What’s the significance of Jesus’ age? What does it mean that our God’s ministry on earth took place not when he was a teen, not when he was a married parent with a job a children and not as wise old sage?
Jesus was 30(ish). That’s the current age of our American millennials, your children, my peers.
What does it mean to be a 30 yr old?
30 is right in the middle of a life stage. At that age someone is generally wrestling with different questions than say a 45 or 55 yr. old or a 15 yr old. The middle aged adult is figuring out how to do the right thing, so they see life through that lens. A 15 yr. old is figuring out who they are, which also colors their vision of everything else.
30 is between the other ages where one progressed from concerns of identity, but they’re not yet at the concern of middle age. At 30, someone is generally trying to figure out how to be who they are in the world. It’s a question of belonging. Who will they have to interact with in the world and how will they do it?
Once they figure out how to be who they are and belong, they’ll then progress into the concern of middle age, figuring out how to do the right thing according to how they belong in the world.
A large part of Jesus’ ministry deals with the issue of belonging. Who belongs in the kingdom of God and who doesn’t and how ought we to belong with one another, more specifically, how ought I belong to others, be the different or similar to myself. Jesus’ teachings From the Sermon on the Mount/Plain to his parables talk a lot about what to and not to do. However, behind them is an understand of how one is to be(long) in the world: how one is to orient themselves to God, others and their own self.
Jesus’ quarrels with the Pharisees exemplify this. His quarrel with them over what the Law in Matthew 12 does or does not allow goes deeper than what one is free to or ought to do. It’s about how one exists in the world. Jesus responds to the Pharisees’ admonishing of the disciples by telling them that they are using the Law to condemn the innocent. The Pharisees miss the point of the Law, which, as opposed to demarcating actions or people as in or out of bounds, calls people to be in the world differently, to be merciful.
This same line of thought operates the whole way through Matthew 19 as well, whether it’s a man’s relation to his wife, adults’ relationship to children or a righteous rich person’s relationship to the Law and his stuff, Jesus calls everyone to be different in their relations.
Every thing Jesus discusses in Matthew 12 or 19 (or 21, 22 & 23 or the Parable of the Good Samaritan. I could go on…) calls people to go deeper and be in the world differently by belonging to each other differently. Jesus challenges his listeners to think about how they ought to belong to others vs. thinking about how others belong to them. It’s reversing the question of unity: not how do they join with us, but how do we join with them.
And belonging differently to others is just what Jesus did. Jesus went to, lived among, served and saved the outsiders. Whether it was engaging Samaritans, adulterers, women, gentiles, lepers, tax collectors or otherwise undesirable or shunned peoples (not to mention religious leaders/elites) Jesus opened the doors of the kingdom to them. Doors that had otherwise been shut.
More than that, Jesus didn’t really do anything in his life. He didn’t create anything and even shut down people who wanted him to (looking at you Peter). Jesus could have done something and quite easily too, but he didn’t. He belonged to others and to the world differently and then died a death he didn’t have to die.
You might say that what Jesus did was love. But, he didn’t so much do love as much as he was love. Being 30, Jesus operated in the world through a lens of belonging and it shows in his teaching and his ministry, what he called people to and how he was around others.
What does that say about how we ought to follow? How we ought to be and belong in the world? How ought we belong to others?
What does it mean to follow Jesus, but be more concerned about how we belong than what we do? How would our understanding of holiness look different? There will always be church things, ministry things and doctrine/theology things to do. There will always be things to create and perpetuate, but whatever those things are, will they be founded on a right way of belonging to God and others?
I don’t have any particular idea as to how this will or should look or what should and should not be done. But I think what Jesus shows us about the Law and through his ministry and teachings (and what I think Paul & the Apostles’ grasped) was that belonging in the world in a holy way is more inclusive than exclusive, more uncomfortable than comfortable and more theologically challenging than agreeable.
What does it mean to follow in the footsteps of a 30 year old? To be more focused on how we belong to others than how they belong to us?