By Pastor Glenn Pease
A teacher began his Sunday School class by starting a discussion. He said he was reading in the Bible about a living dog and a dead lion, and he asked the class which they would rather be? There was a pause, and then Jack spoke up and said, "I'd rather be the living dog. It's better to be alive than dead any day." Alec spoke up and said, "Oh, I don't know about that. A dead lion has been a living lion while a living dog will be a dead dog someday. I think I'd rather be the dead lion." A third child had just sat in silence, but then he responded, "Well, I'd like to be a little of both. I'd like to be a lion like the one, and alive like the other." I am sure the teacher was surprised at this clever solution. Children can often surprise us with their ability to answer questions in ways that we would not think of.
This was the case with Jesus when He was a child. One of the very first impressions we get of Jesus is that He was a brilliant boy. He had a keen mind, and Luke makes a point of this fact. In 2:40 he writes, "The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon Him." Luke goes on to show just how sharp His mental growth was by telling us of His experience in the temple with the scholars. In verses 46-47 he says that Jesus was listening and asking questions, and all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and answers. Jesus was only 12 years old, but He was already a diligent student, and was able to carry on intelligent conversations with mature theologians.
We are not to read into this that Jesus was putting the teachers of the temple to shame by His superior wisdom. The language indicates that He was a student. He was learning from them, but was a very keen student with provocative questions and perceptive answers. Luke closes the chapter with another reference to the growth of Jesus in the four basic areas of manhood: The physical, the intellectual, the spiritual, and the social. We want to focus on His intellect.
The very fact of the growth of Christ in knowledge and wisdom is a clear demonstration of the reality of His full humanity. As a child He was not only not the omniscient God that He was in pre-incarnate state, but He was not even a mature man. Jesus was a true child, and was immature and ignorant of a great deal about life. He had to learn and mature by means of study, observation, and by asking questions and listening to others. This is one obvious reason why we do not have any record of the words and acts of Jesus as a boy and a young man. In that state when He had not yet grown to full maturity of wisdom and perfection of mind, His words were not of eternal value. His wisdom at that point was not worthy of being recorded for all generations, for it would not yet be greater than the wisdom of the scholars of His day.
Jesus waited until His preparation was complete to begin His ministry of public teaching. His years of silence up to that point were years of profound preparation in thought. Jesus was not just killing time. He had a mother and family to provide for, but He was also developing His mind through the study of Scripture. Jesus only had three and a half years of ministry, but He changed the world because He developed quality of thinking. His mind was in perfect accord with the mind of God before He acted. We can never know the IQ of Jesus, but we can assume that as a strong healthy child with the pure human heritage of Mary, and the perfect divine heritage of the Holy Spirit, that He was a genius. Apocryphal stories have Him teaching astronomy and other sciences of the day, and there is no reason to doubt that Jesus could have done so. It is only doubtful that He did because this was not His ministry. He did reveal, however, that He was a well educated man, even though He did not attend any formal school of higher education.
In John 7:15 we see the response of the people to the teaching of Jesus in the temple. "The Jews marveled at it, saying, how is it that this man has learning, when He has never studied?" G. Campbell Morgan comments: "The emphasis of their question lay, not upon the spiritual teaching of Jesus, but upon the illustrations He used, and upon the evident acquaintance with what was then spoken of as learning. It was not that they were overwhelmed by a sense of His spiritual insight, for, then as now, men knew that spiritual insight often belonged to those who had no learning. They were impressed by the beauty of His expression, the wealth of His illustration, and His evident familiarity with those things, to become acquainted with which, men gave themselves up to long courses of study. The mind of Christ was refined, cultured, and beautiful..."
Jesus was self educated, and was an intellectual of His day. He knew His nations past history well through His study of the Old Testament. He used it often in His teaching, and for sake of argument He could refer back to the stories of Naaman, and the widow of Zarephath. He was alert to the contemporary events, and He used them for illustrations, as in the case of the Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices, and the 18 on whom the tower of Siloam fell. He was exceptionally perceptive in the use of nature and the common events of life for illustrating spiritual truth.
