February 12, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Luke 2:51-52
Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.
From the very beginning of his existence on earth, Jesus was not alone. He began human life in the womb of his mother. He grew up in a faithful and loving family. He had plenty of friends and relatives in the community in where he lived, people with whom he shared the good and the hard things of life. When God came to be among us as a human being, God in human flesh was not alone, right from the start. So it should be with us. If we’re to live as Jesus lived, we can’t do it alone.
Today’s devotion is part of the Life for Leaders series: Can’t Do It Alone.
Sixty years ago this coming September I went forward at a Billy Graham Crusade meeting in the Los Angeles Coliseum. On the grassy field, I “asked Jesus to come into my heart.” From that moment onward I have known Jesus and sought to walk with him, albeit with many slips and falls along the way.
Because I’ve been a Christ-follower for so long, I easily take for granted things that might otherwise amaze me. For example, I am not surprised when, as I recite the Apostles’ Creed, I confess that Jesus was “born of the virgin Mary.” Of course he was! I’ve known this all of my life. But if I take time to reflect, if I think about the way the divine Son of God came into this world, I can once again be filled with wonder. And I can once again be reminded of things about Jesus that are essential for his life and ministry.
For example, from the very beginning of his being on earth, Jesus was not alone. He was not some god who appeared fully grown in glory. Rather, he came among us in a very human way . . . with one significant exception, of course. Jesus’s conception was a miracle of the Spirit. But, once conceived, Jesus remained in the womb of his mother until it was time for him to be born. Right from the start, Jesus was not alone. He was profoundly connected to his mother, sharing her body and ever her blood. Now that’s quite something when you stop to think about it.
As Jesus grew up, he didn’t do it alone. Unfortunately, we know very little about Jesus’s life before he launched his messianic ministry. The Gospel of Luke gives us a small peek at Jesus’s early life in the story of Jesus in the temple. As you may recall, Jesus went with his parents to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. But when his parents and their associates headed for home, Jesus remained in Jerusalem. There he amazed the Jewish teachers with his wisdom. When his parents realized he was not with them, they were worried. They returned to Jerusalem, finding Jesus in the temple where he impressed the Jewish teachers with his wisdom.
Now, I have sometimes wondered how it could have been possible for Mary and Joseph to leave Jesus behind in Jerusalem. Was this some kind of Bible-times Home Alone experience, a big mistake on the part of Jesus’s parents? It might seem that way to us, but we must pay close attention to how Luke describes what happened: “Assuming that [Jesus] was in the group of travelers, [Jesus’s parents] went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends” (Luke 2:44).
Isn’t that something? Mary and Joseph were so confident about Jesus’s relationships with their “family and friends” from Nazareth that they assumed he would be with them and well cared for. This glimpse of Jesus’s early life shows us that he did not grow up alone. Besides his immediate family, he was part of a committed community in Nazareth. Jesus did not grow up alone. He was not sequestered within his immediate family. Rather, he had lots of people with whom he shared life, people who looked after him, played games with him, went to synagogue with him, and shared life with him.
In saying this, I’m in no way downplaying the absolutely essential role that Mary and Joseph played in the life of their son. Notice how Luke describes what happened after Jesus’s parents found him back in Jerusalem: “Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor” (Luke 2:51-52). Jesus, though the Word and Wisdom of God Incarnate, nevertheless obeyed his parents. He learned from them how to live, how to pray, how to love, how to play, and how to work. Because of the influence of his parents, family, and friends, Jesus “increased in wisdom” (2:52) as well as favor.
God could surely have chosen to fill the head of Jesus with wisdom by supernatural means. The Gospels portray Jesus as frequently knowing things by miraculous means. But God chose another way for Jesus to grow up, to learn, and to become wise. This happened through the love and influence of other people.
Thus, from the very beginning of his existence on earth, Jesus was not alone. He began human life in the womb of his mother. He grew up in a faithful and loving family. He had plenty of friends and relatives in the community where he lived, people with whom he shared the good and the hard things of life. When God came to be among us as a human being, God in human flesh was not alone, right from the start.
As you reflect on your life, when have you been in a family situation or a community in which you felt as if you truly and deeply belonged?
Who are the people in your past who had the greatest influence on your moral and spiritual development?
How might your current experience of community be deepened and enriched?
Get in touch with someone important in your life, but someone you haven’t communicated with for a while. Find a time to catch up with that person.
Gracious God, thank you for entering this world in such a world-affirming, human-life-affirming way. Thank you for Mary, who offered her own body to you as a temporary home. Thank you for how Mary and Joseph helped their son grow in wisdom. Thank you for the community of people in Jesus’s life who were so essential to his flourishing.
Thank you, Lord, for those who have been with me from the beginning, for my mother and father, sisters and brother, grandparents, friends, neighbors, Sunday school teachers, public school teachers, and so many more.
Help me, I pray, to nurture and strengthen the core relationships of my life. Help me to live all of life, not alone, but in a community of mutual love and care. May I also be available to others, to offer my support, help, and love. Amen.
Banner image by Buno Nascimento on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: What We Want for Children.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.