How could Christ increase in wisdom and stature, Luke 2. 52?
Howard Coles, Coleford, England
This is a question that is bound up with our understanding of the person of Christ and of the truths of His humanity and deity. Speculation and guesswork concerning His incarnation and childhood years has been the subject of much controversy and even division in the history of the Christian church. In attempting to answer this question, therefore, we shall need to adhere very closely to Scripture and not to go beyond that revelation. To speculate or resort to guesswork concerning His childhood development could result in irreverence and the undermining of His person.
Firstly, in the message of the angel to Mary, Luke 1. 35, ‘therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God’, the absolute holiness and deity of Christ is confirmed before His birth.
Then of His childhood we have a glimpse in Luke 2. 46- 52, 'And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?’ Yet He went down with them and was subject unto them. And then the Scripture declares that He, 'increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man’.
Amongst other things these verses confirm that He expected them to have understood that He must be about His Father’s business. They should have deduced this from His life with them. The childhood and early adult years must have been marked all the way through by this phrase ‘the Father’s business’. This is confirmed by the Father’s commentary on those years at His baptism, Matt. 3. 17, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’.
How are we to understand, however, ‘Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man’? The word ‘increased’ can also mean ‘advanced’ in the sense of 'proceeded’. Obviously, His development into manhood was perfectly natural and in accord with His perfect and sinless humanity. But the mystery remains; how could He who is the creator and upholder of all things increase or advance in anything? To our rational thinking and finite minds there is an irreconcilable problem. Scripture here is to be accepted by faith and not to be subjected to irreverent speculation.
In the words of the Lord Himself, in Matt. 11. 27, ‘and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him’, we have our happy resting place by faith.
So it is possible to know the Father through the revelation of the Son but the only one who fully knows the incarnate person of Christ is the Father.