The primary theme of Christ the Lord is Jesus Christ’s growing self-awareness during his early youth. Through interactions with family and friends and by watching events unfold around him, Jesus becomes aware of his Jewishness. Jesus’ uncle Cleopas is a frustrated scholar, always telling stories and teaching Jesus what he can of the faith. In fact, education is a strong part of Jesus’ upbringing. He seeks out knowledge, particularly religious knowledge, wherever it is to be found. Time is marked by Jewish festivals, such as Passover. Distance and place have a Jewish theme throughout this work. Jesus’ foster father Joseph even notes that the family’s journey from Egypt to the Holy Land parallels, on a small scale, the journey made by the Jewish people centuries earlier.
Jesus’ awareness of his deity grows significantly during the year of his life this novel covers. When the narrative opens, his power over life and death has just been displayed, to the horror of neighbors. At a cousin’s prompting, he is able to right a wrong by bringing the boy he has accidentally killed back to life. Foreshadowing the nature miracles of the canonical Gospels, such as walking on water, the child Jesus at one point makes it snow. With his growing self-awareness comes self-control and a turning of his will over to God. Several times Jesus is tempted or asked to provide divine intervention, such as healing a stricken family member. Over time, he gains the wisdom and self-discipline needed to control and manage his divine gifts. Rice shows the Christ child’s humanity along with his growing sense of divinity. Some of his most traumatizing moments come when he realizes the impact, even destruction, that his entrance into the human world has caused, particularly in the Slaughter of the Innocents.