Lk 2:52

My main interest in this reflection is Lk 2: 52, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.” This verse talks about the growth of Jesus. It is good to know that like all of us, Jesus too, grew in every aspect of life. How he experienced this growth will lead us to appreciate the way of life Jesus took, the way he preferred to live his life, the way he knew best to please his Heavenly Father.

In the gospel of Luke, it was mentioned twice that Jesus “grew.” The above verse is already the second instance. The first one comes at the end of what is called the infancy narratives, the stories that treat of the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus by the Holy Spirit through the consent of Mary, his mother. The narrative stretches until the presentation of the baby Jesus in the temple, where his coming was greeted with joy by Simeon and Anna, both elderly prophet and prophetess. After Joseph and Mary accomplished all the precepts of the Law regarding the presentation, Luke 2: 40 says: “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”

The Context of Lk 2: 52

Then follows a separate story, which is the context of Lk. 2: 52, our chosen verse today.  It is of a different genre than the infancy narratives which considers Jesus as a newborn child. Rather, this account belongs to the category of the “boyhood stories” which seek to somehow fill our thirst for the “hidden life” of Jesus in Nazareth with his parents.  In Luke, the gospel centers on the event that is known as the Lost and Finding of Jesus in the Temple (Lk. 2: 42-52).

The outline of the story can be seen like this:

Geographical introduction: Jesus goes with his parents to Jerusalem for the feast (41-42)

Setting: the parents discovered Jesus missing and searched for him (43-45)

Central Part: Joseph and Mary found the boy Jesus and was amazed at his action in the Temple; Jesus shows a strong predilection towards his Heavenly Father (46-50)

Geographical Conclusion: Jesus returns with his family to Nazareth (51)

Concluding Statement: declaration that Jesus progressed in wisdom, maturity and favor (52)

Features of the Lost and Finding Narrative

1. The gospel puts emphasis on the Piety of Jesus and his family. here was a family consistently obedient to the will of God. I heard a Pentecostal preacher who stated that in his study of the Christmas characters in the Bible, Mary and Joseph stand out as ideals for every Christian to emulate in the way they prepared for the Savior’s coming. Both filled their lives with “pockets of humility and obedience” to the will of the Lord.

Joseph and Mary both heeded the call of the census (Lk 2: 1, 4)

They named the child Jesus as the angel commanded them (Lk. 2: 21)

They offered the infant in the Jerusalem Temple to fulfill the Mosaic prescription on purification and presentation (Lk. 2: 22-24)

In the lost and finding story, the parents are again shown as obedienct to the Law by setting on pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover (2:41). Jesus is now alongside his parents, therefore he too, learned respect and obedience towards God.

2. Luke calls attention to the wisdom of the Child Jesus. Like in verse 40, verse 52 mentions wisdom as an area where Jesus progressed and continually matured.

The finding story relates how Jesus was seen in the company of teachers in the Temple. He was listening to them and asking them questions. He impressed the people by “his understanding and his answers” (v. 47).

This clearly tells us how in the future, the Lord Jesus will evoke similar reactions to his teaching ministry. People will be amazed; they will wonder at his teachings; his teachings will be full of authority and power.

The boy Jesus is here said to already possess the wisdom in sacred teaching which will be more pronounced in his career as a proclaimer and teacher of things divine. What reactions his temple audience show now will be the same reactions people will manifest later when he starts his public life and ministry.

3. Both Jesus’ piety and wisdom are subordinated to his obedience to his parents (51). If as a boy Jesus was already pious and devoted to his Father in his fulfillment of duties, and was already showing signs of his close attachment to his Father, a more fundamental attitude was surfacing here – obedience to his parents; in effect, obedience to the will of God.

We find in Heb 5:8 that Jesus, “although he was a Son, he learned obedience.” This last of the Christmas stories underlines that God’s Son took the role of an obedient child, the way of the servant.”

Conclusion: The way of Jesus

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”

The passage we have chosen allows us to appreciate the way of life Jesus followed, the way of life he has chosen as his response to the Father’s love.

Jesus was reared by Joseph and Mary to be respectful of God and so he embraced the piety of the Jews. Jesus was not a rebel Jew but an observant Jew, in the sense that there was no conflict between him and what was best in the religion of Israel. 

Jesus was full of wisdom, which was actually a statement of the Christian community’s faith in him as the Son of God (thus a post-resurrection insight inserted by Luke in this part of his gospel).

Above all, Jesus was obedient, not only to God, but also to the God-given instruments who will prepare him for his mission, the humble couple, Mary and Joseph.

Jesus grew, increased, as a human being. This growth however was not by way of ostentation, of showing-off, of pride or presumption. He grew in the way of “downward mobility” (Henri Nouwen). This was none other than the way of humility, simplicity, obedience and ordinariness.

With all the glory of the infancy and boyhood narratives, one would think that Jesus will conquer the world with an amazing display of glory, power, and might. But he chose to return to Nazareth as an ordinary boy, with ordinary parents, in an ordinary home, and there grow “silently” into the man the Father wished him to be one day.

Henri Nouwen writes: “The society in which we live suggests in countless ways that the way to go is up. Making it to the top, entering the limelight, breaking the record – that’s what draws attention, gets us on the front page of the newspaper, and offers us the rewards of money and fame.”

“The way of Jesus is radically different. It is the way not of upward mobility but of downward mobility. It is going to the bottom, staying behind the sets, and choosing the last place! Why is the way of Jesus worth choosing? Because it is the way to the Kingdom, the way Jesus took, and the way that brings everlasting life.”


Do I grow in the way shown by Jesus? Do I strive to live humbly, simply, obedient and ordinary? Or do I find myself chasing after attention, security, and the advantages that a comfortable life offers? Which way do my steps take me: the way of upward mobility? Or the way of downward mobility which is the way of Jesus?