Jesus was a student of all times, and He was aware of what was, what is, and what was to be. The point we are emphasizing, however, is that He was this as a man and not as God. He emptied Himself of His omniscience when He became a man, and clearly took upon Himself the limitations of finite intelligence. When He was a child in Nazareth He, like Paul in Tarsus, spoke like a child, thought like a child, and acted like a child, but as He matured He put away childish things. Jesus had to develop His capacity just as all men do. Percy Ainsworth said, "Nazareth was silent concerning the great One who had stooped to share its lowly life, because it did not know that He was great, or that He had stooped." He was only an ordinary carpenter to them until He began to express His wisdom and power in teaching and miracles.
Jesus had wisdom superior to any man who ever lived. Solomon had this distinction before, but Jesus said a greater than Solomon is here, and He was referring to Himself. His wisdom and knowledge was supernatural in that it was often beyond what even a perfect mind could know, but it was nevertheless human knowledge in the sense that it was possible only because of His perfect relationship to God. What I am saying is one of the paradoxes of Christ's humanity. Both His growth and wisdom and His perfection of wisdom demonstrate the full reality of His humanity. His growth and limitation show Him to be like us, but His perfection shows Him to beyond us, but as an ideal to which we can strive, because He reached that point by developing to its full capacity the relationship of one's humanity to God. To put it simply, everything that Jesus did and knew which was supernatural, He did as a man, and thus revealed the possibilities of manhood in perfect relationship to God.
S. D. Gordon in Quiet Talks About Jesus states his view of this same idea. He says of Jesus, "He was as truly human as though only human....In His ability to read men's thoughts and know their lives without finding out by ordinary means, His knowledge ahead of coming events, His knowledge of and control over nature, He clearly was more than the human we know. Yet until we know more than we seem to now of the proper powers of an unfallen man matured and growing in the use and control of those powers we cannot draw here any line between human and divine. But the whole presumption is in favor of believing that in all of this Jesus was simply exercising the proper human power which with Him were not hurt by sin but ever increasing in use." This is all the more likely when we consider that men who were imperfect and sinners were endowed by God with supernatural knowledge and power.
Men before and after Jesus did miracles, and foresaw the future. Jesus said men after Him would do even greater things than He did. Jesus demonstrated the great potential of manhood in the realm of the mind if it is centered on God and His will. The secret of the wisdom and power of Jesus was in His total dependence upon God His Father. Listen to His own words in John 5:19-20. "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing, for what ever He does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all that He Himself is doing, and greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel."
The perfect submission of His manhood to God allowed His humanity to be an instrument of supernatural knowledge and power. Knowledge in a human mind becomes a force for God in the world when the mind is open to God's leading to fulfill His purpose. If intellectuals are often fools, and promoters of evil, it is not due to their being intellectuals, but due to the lack of their vision of God and yieldedness to His will.
Jesus would have us learn all we can to the glory of God. All knowledge can be so used. Jesus was a keen user of logic, and He used it constantly in His teaching to persuade, and in His arguments with His opponents. Jesus would have us develop our minds as instruments for God's purpose, even as He did. He said to His disciples that they should be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. He urged men to come to Him and learn of Him. He was the fulfillment of the ideal man of the Old Testament. He was a man of knowledge and wisdom. John says He was full of grace and truth. Paul says that in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The mind of Christ has had a great impact on this world, greater than any other mind. His church has done more to influence the intellectual development of mankind than any other institution.
Bill Harvey wrote,
He never wrote a book with pen and ink,
But with His life, He caused more men to think
Then any other man. He never played
Upon an instrument, and yet He made
More hearts to sing and made more fingers glide
Along the string and ivory and guide
More melodies of praise to Him than all
The symphonies this world could e'er recall.
Neither architect nor artist He
Was ever called in rugged Galilee,
And yet, a steeple seldom points above
But what a builder has been thinking of
The Carpenter, the Craftsman of Ages.
He built and He is building yet, and sages
Who are wise still recognized this King
And say He's Lord of all; of everything.
He is Lord of our minds, and He commands us to love God with all of our mind. Paul says that we are to let the mind of Christ be in us. To learn of and submit to the mind of the Master is to begin a journey toward the highest possible intellectual development of your humanity.