How Did Jesus Get So Spiritual?

Did you ever wonder how Jesus became the spiritual man we read about in the Bible? How did this carpenter from Nazareth in the Middle East grow to become the spiritual leader who changed the whole world? Did it just happen, like Superman launching out of the phone booth dressed and ready for action? Or did it happen more gradually, like an oak tree growing slowly from an acorn?

Certainly, as the Son of God, he already had the Divine Spirit living in him; he was God in flesh (John 1:1-14). But the Bible indicates that Jesus had to grow into his destiny as the iconic spiritual man walking in the flesh of Adam – “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:52 NIV).

So, how did this growth process take place? What did Jesus himself do to grow into his full spiritual stature?

Professor Dallas Willard wrote a thought-provoking book on that idea several years ago called, “The Spirit of The Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives”. In that book, he mentioned that Jesus practiced several spiritual disciplines.

His list is too long to duplicate right now, but here are some basic disciplines that Jesus practiced to grow as a spiritual man:

1. Study. Jesus lived in a rich Jewish tradition of respect for the word. It’s clear as you read his life story in the Gospels that he knew the Bible – the Law, Prophets and Psalms – better than anyone else. He once said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17 NIV) And when tempted by Satan in the wilderness for 40 days, Jesus used the Scriptures as the “Sword of the Spirit”, demolishing all of the evil one’s arguments by saying, “it is written”. (Luke 4:1-13)

2. Service. Jesus’ example stood miles above his religious detractors because he put into practice the things he learned from Scripture. Once when his disciples entered the room to observe the Passover, Jesus noticed that no one volunteered to wash everyone’s feet (a normal, customary thing to do when entering a meal). So he “got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet..” (John 13:4-5 NIV)

This horrified Peter who, at first, refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet. How could the Messiah stoop so low as to wash the feet of his own disciples? Jesus did it to serve, to leave an example for his disciples, and to show that he was submissive to his Father’s word (See Isaiah 42:1-4 where the Messiah is predicted to be a gentle servant.)

3. Prayer. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV). This kind of commitment to prayer weaves itself in and out of the Gospel accounts. Jesus prayed often and he prayed for hours at a time, even sometimes praying all night.

In my book, Why God Waits For You To Pray, you’ll find an appendix that chronicles 17 major prayer events in Jesus’ life, and another one listing the 15 major “seminars’ Jesus taught on prayer. Jesus believed in prayer. And he practiced it with an intensity and commitment that awes us and pulls us forward to follow his example.

Can you think of any other spiritual disciplines that Jesus practiced? Share your insights with us…


  1. Keith, What a great post! When I think about how Jesus grew into a man I can’t help but think he must have also been obedient to his physical mother and his step-dad Joseph. When they found him in the temple at about age 12 teaching, Jesus told them that he thought they would know he must be about his Father’s business. But then the scripture says Jesus went home with them and obeyed them. I think a respect for his earthly parents also played a part in Jesus developement as the spiritual leader that changed our lives forever. Thanks for your insight!

  2. Thanks, Jo. Great insight. I’ve never thought of respect for parents as aiding Jesus’ spiritual life, but that idea is a cornerstone of the Law in Deuteronomy. As a spiritual Jew, Jesus would’ve respected his parents and listened to them.

  3. Thanks Keith, When you mentioned Deut. it made me think specifically of Deut. 6:6,ff that spoke to our hearts many years ago that led us to homeschool Luke and Paul and in that venture God opened doors to start Christian Schools where ever we were preaching. When we were in Huntsville AR, the public school called Hugh about a child they did not know what to do with because of his behavior. He came to school with Luke & Paul – and we had a total of 6 there in those years. But the boy sent to us by the public school is a Christian today. God works in so many ways.
    Thanks for all your insite Keith – your writing is always deep and important, keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks, JD. Your comments always encourage me. I”m happy you’ve moved to our area. You are a wonderful asset to the kingdom here.

    Also, Jo, I’m glad you shared that story with us. It’s exciting to see that this young child is now a Christian because of the teaching you did. If we can expose more at-risk kids to Christ and his teachings, we’ll have more such stories to tell.

  5. Great point, Terry. I never thought of that as a spiritual trait, but the Hebrews passage makes it clear.

    Thanks for reminding me. I needed it.

    See you at Tulsa! (Hope it doesn’t snow).

  6. there are many christinas who say jesus is God why did jesus speak so much about himself saying that he is the truth, and that without him we can do nothign as if he is God

  7. Hi, Rana.

    Jesus made those comments about himself because that was his claim – he claimed to be the Son of God. He claimed to be “God in flesh” or God in a human body.

    Here’s part of an article I once wrote to answer questions about Jesus:

    “Did Jesus Ever Claim To Be The Son Of God?”

    “Yes, several times. Once when attacked by his enemies, Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” Then he spoke of the miracles he had done, and asked “For which of these do you stone me?”
    Their answer was, “We are not stoning you for these (miracles)… but because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (John 10:33.)

    “On another occasion they tried to kill Jesus because “he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:18.)

    “Another time when his enemies tried to kill him, he had said, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” – claiming to be the “Jehovah” of Exodus 3:14. (John 8:58.)

    “He also said to his own disciples, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9.) Even at his trial, when the High Priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus answered, “I am… And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:62.)

    “Jesus definitely claimed to be God’s Son.”

    Let me know if this helps. If you’d like to read the rest of the article, go to the following link:

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