I trust that you enjoyed your Christmas as much as Wiarda and I did, as we celebrated with family the birth of our Saviour, Lord and Life. Much of our time thinking about the story of Christmas is often spent on the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. The scandal of an unmarried teenage virgin giving birth in a stable surrounded by animals and shepherds is a story that never gets old. But have you ever thought about what life was like for Jesus after that?
Outside the two year detour to Egypt and a family trip to the temple in Jerusalem where Mary and Joseph left Him behind (can you imagine the conversation when they realised what happened? "I thought you had Him!"), we don't know much about the details of what it was like for Jesus growing up. But I don't believe the Scriptures are entirely silent on the subject. In Luke 2:52 (right after the parents God chose to care for Jesus leave Him behind) we read that, "Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."
One thing that is significant about this verse is the word translated 'increasing', which is best defined by the picture of someone cutting through the jungle with a machete, chopping at the thick undergrowth as they fight for each step. Meaning that life growing up, the maturation of Jesus Christ was not an easy journey, but a difficult battle for each step.
Why did this have to be the case? Why did life have to be this way for the perfect Son of God? Because life is hard in this world. There is no escaping that reality. And although Jesus is God, He grew up as an ordinary boy, the son of a carpenter, a regular person like you and me, in this fallen world.
But if that's the end of the story then it is one without hope; for suffering without purpose leads to despair. Thankfully there is more to the story. For not only was the suffering in the life of Jesus purposeful, it was necessary. We read in Hebrews 5:8, "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered." It was because of the hardship that Jesus matured, that He grew up to be the man He was.
There is a great picture of this in the life of a butterfly. After the great metamorphosis of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly (a great picture of our death on the cross with Christ as we become a new creation) the butterfly must work very hard to escape his cocoon. It is such difficult work that when he finally accomplishes the task he is exhausted. One might argue that it would be helpful and more loving to help the butterfly by slicing open the cocoon to allow for an easy exit. But nothing could be worse. For it is in the struggle that the butterfly builds up the strength to fly. Without the struggle, the butterfly would be too weak, unable to fly and would die a quick death.
And the same is true for us. While all suffering is difficult, miserable, hard, painful, exhausting, depressing, draining, heart wrenching, (my thesaurus is running out of words) it is the necessary training we require that we might learn to trust Jesus to live in us that we might enjoy the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (see Hebrews 12:11)
This fact does not lessen the pain of the suffering, but it does give me hope that what I am currently enduring is necessary so that I might learn to fly when it is over.
In Christ who is our Life,