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Dave Brisbin

Growing Down

Ever wondered what Jesus would have been like growing up? People have been wondering that ever since the generation who grew up with him died out. One of the many gospels that didn’t make it into the bible, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, assumes Jesus had all his powers from birth, but had to grow into them.

Portrayed at age five as a child who could be hot tempered, a boy bumps into him running by…Jesus calls out angrily, and the boy falls down dead. Days later, he is playing on a roof with other children when a boy falls off and is killed. Accused of pushing him, Jesus raises the boy from the dead asking him to tell his accusers the truth. But by age eight, we see him helping his carpenter father by pulling a board cut too short to the proper length, healing his brother James who was bitten by a viper, and raising his dead cousin back to life to ease his family’s suffering. Obviously, these stories are not to be taken seriously, but their point remains: Jesus had to grow up into a devoted member of his family and an empathic healer.

Jesus grew up, yet spends his entire ministry telling us to live like children, that if we can’t be childlike, we will never enter God’s presence. In his wilderness experience, Jesus learns to be a child again, bringing his grown-up empathy with him as he grows back down into his Father’s childlike presence. In overcoming the three symbolic temptations—to be relevant, powerful, spectacular—he learns that we are not great because of our accomplishments, we are great when present to God’s presence. But we can’t be present as long as we’re seeking great accomplishment as prerequisite for meaning in life and approval by God.

Those who didn’t grow up with Jesus, imagined him powerful from birth, having to grow up into those powers. But those who did grow up with Jesus were amazed to see he had grown back down into childlikeness, into the apparent powerlessness of servanthood. They resisted the growing down, and we do too.

A child is pre-egoic; doesn’t know it’s naked. Until we grow back down into such spiritual unknowing, we’ll never trust the greatness in Presence.


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