I was raised to believe that Jesus had a perfect memory of heaven while he was on earth, that his faith was not faith, but knowledge, and that he didn’t have to figure anything out. In other words: he didn’t have to struggle with any doubts or ignorance we struggle with, he cheated.
But that’s not the story we are given in the gospels. In the gospels Jesus “grows in wisdom and stature“, after studying with the elders in the temple at age 12. A person cannot grow in wisdom unless they have less wisdom than they end up with.
If Jesus had to grow in wisdom, then what did he start with? The apostle Paul says “he emptied himself” to become a man, and another writer says that he “was tempted in all points as we are“, meaning there had to be doubt. In fact one of the first stories we have about Jesus is that he was tempted to doubt who he was in relationship to God, the father, just after he was baptized by John, and then went out in the wilderness, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, to be tempted by the devil. All three of his temptations had to do with doubting his relationship with the father, and doubting the story his mother had taught him: that he was born to be the Messiah.
That’s the starting point for Jesus: his mother told him that he was born to be the Messiah. From that catalyst he had to figure out what that meant, and what to do about it.
Until one day he goes to find his cousin, John, preaching repentance because “the kingdom” is coming soon. Jesus is baptized and a voice from the sky says, “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” The Spirit in the form of a dove descends upon him. What if that was the first time the father spoke to Jesus? If it was, then that was the power Jesus operated on for the rest of his life. It puts the temptations he went through in the wilderness into context: “If you think you heard God, the father, speaking to you, then who are you? You need to test it, figure it out, make sure.”
Most of the things Jesus taught were big picture lessons from the Law of Moses. Jesus started, not with the Law, but with the creation story, and from that overview pointed out inconsistencies he saw in the interpretations of the Law of Moses by the teachers of his day. Perhaps one of the bravest of those times is when he said, “It is not what goes into a person’s mouth that defiles him, it is what comes out of his mouth.” Jesus had never eaten pork, always eaten kosher, but he had observed in his daily life that some of the Gentiles were less defiled in their hearts than his Jewish brethren that never defiled themselves with unclean food. Yet Jesus wipes that all away with one sweep, contradicting the Law of Moses itself, not just the traditions and interpretations of the teachers of his day. If Jesus was relying on his growth in wisdom, then this was a very brave thing for him to say.
Another brave time is when he cleansed the temple of the “den of thieves” that had taken over and was extorting money from the people who wanted to worship God.
There are very few times he went beyond just interpreting Moses. When he talked about himself as the Messiah and the kingdom coming soon he went farther than just pointing out inconsistencies, and relied upon his mother’s story of his birth.
So what is inspiration by the Holy Spirit? My tradition would have us believe that it is the unmistakable urge of the Holy Spirit to give one of the early church prophets infallible knowledge of God’s will on a particular subject. This is not the record we have in the New Testament writings, where Paul insisted that prophets had to be in submission to other prophets who would pass judgment on their prophecies as to whether they were accurate renditions of God’s will or not. Inspiration of the Holy Spirit was a communal work, the group discussing and figuring out who was telling them the truth and who was not. This communal work extended to the canon of the Bible, both the Hebrew Bible and the Greek Bible. The community kept on discussing which writings were inspired by God, and which writings were not, even discussing which books were more inspired than others.
Have you ever thought that you had a moment of inspiration from the Holy Spirit? A moment when you clearly saw that you needed to say to a friend that God wanted him to stay alive, or a moment when God wanted you to look in the eyes of someone and tell them you saw a clear gift from God in their abilities? Was this moment an educated moment, something you had grown in wisdom about, and your life experience had built toward?