Christmas with Both Feet on the Ground


One of our great temptations is to project doctrinal anachronisms back into the past. When Jesus was living among us, and teaching His disciples, it is pretty easy for us to take post-resurrection realities, or post-ascension realities, or even post-Nicene realities, and project them back into the minds of the disciples. Now these were realities at these earlier times, but they were not known or confessed realities. Yet.

The disciples had a dim and hazy understanding of who Jesus was, but it did not really come into focus for them until after the resurrection. And even the understanding that Jesus grew up into, as He grew, was an understanding of His own identity and mission which increased.

The Text:

“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” (Luke 2:40).

Summary of the Text:

Speaking of the Lord Jesus as a child, Luke tells us some very interesting things. First, as a true child, He grew. His spirit grew stronger, which means that it grew stronger than it had been before. The child was filled with wisdom, and you could see that wisdom growing in Him. In all of this, it was clear that the grace of God, meaning the favor of God, was resting upon Him. There is an echo here of what was said centuries before of Samuel. “And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men” (1 Sam. 2:26).

Away in a Manger:

The sum of what I am saying here is that the baby Jesus was not lying in the manger, thinking something like “well, thirty years to go.” That conception is far too much like “God in a man suit” to be orthodox—assuming infinitude inside and finitude outside. Remember that we are confessing that Jesus is fully God and fully man, and these natures are fully united together in one person, Jesus the son of Mary.

But to say that Jesus is fully God and fully man is to say that He was fully infinite and fully finite, which means that infinitude and finitude must somehow be added together, and not finitude somehow subtracted from infinitude. Jesus was fully omniscient and truly limited in knowledge. Now what is the psychological import of all this? What was Jesus thinking and experiencing? Fortunately, the Bible tells us.

The Experience of Finitude:

In His divine nature, Jesus was fully omniscient. But in the lived experience that Jesus had, this was a knowledge that He did not “tap into.” How do we know this? There are several instances in Scripture where Jesus confesses that He does not know something. Being omniscient and experiencing omniscience are not the same thing.

“And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30).

“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32).

And Yet . . .

At the same time, we know that Jesus had to have known of His divine vocation from early on. Luke almost certainly got his knowledge of the early events of the life of Jesus from Mary—he says he got his accounts from eyewitnesses (Luke 1:2). He says pointedly that Mary treasured all these things up in her heart (Luke 2:19). And there was that back closet at their house with three chests containing gold, frankincense, and myrrh. An angel had appeared to her. Mary knew that she had conceived Jesus when she was still a virgin. I mean, something was up.

We know that He had a strong awareness of who He was by the time He was twelve. “And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). Jesus knew at this point that He had to be about His Father’s work. He did not know why Joseph and Mary were frantic with worry. And yet, it says, He was submissive to them (Luke 2:51), and this is part of what Mary treasured up in her heart. And right after this is our text, saying that Jesus flourished under the grace and favor of God.

The Confirmation:

Jesus presented Himself to John the Baptist for a reason, and that reason had to do with His understanding of the Scriptures. Jesus already knew when He came to the river. And yet, in a special and miraculous sense, what He knew was divinely communicated to Him, and confirmed in Him.

“And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).

And what was confirmed to Him at His baptism is the very point of the assault from the devil in the temptation immediately following (Luke 4:1). This was the tip of the devil’s spear. “If you are the Son of God, if you are the Son of God . . .” That was the truth that Jesus was being tempted to test. That was what He was being challenged to doubt and independently confirm.

Anointed by the Spirit:

Jesus did not do the great miracles that He did, and He did not know what He miraculously knew, because He was “God inside.” He did all that He did because the Holy Spirit empowered Him to do so. He did what He did throughout the course of His ministry as a Spirit-empowered man.

To be tempted is to be limited and finite. And Jesus knows what it is to be tempted. He has that experience, which is strong consolation for us. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15). The word rendered here as “touched” means to “suffer together with.”

Apostle and High Priest:

“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Heb. 3:1).

Jesus is fully God, and fully man. As God, He is the sent one from God, the apostle of God coming to us. As man, He is our high priest, coming to God on our behalf. He is the perfect bridge that crosses the chasm between a holy God and sinful man. And that is the entire point of Christmas.

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