Have you ever thought about why Jesus began His ministry at age 30? Why then? He was fully man, and fully God, and demonstrated at the age of 12 that He understood what His purpose was on earth (Luke 2:49), so why didn’t He begin His ministry at 12, 19, or 24 when He could have healed more, taught more, and served more?
I’m going to venture out on a limb here and it might ruffle a few feathers, so be warned: Because He wasn’t ready.
Did you scowl just now? Did your mind instantly jump to defend preteen Jesus? Isn’t it funny how a simple statement like that can feel a bit, uh, blasphemous? But is it?
I know, I know, loads of questions, but I really want to get you out of you Sunday school answer bubble for a minute as we dive into the humanity of Jesus a bit.
I love catching glimpses of Jesus’ humanity in scripture because it’s rare in comparison to His divinity, to the extent we almost forget that He was 100% human. Out of the four gospels, Luke 2 is the only chapter that gives a picture of His life outside of His birth and flight Egypt. We see infant Jesus being blessed by Simeon and Anna and then fast forward to Jesus’ first trip to Jerusalem at age 12. Talk about abrupt. The nosey side of me wants to shake Luke and tell him to quit being such a man and give me details! And while I won’t get my chance to do that (hopefully) for a long time, we are given a humbling lesson at the end of chapter 2.
After frantically searching for their lost son, Mary and Joseph find Him in the temple sitting at the feet of the teachers engaging them in theological discussion, “…listening to them, and asking them questions.” vs. 46.
In ancient Israel the Priests would set out benches in the temple and sit with the men who came to learn at their feet. There they would discuss the law and answer any questions of those who had gathered.
Notice how in verse 46 He is engaging them with questions. He is learning. To learn you are gaining information you didn’t otherwise possess, just like our children learn from asking us questions. In turn the Priests replied and asked Him questions to gauge His understanding, and He (vs. 47) surprised them with His answers and the depth of His understanding.
After Mary and Joseph collected Jesus and journeyed home we have this wonderful final verse detailing the rest of Jesus’ young adult life,
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” vs. 52.
The process of growth is an amazing thing, especially for a human. You begin as an egg and a sperm, join and develop into a baby, child, survive your teen years, and then enter adulthood. All the while you are tasting, touching, learning new things, and reasoning new ideas.
Jesus began that very same way. He was born of a virgin, and while fully God, He was fully man. He was not pondering the 2008 election while nursing at the breast of Mary, He was tugging at a lock of her hair as He drifted off to sleep in her arms full and happy. He toddled around their home bumping into stools and grasping for everything the way toddlers do. He fell down, scraped his knee, and caught a cold just like everyone else.
He had to learn. He had to be taught how to read, how to hold a chisel and a hammer, how to manage money, and learn the Torah. He made mistakes and had to repeat a task, be it carpentry or Hebrew lettering, till He got it right, because He was growing!
Now some of you might be uncomfortable at that last sentence because we correlate ‘mistake’ with ‘sin.’ Don’t do that. If your son is learning his times tables for the first time and thinks 3 x 3 = 10 would you toss his math book in his face and shout “Sinner!” Of course not, he didn’t sin, he made a mistake. We humans do that as we’re encountering a new subject and *gasp* Jesus did too.
That is why Jesus didn’t start His ministry till 30. He needed to mature and wait on God’s timing.
This has an amazing application for us as well. Do you have a call on your life? It’s one of the most exciting times in our spiritual journey when God reveals what He intends for us to do, but there’s a caveat to our calling: we have to grow.
Just because you have the call doesn’t mean you are immediately capable of carrying it out. For some that means medical school, missionary training, seminary, or music lessons. For other’s it’s on-the-job training, interning, or volunteer work.
Jesus lived His life as a model for us on how we are to live ours, so do not be discouraged at the work (and mistakes) involved to get you to the point where God says “Act!” We all have to grow before we can go 🙂