Part 1 — Jesus returns to Judea
Jesus’ return to Judea isn’t particularly exciting for this discussion; however, the passage in Luke does display some interesting commentary in the last verse.
Matthew 2:21-23 21 So [a]Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Luke 2:39 When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. 40 The Child continued to grow and become strong (krataioō) [in Spirit], [r]increasing in wisdom (sophia); and the grace (charis) of God was upon Him.
Let’s unpack this sentence because there’s a lot going on here.
I’ve already discussed extensively the grace (charis) of God in the article Joy, grace, forgiveness, and charisma, so take a look at it if you haven’t already.
Sophia is just the Greek word for wisdom. Jesus talks about it in terms of the wisdom and Solomon and of God. It’s also used when Jesus was in his hometown and the people were doubting because he has wisdom (sophia) and power (dunamis) and from then on He could do no mighty works (dunamis). I discussed Dunamis in God gives the force to everyone.
Krataioō (strong) is used only 4 times in the New Testament, but it refers back to the Old Testament. It’s derived from two other words.
1. G2901 — κραταιόω — krataioō — krat-ah-yo’-o
From G2900; to empower, that is, (passively) increase in vigor: – be strenghtened, be (wax) strong.
2. G2900 — κραταιός — krataios — krat-ah-yos’
From G2904; powerful: – mighty.
3. G2904 — κράτος — kratos — krat’-os
Perhaps a primary word; vigor [“great”], (literally or figuratively): – dominion, might [-ily], power, strength.
The word for strong in Hebrew is similar:
H2389 — châzâq — khaw-zawk’
From H2388; strong (usually in a bad sense, hard, bold, violent): – harder, hottest, + impudent, loud, mighty, sore, stiff [-hearted], strong (-er).
The biggest implication of the word “strong” in the Scriptures is how the anointing is passed down from leader to leader or from father to son. For example,
The Lord speaks to Moses before working wonders in Egypt:
Exodus 6:Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.”
Moses to the Israelites before he was to die:
Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
Moses to Joshua directly after:
Deuteronomy 31:7 Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. 8 The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Moses commissioning Joshua later in the chapter:
Deuteronomy 31:23 Then He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you.”
The Lord speaks directly to Joshua, and reiterates what Moses said to Joshua:
Joshua 1:6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous; [b]be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may [c]have success wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may [d]be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will [e]have success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
The Israelites back to Joshua when they were about to go possess the land:
Joshua 1:16 They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you; only may the Lord your God be with you as He was with Moses. 18 Anyone who rebels against your [i]command and does not obey your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.”
David to Solomon on his death bed:
1 Kings 2:1 As David’s [a]time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, 2 “I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and [b]show yourself a man. 3 Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4 so that the Lord may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in [c]truth with all their heart and with all their soul, [d]you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’
The concept of strength in the Bible has less to do with physical strength (though it was used in reference to Samson multiple times), but strength and courage as a dual nature against doing things in fear of the world as opposed to the fear of God.
Jesus is no exception in the Scriptures as He was growing up as a child.
Part 2 — Jesus in the temple
Visit to Jerusalem
Luke 2:41 Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; 43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware of it, 44 but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and went a day’s journey; and they began looking for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him. 46 Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. 48 When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “[s]Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I [t]have been anxiously looking for You.” 49 And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s [u]house?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He [v]had made to them. 51 And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these [w]things in her heart. 52 And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and [x]stature, and in favor (charis) with God and men.
This passage is interesting for a lot of reasons.
First, Jesus goes missing and they can’t find Him for 3 days. One thing about the numbers in the Scriptures is that they’re never by mistake. 3 days is obviously the time for the resurrection, and the fact that Jesus was in the temple understanding and answering questions is a direct parallel to Him being the temple.
Second, Jewish children when they were being educated when asked a question by the Rabbi they answered it with another question. For example, if the rabbi asked “what is 4+4?”, the student may answer the question with “what is 10-2” to show his understanding. A rabbi may ask about a certain passage of Scripture, and Jesus would state the answer through another Scripture. This is the “questioning and answering” that Jesus is undergoing in this passage, and this is the Scriptural mastery to which the Jews would foster.
Third, Jesus was still not recognized as adult by Jewish law and tradition — bar mitzvah is at 13 years of age and Jesus is 12. Since He is not considered as an adult here Jesus ultimately submits himself to His parents as unto the Lord (5th commandment) in order to show His adherence unto the law. Jesus reports later that he has come to fulfill the law not abolish it (Matthew 5:17). His subjection to them (hupotasso) is the same word that is used in subjection of wives to the husbands.
Fourth, the word for wisdom (sophia) is the same one we looked at earlier. Stature has to do with maturity and growing in size (normal puberty). However, the favor with God and men refers to charis which we looked at in joy, grace, forgiveness, and charisma.
48 When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “[s]Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I [t]have been anxiously looking for You.” 49 And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s [u]house?”
Edit: Lastly, and actually most importantly look at the way Jesus interacts with Mary, His mother, as they question Him about not returning with them. Mary asks Jesus a question (“[s]Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I [t]have been anxiously looking for You.”) He actually responds back here with another question (“Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s [u]house?”).
When a woman asks you a question to a man typically a man should reframe it on his terms. In Jesus’ case, He doesn’t answer His mother directly and “qualify” himself that he was “just trying to do the right thing.” Rather, he sets the tone by requestioning His parents because He knows that He was doing the right thing by seeking to be with the Father. This is the type of strong presence that Jesus has even as a child, even though as it states in the next sentence that Jesus was subject to His parents.
Part 3 — Conclusions
To unpack this passage, the main points about Jesus’ masculinity here seem to be thus:
- Strength/being strong in terms of becoming a man who does not fear men but only fears the Lord.
- Increasing in wisdom and understanding, especially in knowledge of the Scriptures
- The grace/favor (charis) of God was prevalent in His life, and you can see how that functions in one of my previous posts linked above.
- Jesus’ subjection to the proper authorities in His life as the law requires due to His submission to the Lord.
- Parallels already to His mission on earth of the His death and resurrection even as a child.
- Lastly, and importantly, we can see the first of Jesus’ interaction of His parents where He “holds His frame” against His mother’s questioning by answering her question with another question. He doesn’t “qualify” himself to her, but rather His mission is to seek His Father and it would be wrong of His parents to think otherwise. BUT even in knowing this, He is still submissive to His parents regardless.
I find it interesting that Jesus is unafraid of doing a bold thing such as leaving His parents at such a young age (not even an “adult”) due to His zeal for the Lord. May we as Christians have such the Spirit of God rest upon us that we can do that too.