Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Formation of Jesus

“When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”

~Luke 2:39-40 (NRSV)

About 30 years of the Lord’s life is summarised, for gospel brevity, into these two verses of Luke—scant coverage exists elsewhere, apart from the extended treatment of Luke 2:41-52, where 12-year-old Jesus goes with his parents, four-day’s journey, to the festival for Passover.

Yet, we can read through these few words, teasing out images within our minds, regarding what those formative years of Jesus’ might have been like.

Significant Footprints in the Formation of the Saviour

What is significant about the story of Jesus’ formation as a man, who would become the Saviour of the world, is stated in verses 40 and 52 of Luke chapter 2. He was “filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” and he “increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.”

Wisdom, Favour and Humility

If we take those two verses at face value there are two features that characterise the person: he was respected with favour and, therefore, humility must have been his natural way, and he increased in wisdom and was, ultimately, filled with wisdom. We can assume a natural preponderance for humility as a critical precursor to wisdom.

A Normal Upbringing

It is clear that Jesus had a very normal upbringing in comparison with children of his time. What might also be clear, from the absence of formative-Jesus stories, even from the historian Luke, is that Joseph and Mary kept a circumspect lifestyle and spoke little from the mood of exaltation. They may have even exemplified the qualities of the Beatitudes. Such an environment must have been perfect to drive humility deep into the Lord’s heart.


The age of the rites-of-passage for Jewish boys and girls of the time was 12 or 13 years of age—about the time chronicled in Luke 2:41-51. This would have been about the time that he would have commenced his indenture as a carpenter—a trade to be learned for his own support.

We know by the Temple experience (Luke 2:47) that his knowledge of the Old Testament and The Torah was outstanding, principally for someone so young. We can well imagine that he had few resources so far as written materials were concerned, but he made the most of them. He was more than ready for the transition into adulthood.


The story of the formation of the historical Jesus is amazingly unremarkable. Jesus grew to wisdom through familial diligence and prudence.

From a humble birth, he grew in humility, in humble surroundings, within a humble family. That humility propounded all the more the wisdom of God shown even at the tender age of 12.

Three words remain when summarising the formation of Jesus: humility, favour, and wisdom. Predating his ministry, Jesus had earned the respect of humanity and the favour of God.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

No comments: