Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

July 30, 1896

Child Life of Jesus

By Mrs. E. G. White

Jesus was the Commander of heaven, one equal with God, and yet he condescended to lay aside his kingly crown, his royal robe, and clothed his divinity with humanity. The incarnation of Christ in human flesh is a mystery. He could have come to earth as one with a remarkable appearance, unlike the sons of men. His countenance could have shone with glory, and his form could have been of remarkable grace. He could have presented such an appearance as to charm the beholder; but this was not according to the plan devised in the courts of God. He was to bear the characteristics of the human family, and the Jewish race. In all respects the Son of God was to wear the same features as did other human beings. He was not to have such beauty of person as would make him singular among men. He was to manifest no wonderful charms by which to attract attention to himself. He came as a representative of the human family before heaven and earth. He was to stand as man's substitute and surety. He was to live the life of humanity in such a way as to contradict the assertion that Satan had made that humanity was his everlasting possession, and that God himself could not take man out of his adversary's hands.

Christ appeared upon the scene as a babe, as a child, having no extra advantages in the world. He came of poor parentage, he had no privileges that the poor have not known. He experienced the difficulties that the poor and lowly experience from babyhood to childhood, from youth to manhood. There is a mystery surrounding the birth of Christ that can not and need not be explained. Nearly two thousand years ago a voice strange and mysterious was heard in heaven, proceeding from the throne of God, and saying: “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me.” “Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart.” God manifest in the flesh came to our world, being justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

In contemplating the incarnation of Christ in humanity, we stand baffled before an unfathomable mystery, that the human mind can not comprehend. The more we reflect upon it, the more amazing does it appear. How wide is the contrast between the divinity of Christ and the helpless infant in Bethlehem's manger! How can we span the distance between the mighty God and a helpless child? And yet the Creator of worlds, he in whom was the fulness of the Godhead bodily, was manifest in the helpless babe in the manger. Far higher than any of the angels, equal with the Father in dignity and glory, and yet wearing the garb of humanity! Divinity and humanity were mysteriously combined, and man and God became one. It is in this union that we find the hope of our fallen race. Looking upon Christ in humanity, we look upon God, and see in him the brightness of his glory, the express image of his person.

Christ lived the life of a toiler from his earliest years. In his youth he worked with his father at the carpenter's trade, and thus honored all labor. Tho he was the King of glory, yet by his practice of following a humble employment, he rebuked idleness in every member of the human family, and dignified all labor as noble and Christlike. Those who indulge in idleness depart from the lesson that Christ has given in his example for all humanity. From childhood he was a pattern of obedience and industry. He was as a pleasant sunbeam in the home circle. Faithfully and cheerfully he acted his part in doing the humble duties that his lowly calling required. As the world's Redeemer, he had chosen a most humble position. He had clothed his divinity with humanity in order that he might be able to reach humanity. He could sympathize with the poor; for he understood the inconveniences of poverty. He himself had shared the burdens of the lowly. The world's Redeemer did not live a life of selfish ease and pleasure. He did not choose a position that would bring to him the praise and flattery of men. He knew by experience the hardships of those who toil for their living, and could comfort and encourage all humble workers. The record of the history of the humble labor of his life of burden bearing, is written for our admonition and comfort. Those who have a true conception of the life of Christ, can never feel that they must make a distinction between classes, and set up the wealthy as superior to the lowly poor. The King of glory lived a life of toil.

It is written of Jesus in childhood that “the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him.” When only twelve years of age, he made manifest the fact that his mind was developing along spiritual lines. His parents went to Jerusalem every year to the feast of the Passover, and in his twelfth year Jesus accompanied them to the city. “And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance; and when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.” For three days they sought him anxiously; for they were awakened to a sense of the responsibility of the charge that God had placed upon them. “And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.”

His parents listened in amazement as they heard his searching inquires. Jesus was taking advantage of the providential occasion that had opened to him to diffuse light. He had led the rabbis and teachers to speak of the prophecies concerning the appearing of Messiah. They had presented their view of the matter, speaking of the wonderful elevation that this blessing would bring to the Jewish nation; but Jesus presented the prophecy of Isaiah, asking them the meaning of those scriptures that brought to view the humiliation, suffering, and death of the Son of God. Tho taking the attitude of a learner, Christ imparted light in every word he uttered. He interpreted the Scripture to the darkened mind of the rabbis, and gave them clear light in regard to the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world. The sharp, clear questions of the child learner brought a flood of light to their darkened understanding. The truth shone out as the clear shining of a light in a darkened place, as he received and imparted the knowledge of the plan of salvation.

It is plainly stated that Christ grew in knowledge. What a lesson is found in this incident in the life of Christ for all youth! If they shall diligently search the word of God, and through the Holy Spirit receive divine guidance, they will be able to impart light to others. By communicating the grace given them, new grace will be imparted from Heaven. The more the human agent communicates to others the riches of the grace of Christ, the more clear and vigorous will become his understanding, and the more richly will the grace of God abide in his own heart. If the youth will remain as humble as did the child Jesus, they will become channels of light.

The doctors and the wise men were amazed at the question of the child Jesus, and, desiring to encourage such a student of the prophecies, they sought to draw out the knowledge he had obtained. Joseph and Mary were as much astonished, as they heard the wise answers of their Son, as were the learned men themselves. When there was a pause in the conversation, Mary, the mother of Jesus, approached her Son, and asked, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” Divine light shone through humanity as Jesus lifted his right hand, and asked, “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.” They did not comprehend the true meaning of his words. But, tho he was the Son of God, he went down with his parents and came unto Nazareth, and was subject unto them. And, tho his mother did not understand at that time the meaning of his words, yet “she kept all these sayings in her heart.”

At the age of twelve the Holy Spirit was abiding upon Jesus, and he felt something of the burden of the mission for which he had come to our world. His soul was stirred into action. As one who would learn, he asked questions of no ordinary character, by which he flashed light into the minds of his hearers, and brought them to an understanding of the prophecies and the true mission and work of the Messiah they were expecting. The Jewish people were cherishing erroneous ideas. They were anticipating grand and wonderful things, hoping for their own personal exaltation above the nations of the earth at the Messiah's appearing. They were looking for the glory that will attend the second coming of Christ, and overlooking the humiliation that would attend his first advent. But Jesus, in his questions about the prophecies of Isaiah that pointed to his first appearing, flashed light into the minds of those who were willing to receive the truth. He himself had given these prophecies before his incarnation in humanity, and as the Holy Spirit brought these things to his mind, and impressed him with regard to the great work that he was to accomplish, he imparted light and knowledge to those around him.

Tho he increased in knowledge, and the grace of God was upon him, yet he did not become lifted up in pride, or feel that he was above doing the most humble toil. He took his share of the burden, together with his father, mother, and brethren. He toiled to sustain the family, and shared in the work that would meet the expenses of the household. Tho his wisdom had astonished the doctors, yet he meekly subjected himself to his human guardians, bore his part in the family burdens, and worked with his own hands as any toiler would work. It is stated of Jesus that (as he advanced in years) he “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”

The knowledge he was daily obtaining of his wonderful mission did not disqualify him for performing the most humble duties. He cheerfully took up the work that devolves upon youth who dwell in humble households pressed by poverty. He understood the temptations of children; for he bore their sorrows and trials. Firm and steadfast was his purpose to do the right. Tho enticed to evil, he refused to depart in a single instance from the strictest truth and rectitude. He maintained perfect filial obedience; but his spotless life aroused the envy and jealousy of his brethren. His childhood and youth were anything but smooth and joyous. His brethren did not believe on him, and were annoyed because he did not in all things act as they did, and become one of them in the practice of evil. In his home life he was cheerful, but never boisterous. He ever maintained the attitude of a learner. He took great delight in nature, and God was his teacher.

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