Back in 2008, a visiting pastor threw out the following rhetorical question as an aside: “Did Jesus know who he was (since birth)?” I was stunned. 40 years of church and I never heard anyone say that before. I thought of little else that night.
This was so juicy that I chewed on it the next four years until I came to a (personal) conclusion. Jesus wasn’t born knowing who he was. He chose to believe. Just like I can.
Here is some of my thinking (just in time for Christmas ;)).
If Jesus knew who he was, the desert temptations (Matt 4:1-11) were a fraud. Two of the three temptations started with “If you are the Son of God, …”. If he was born knowing, that’s no temptation. That’s playacting.
If he knew who he was, he would not have grown in wisdom (Luke 2:52). He would have been born with it in fullness.
He chose to believe that despite being born in a dusty pittance of a town (that Fr. Richard described as caves with lean-to’s), he was special. That despite growing up in the “back forty” known as Nazareth (John 1:46), he was special. That despite looking every bit ordinary (Isaiah 53:2), he was special. He chose to believe.
His Mom undoubtedly talked about angels and shepherds and wise men following a star and Zachariah and John the Baptist jumping in Elizabeth’s womb. Yet she also mentioned her “unprecedented” unwed pregnancy, his birth in a skanky manger, and fleeing to Egypt for their lives. He chose to believe.
His neighbors suggested coyly that he was a bastard (Matt 13:55), the ‘carpenter’s son’ <wink wink, nod nod>. He chose to believe.
Bottom line: He chose to believe that he was more than he appeared despite all the contrary evidence. Just…like…I…can.
I can identify with this! I can follow this! I am empowered by this! Anything else isn’t something I relate to.