Author: Ron Graham
This lesson was prepared for New Year’s Day 2017. Looking back 2000 years to AD17, what do we find Jesus doing, that we could imitate in this new year?
Jesus would have been a young man in his early twenties. What do the scriptures tell us about his life at that time? Actually very little.
He was called "the carpenter" and "the carpenter’s son" (Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55). So we might fairly assume that he was working with his father in that trade.
Perhaps a few other such intelligent guesses could be made. However nothing is recorded directly about what Jesus was doing in AD17, except for the following statement:
in wisdom and stature,
and in favour
with God and man”
Yes, that's it! Neither Matthew, Mark, nor John, have any narrative of Jesus’s life for a period of around 16 years from about AD9 to AD25. And Luke covers that period, spanning half of Jesus’s lifetime, with the one short sentence above.
But this one sentence tells us that, whatever Jesus was doing with his life in AD17, 2000 years ago, he was not just killing time. He was increasing in wisdom, stature, and favour.
Could we be better challenged, in this year 2017, than to imitate Christ by growing in wisdom, stature, and favour? Let's think about how we can meet this challenge and succeed.
Becoming wise doesn't happen by chance, nor does it happen automatically as we grow up. We may get a little wisdom in those ways, but most wisdom comes from seeking it. “Seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures” (Proverbs chapter 2).
Luke makes a similar statement about Jesus as a child: “The child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). If we, like Jesus, walk in the grace of God, wisdom will accompany us.
Jesus, in his early twenties, would no doubt read from the Bible when he had opportunity. He could find plenty there to make him wise. In particular, he would find "wisdom about wisdom" in the beginning of the book of proverbs, followed by many wise sayings of Solomon and others. If we seek wisdom in all the scriptures, we will certainly find it.
Jesus would also be a man of prayer. In this activity he would also gain wisdom. God says, ¶“If any of you lacks wisdom, it will be given to you —if you ask of God who gives to all generously and without reproach” (James 1:5). God’s providence is able answer with many opportunities to gain wisdom.
As we have said, we can only guess at the sort of life Jesus lived in the years around AD17. But he certainly would have had many experiences that contributed to his wisdom and understanding.
Experience doesn't mean doing sex, drugs, and dangerous driving. It means doing things like study; work; discussion; helping people in need; coping with one’s own troubles; travel; sport; friendship; and so forth.
From the things Jesus said after he began preaching, it seems certain that in those years beforehand he spent a lot of time thinking. No doubt he thought on what he found in the scriptures, on how God had answered his prayers for understanding, and how his experiences were influencing his life.
¶“8Finally, brethren: whatever is true; whatever is noble; whatever is just; whatever is pure; whatever is lovely; whatever is spoken of highly; if anything has virtue; if anything is praiseworthy —think on such things as these” (Philippians 4:8).
Many people in 2017 will not read the scriptures; pray to God; choose edifying experiences; or think about God and their lives. So, as the Bible says, “professing to be wise they became fools” (Romans 1:22). Why don't you be different?
Luke does not speak of "stature" in the sense of physical height. Rather, the sense is of aquiring maturity and being a strong "grown up" in all aspects. Stature means respectable bearing and conduct; leadership qualities; worthy accomplishments; protecting the vulnerable; and so forth.
Paul spoke of the "stature" of Christ as a model for us. Instead of being weak children, we need to grow up into Christ and gain maturity. Our aim, with God’s grace to help, is nothing short of Christ’s full stature. We need this to fight the good fight!
¶“13Till we all come to the unity of the faith and knowledge of God’s Son, to the measure of Christ’s full stature. 14Then we won't be children anymore. We won't be tossed around and carried along with every wind of doctrine. We won't be misled by the trickery of men who cunningly and craftily plot to deceive us” (Ephesians 4:13-14).
¶“10Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on all the armour of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the strategies of the devil. 12We don't struggle against flesh and blood. We struggle against the foremost heavyweights among cosmic powers of darkness. We struggle against spiritual forces of evil in the celestial realms” (Ephesians 6:10-12).
Because of his stature, Jesus gained favour with God and with good people. However, stature is a quality developed in one’s own self, whereas favour occurs in the hearts and opinions of others. Not everybody viewed Jesus with favour, in spite of his stature.
Jesus was being watched —watched by God and watched by his fellow man. No doubt in AD 17 he was doing his best, as always, to set a good example and be a true light in the world, in the hope that he would find favour with the watchers.
Around 17 years later, after Jesus had made his sacrifice on the cross and risen to glory, many were converted to his Way. Like Jesus, “they had favour with all the people” (Acts 2:47).
The favour that Jesus gained was not popularity. It was never Christ’s goal to be popular, or even to be in other’s good graces for its own sake. Rather, he wanted people to think well of his conduct so as to be influenced strongly by his teaching. He wanted people to believe in him unto eternal life.
In conclusion, I put the question to you that I asked at the outset of this lesson: could we be better challenged, in this year 2017, than to imitate Christ by growing in wisdom, stature, and favour with God and man?
May the grace of God be upon you throughout this new year.