In addressing this area of growth, I will first consider what it seems to imply about the life of the incarnate Jesus and then what it implies about human beings, in general.
The doctrine of incarnation states that the Son of God, the eternal Word of God (Jn.1:1-3, 14), the second member of the Divine Trinity, at a certain point in time, entered into human existence. Paul poetically expresses that He existed in the form of God and, not regarding equality with God as something to be held onto. He emptied Himself and was made in the likeness of men. This is not traditionally considered to be a superficial manifestation. He began this journey with a miraculous conception within the womb of a female human being and was born as other humans, being raised by a human father and mother, experiencing all the phases of human growth that we, as well, undergo. Though this is outrageous in all its implications, the consideration before us is the idea that He “kept increasing…in favor with God.”
It is common for people to dismiss significant aspects of Jesus’ human experience by saying, “Well, He was God,” assuming, therefore, knowledge, victory, miraculous activities, etc. were simply automatic for Him. It seems this approach underestimates a very important aspect of His incarnate experience. Though it is true that the intrinsic reality of His divine nature is not eliminated by the incarnation, He embraced and operated in His humanity according to human nature. We have no record that, like John the Baptist, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb (Lk.1:15). It is revealed that during His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him (Mt.3:16, Mk.1:10, Lk.3:22). The text we are currently considering (Lk.2:52) speaks of the twelve-year-old Jesus, twelve years into His human experience and, approximately eighteen years before His baptism in the Jordon. It is expected that He would continue to increase in stature (grow physically), but the revelation that He increased in favor with God strikes me as more challenging and fascinating. It speaks of spiritual growth and the Father’s response to this growth. Jesus was not automatically mature, physically or spiritually; He experienced growth on all levels of human existence. He is an example to us regarding God’s design for human experience. We could write volumes on the implications of this concept. However, our present reflection on Lk.2:52 is in reference to our need for growth and increase. As we grow, a healthy life requires that we experience an increase in favor with God; this is spiritual growth.
In our next post, we will consider realtionship with God and our need for spiritual growth.