so surprised to find Him talking to the seminary professors of that day. Can you imagine (any twelve-year-old among you) going to our Synod meeting asking questions of the ministers and elders gathered there?
We are not told about Jesus’ behavior or speech as a lad but we do know what He did not say and what He did not do. He did not talk back to His parents, He did not use bad language, He did not display anger at His playmates (unless they used vile talk). Oh, we can make a long list of things that you do or say from which you instinctively know Jesus refrained, don’t you?
Taking a deeper look into His humanness, we have but to study His ministry, He hungered, He thirsted, He became tired and needed sleep. To all appearances He looked exactly like all the men in His audience. But what a difference in personality! It was the Person of the Son of God which said, “I” whenever He corrected the Scribes and Pharisees, saying, “you say such and such, but I say this.” Many of them recognized that “he spoke with authority”. And He suffered much from His countrymen and from the other children of Joseph and Mary. They could not see His divinity in His appearance. The Bible stresses His humanity in many ways, but especially in recording His bodily suffering, especially in the last week of His life. When His disciples left Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, His being captured by hateful men who handled Him quite roughly, His mock trial, His being slapped in the face, His being whipped until His back was bleeding, His extreme tiredness so that He could not carry His cross up the hill, His pain suffered when the cruel nails were pounded through His hands and feet, His hanging on the cross, His whole weight on those fresh wounds, His extreme thirst and accompanying fever and death! After considering all those accounts of suffering, is there any more doubt that He was “truly man”?
Now I am ready to tell you the object of this letter. After you die and are buried (we all will) and rise again at the last day, your body shall rise as a glorified human body. Just like our Savior’s body, just exactly. Then our risen Lord will be our Elder Brother. Brother? Can you imagine that? Ofcourse you cannot. It is true nevertheless. In that body we cannot suffer pain. In that body we cannot get tired. In that body we shall live and reign with Christ over all things. Over the creatures which shall inhabit that new earth with us. There will be no night there for we will not need a night’s rest. In fact, we will need an eternal day in order to learn all about that New Earth – its flowers, its grass, the trees, the animals which then will not eat one another, the lion and lamb lying down together!
And most wonderful of all, we will be able to see Jesus, because we will have glorified eyes that are able to see a glorified Savior. Now I know that you boys and girls do not often think about such things, but you can be sure your grandparents, your ministers and elders do. That’s why we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.”