Most folks believe Jesus entered his ministry days around age thirty and was crucified around age 33. I (regretfully) turned 33 in September. Other than the normal depressing thoughts associated with getting older, I have been thinking lately about how young Jesus was. He was a very young man. We live in a society where someone can make an impact in their thirties but most folks don’t consider you “seasoned” until your forties. Executive level jobs are normally held for those in their forties and fifties.
Churches in particular value age as a factor in determining wisdom. Elder boards are full of people in their forties and fifties. Why do we value age in that way? Well, for one, people in their forties and above have had plenty of time to “calm down.” Their children have worn them out and they’ve stayed put in a job for at least a decade. If they have stayed married to one person, they’ve put in around twenty years. They make major decisions a little slower and are prone to weigh all the consequences of their actions. They have had time to “sift” through life and see what really matters. They’ve also had the chance to “prove” themselves to others as worthy of responsibility.
Jesus did none of that. He didn’t wait on anyone for anything. He launched into aggressive ministry without the consent of or regard for his rabbinical peers. And by today’s standards, Jesus’s ministry of healing and demonic deliverance would’ve been seen as a that of a crackpot revivalist, praying on the weak minds of the underclasses and undereducated. He would’ve been considered way too young to wield that type of spiritual authority. What’s more, Jesus’s ministry was supported by contributions, a large amount of which came from women: a gender class with its own issues of persecution and representation at that time.
Though that may be shocking to think about, what really makes me wonder most is: what was Jesus’s mindset? Not what he said, but what he thought that no one ever heard. Granted, he’s the Son of God. Sure, that’s obvious. But his thought patterns (if he was fully divine and fully human) must have at least somewhat reflected that of every 33 year old man. And though Hebrew culture at that time was very different than ours today, Jesus was still a guy.
I started thinking about this in light of my own behavior at age 33. Though I have moments of maturity…I honestly try not to have too many of those. I think there’s still a lot of “my twenties” in me at 33. I still act immature. I still have a lot of energy. I still don’t like people telling me what to do all the time. I still shout at the TV when my favorite football team scores a touchdown. In other words, I’m spunky. And I imagine Jesus was, too. I’ve calmed down a lot from previous years. I’m working on getting to a decade of marriage. That’ll calm you down. My kids wear me out – I occasionally find myself begging them to go to sleep. And what energy I have left, I have the illustrious distinction of allowing church work to take the last of it.
Jesus didn’t have a wife. Jesus didn’t have kids. He was a carpenter – and most scholars see that as more than woodworking. Jesus worked a brawny, scrappy construction job and probably walked up the road five miles to Sepphoris everyday to do it. Jesus was wiry and energetic – he’d stay up at night to pray while everyone else went to sleep. He said highly inappropriate things - stuff about eating flesh and drinking blood. He called religious people older than him rude and critical names, made fun of local lawyers, dismissed the rhetoric of the local politicians, and told incredibly outlandish stories. And then he’d pray for everyone that needed physical healing. He was young, fiery, intense, and, to some, intimidating.
But I think that’s part of the reason he could make it all the way to the cross. Beth and I were talking the other day about your twenties and early thirties. It’s like God “hardwires” you to be crazy enough at that time in life to push forward with having multiple children, finishing education, marrying someone, and working your way up the corporate ladder. And in your thirties, you still think it’d be cool to be in a rock band in your spare time! At no other time in life do you have that level of energy to simultaneously sustain that much activity at once. It’s insane. Yet, I think that’s part of the reason Jesus ministered on earth at such a young, unacceptable age. It took a certain level of youth and intensity to be the Son of God.
I guess I’m saying that I find solace in that. Older people thought Jesus was an “upstart.” If he can wrestle with his youthfulness and meet the needs of his followers, then God can use me too. In many ways, Jesus lived the life of every person in their early thirties. Hopefully, 33 will be better to me than it was to him…