“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
— Romans 8:29 (NIV)
Paul used these words to tell the Roman church how they were to be…conformed to the image of Christ; but what is the image of Christ?
We see throughout the Gospels that Jesus is the son of God…Jesus is the incarnation of God…Jesus is God. From his birth to the last days he spent on earth…one thing is evident…Jesus was about his Father’s will. Throughout the life of Jesus we see the example that he lived for us to follow…an example that is to be lived out daily in the lives of those who call themselves Christians.
Take a look at his birth – Jesus was born just as we are…to an earthly mother. This wasn’t just any other birth, however, as Jesus was born of a virgin. God found a pure heart and a pure body to bring his son into this world. Jesus was born to Mary, a young girl who found favor with the Most High God, enough so that He entrusted her with the birth and responsibility of raising His child. Mary was to be married to a man named Joseph…who wanted to secretly slip away when he found out of her pregnancy, but proved to be the man for the job when he was approached by an angel and told to stick it out…that God was in control.
We see it in the garden – when Jesus was praying for God to let His will be done. Jesus was obedient to the call God had on his life. Jesus knew the cost he was to pay, but he also knew that God’s plan was greater than his own…enough so, that he went to a cross to die for our sins. Jesus knew what obedience to the call was all about…from his birth and the obedience of his earthly parents…to the cross where he showed the greatest obedience of all in the giving of his life. Jesus understood.
But go back with me for a minute to probably one of the most important times in the life of Christ…not his ministry, not his birth…not even the cross…lets go to the temple…
“ 41Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. 43After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
— Luke 2:41-52 (NIV)
Mary and Joseph had to go to Jerusalem each year for the Passover…it was a custom…it was tradition; and it is here that we see the keys of Jesus’ life coming to fruition. The feast was over and it was time to leave…so Mary and Joseph started their trek back to Nazareth – thinking Jesus was with the family, but then realizing he wasn’t…Jesus had stayed behind – Jesus was learning…and in some ways, Jesus was teaching the teachers.
Did Jesus need to learn? Probably not, he was there at the start, he was God; he had the inside track, he was a step ahead, he understood. Jesus was in some ways opening the minds of the teachers…for three days Mary and Joseph searched frantically for Jesus (just as many of us do for years, searching for our savior). They found him in the midst of his Father’s work, in his Father’s house (just as we do, when we are searching for the answers…think about it – Jesus knew the path to reach his Father).
Look with me if you will at the last verse of this section…
“52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
— Luke 2:52 (NIV)
There are four keys to becoming like Christ in this verse…smarter, stronger, deeper and cooler.
Smarter – First, Jesus grew in wisdom – what this means is Jesus learned and applied what he learned in his life. Think about school…we go/went to class to learn, to grow in wisdom…to become knowledgeable in the things around us. In the Jewish society it was customary for a child to learn his father’s work so that he would be able to take over the business of the family…this means that Jesus learned carpentry. Joseph was a carpenter and had taught Jesus the ways of a carpenter…look at Luke 2:40 – ”And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.” Jesus grew and became strong…and was filled with wisdom.
This wisdom was not just wisdom of being a carpenter, but also wisdom of who God was…because God’s grace had been bestowed on him…Jesus knew right from wrong. As a child grows, they learn what is right and what is wrong, they never have to be shown what is wrong; because that is something that is learned by learning what is right. A teller who is working at a bank doesn’t learn the difference between a counterfeit bill and a real bill by studying the fake…they learn by becoming familiar with the real thing. They learn by studying the truth, because knowing the truth will help them spot a fake. The same is true in the life of Christ, as in our own, we learn the truth and by knowing the truth we can spot the lies because of the composition being a little different.
Jesus grew in wisdom because Jesus asked questions…
“After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”
— Luke 2:46 (NIV)
Stronger – Second, Jesus grew in stature. Jesus lived a life that would make him stronger, both physically and mentally. Jesus believed in being clean…Jewish customs lead us to this conclusion, where we see that cleanliness was a way of life for the Jewish people, and we are told that Jesus was raised according to Jewish custom. Hygiene was key to the Jewish people…and Jesus was sinless and blameless…so we can see that Jesus was most likely clean inside and out.
