Did Jesus Learn?

I wonder, do think Jesus ever had to “learn” anything? We’re not told in the Gospels that he ever went to school (although he may well have). There is that instance in Luke’s Gospel when he is 12 years old in the Temple, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:46-47). One reference in Mark when some people said: “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him…is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary…?” (Mark 6:2f) The implication being that Jesus was not known to be a theologically trained scholar or rabbi, but a relatively unlettered man who nonetheless demonstrated great wisdom. Ever known anyone like that? I certainly have. But I don’t think any of these instances require us to believe that Jesus was born with all the wisdom and knowledge he would ever need from the moment of his birth! A bright, interested, precocious young boy in the Temple does not require us to believe that he was teaching the scribes anything they didn’t already know, but simply that he was smart and attentive and articulate. The wonder that some felt that an “ordinary” person could impart words of wisdom does not mean that Jesus acquired all that wisdom without the need to learn just as we do. The Church’s teaching is not only that Jesus was the Son of God, but that he was God Incarnate – God in the flesh – and as such even he suffered some of the limitations of the flesh. I think today’s Gospel reading from Mark may well be an account of such a “teachable moment” in Jesus’ life. He’s confronted by a Gentile woman who asks healing for her daughter. All Jesus’ life he had been instructed to be wary of, and perhaps even to loathe, Gentiles. He’d heard that they were unclean, and that even touching them in certain circumstances would have made him ritually unclean. He had wrestled with his own calling and, at least initially, had come to believe that he was primarily sent to renew the house of Israel. If there were implications for the Gentiles, and for the rest of the world, so be it; but first he had to minister to his fellow Jews. Small wonder then that his initial response to this woman (as harsh as it may sound to us in our day) was “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” (Mark 7) But the woman “answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs!” And, apparently impressed with her combination of humility and courage, Jesus replied, ‘For saying that, you may go – the demon has left your daughter!’” (Pause) Well, I supposed you can read this whole story as a kind of set-up, something scripted by Jesus, or even Mark the Evangelist to make a point. But I think it has the ring of history about it, and that Jesus really did learn something – in his humanity – about the faithfulness and worthiness even of Gentiles! (Pause) There’s another factor that makes it appealing to me to assume that even Jesus had to learn. And that is, that the very the process of education and growth is somehow divine! One of our Collects several weeks ago read, “Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life…” Among many other things, Jesus was intended to be a moral example for us who are his followers. He prayed, so we should pray. He forgave, so we should forgive. He loved, so we should love. Why not, “he learned, so we should learn?” God knows, we have a lot to learn! And the Bible has been trying to teach us for thousands of years now! The Book of Proverbs is full of homespun wisdom. Today, we’re told that “The rich and poor have this in common: the Lord is the maker of them all…those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor. Do not rob the poor because they are poor…for the Lord pleads their cause…” (Proverbs 22) And the Apostle James brings it home to how we treat one another right here in this congregation, “My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say “Have a seat here, please.” “While to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there’ or ‘Sit at my feet’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves…Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters…you do well if your really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.” (James 2) The “royal law!” I’m not sure we’ve heard it referred to that way in Scripture before, but we certainly know this commandment et as “the second (after loving God) which is like unto it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Perhaps Jesus learned that lesson anew in a little town north of Galilee in Syria and he went on from there to bring hearing to the deaf and speech to the mute. May we learn that lesson right here at Trinity Cathedral in Davenport. And may our ears too always be open to the cries of the poor and the voices of the voiceless!

2 Responses to “Did Jesus Learn?”

  1. rwk Says:

    I’m not a theologian and I certainly don’t play one on tv (is there a theologian on tv?), but I’m not sure I concur with you on this one. The Old Testament speaks regularly of the redemption of all peoples – which of course includes the Gentiles – so the concept was not unknown to the Jews. A good teacher will often set up a situation to be a “teachable moment”. According to Scripture Jesus Christ knows our hearts – the hearts of the Pharisees and the centurion to name a few – so it would strike me as not unusual for Him to have known the hearts of his hearers and future readers as well as the heart of this woman. His mission was to draw out what was true from behind the vale.

  2. AZ Says:

    Learn more about Prophet Jesus (PBUH) my website http://islamicsocialsystems.blogspot.com/

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