Jesus was also a very well dressed man. We get this from John 19:23 where we see that Jesus wore a garment that was seamless. In the Jewish society a seamless garment was the best you could get…almost like our suit and tie are today; a seamless robe was reserved for the special occasions…it was presentable. Although he dressed well, he did warn against those who would overdress though…in his description of the Pharisees in Matthew 23…
“2“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’
8“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
— Matthew 23:2-12 (NIV)
Jesus states that the Pharisees “do not practice what they preach”…in other words, they put on a show, they’re not willing to serve in the way that they expect others to serve; and then, probably the central point of this speech Jesus gives is this…” Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” In the Jewish Tradition the phylacteries were two small leather boxes that were worn by the men containing scripture and were worn on the forehead and left arm during the morning prayers.
Jesus stated that they make their phylacteries wide, meaning that they would make them larger, making it more visible, and in their minds establish their status in the society. Jesus then explains that they loved to be the center of attention…praying on the corners and taking the place of honor at social events…they wanted to take all the glory…leaving none for God; and Jesus is warning them of this.
The third thing we see about Jesus’ stature is that he was likely in shape…meaning he took care of his body. He was a carpenter, so Jesus was likely a strong man, because the work he did would have built muscle and kept him active. Jesus didn’t let this phase him when leaving his trade either, as Jesus then continued in his exercise by walking everywhere that he went…very rarely in scripture do we see Jesus hitching a ride. He even walked across the water rather than taking the boat with the disciples (Matthew 14). Jesus was an active man, he was in shape…physically Jesus cared for his body, after all it is a temple.
Deeper – Jesus grew in favor with God. Jesus earned his Father’s respect…because he gave his Father respect. Jesus knew what it took to grow in a relationship with God…Jesus showed us how to grow as well. All through Jesus ministry we see that he was constantly in prayer about everything…we also see that his example was noticed by his followers because they came to him and said, “Teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)…he must’ve had it down for them to ask his advice. His favor with God would have come from his obedience as well…being obedient to the call God had on his life. Jesus questioned the teachers, and in return they were astonished at the understanding that a youth would have on the topics they were discussing. Jesus also adhered to the laws of God, showing the world the love that his Father showed him.
One key we can see from Luke 2:49 is this…“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” When Mary asked Jesus why he had treated his parents in this manner, causing them to search, that was Jesus response…Didn’t you know I HAD TO BE in my Father’s house? He had to be where his Father was…yes Joseph was his earthly father, but God was his true Father, and Jesus understood that. The interesting fact of it all is that though his mother didn’t fully understand what Jesus was saying, she treasured the fact that her child wanted to be in the temple…doing his Father’s work…fellowshipping with God; and we are to conform to the image of Christ.
Cooler – Jesus grew in favor with men. Three aspects of Jesus life that developed his social standing and made him “cool” were his respect for family, community, and conversation.
Jesus knew what family meant to the Jewish society, and even what it means to us today. Jesus respected and obeyed his parents…and taught others to do the same. After making the statement to his mother about doing his Father’s will, Jesus then went with his parents and obeyed them…which is another thing his mother treasured in her heart…a child who was obedient. Jesus’ respect for his mother is most evident in his last moments of life as well…looking down from the cross, a dying man made arrangements for his mother to be taken care of.
He was very involved in the community. Think about it, Jesus at the age of twelve wanted to be part of the community by sitting in the temple and talking with the teachers. Jesus also made many of his sermons a public event…he wanted to involve everyone. He gave to the poor, healed the sick, and took time to care for everyone he came in contact with…Jesus was a socialite. His first miracle was at a wedding, he healed a man who was lowered in to a house while he was speaking…Jesus fed 5,000 and 4,000…Jesus spent time with those around him…giving back to the community.
Along with Family and Community, Jesus also enjoyed a good conversation…we know that Jesus was familiar with the Old Testament scriptures, because he was constantly quoting them…which means he would have known the Proverbs showing him how to treat others and live a Godly life. Jesus was a listener, he was compassionate, and he took time for everyone…
Jesus lived his life perfectly so that he could die for the sins that each of us have committed, and even those we’ve yet to commit. Jesus understood the ways of God…and he wanted us to get it too. Jesus was showing us all how to live…he was showing us what we were to become…he was being the example. Jesus knew what Paul shared, “For those God foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” We were and are known by God, we are loved by God…and he has chosen us to be conformed to the likeness of Christ.
What does this mean for you and me? It means that we, because of the grace and mercy shown us on the cross, are seen by God as holy and just because of the blood that Christ shed on the cross…Jesus died to make us like him. Jesus died so that we could conform to his likeness…Jesus gave it all, so that we could have it all…and to think, at twelve, Jesus likely already knew the plan…and yet took the time to teach the teachers about the heart of a child…A child of God.
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
— Luke 2:52 (NIV)