Another lesson that we can learn from the life of Jesus is that the quiet years from age twelve to thirty seem, according to conventional wisdom, as counter-intuitive.
We would think that God would pack as much ministry as possible into every minute of the life of Jesus on earth. We would think that during this period of time all of the people living in the town of Nazareth and its environs would be saved, delivered, and healed of all maladies. Jesus might even have prevented some destructive natural storms, or blessed the local crops and industries to miraculously prosper, or provided wise council regarding some local town issue.
We would think the legend and renown of Jesus would have spread throughout the region…long before the start of His official ministry.
The Son of God on earth, according to horizontally conventional wisdom, would be an invaluable asset to mankind that should be put into full use. Yet the will of God the Father is just the opposite. With incredible self-restraint the Son of God waits on the Father before beginning His earthly public ministry, to the point that the local populace in Nazareth is surprised and offended when He does step forward to assume His role as the Messiah.
They thought… according to conventional wisdom…that any true Messiah would have revealed Himself much earlier, by means of a grander and more spectacular entrance upon the world stage.
The silent years of the life of Jesus are an elegant display of the second half of the cross lived perfectly.
If Jesus had jumped the race starter’s gun and began His ministry a few years ahead of the appointed time according to some humanly expected timetable, Jesus would have been out in front of John the Baptist and would have ruined the prophetic sequence.
Yet all this time Jesus is holding back the ministering care that He could provide to loved ones and acquaintances in Nazareth, as the Son of God.
Jesus stayed within the parameters and boundaries of His calling, from beginning to end. His will was subordinate to the will of God His Father in heaven.
This is another reason why Jesus is the moderating and balanced way, truth, and life for impatient and impulsive humans…like me at times…inclined to operate through self-energized action.
In the first century, Jesus is restoring sight to the blind, cleansing lepers, healing cripples, casting out demons, multiplying a few fish and loaves of bread to feed thousands, and raising the dead. He is teaching like no other man has ever taught in history. Multitudes of people are coming to see and hear Him from all over Israel and Jerusalem.
Yet Jesus has the enormous breadth of character to be able to have the worldly valued “pride of life” (1 Jn 2:15-17) crucified on the cross of Calvary, unselfishly for our salvation.
Jesus is able to span the highest elevations and the lowest depths of human experience. Jesus can have thousands come to hear Him preach from a hilltop, yet the next moment humbly pick up His cross and head toward Golgotha for our sakes (Mt. 27:39-44). Jesus suffers the worst possible outcome in life in the first century through Roman crucifixion. Nothing outwardly epitomizes failure and defeat more than to end life on a cross in agony and shame.
Being a world-class heart surgeon will never exceed raising Lazarus from the dead. Being a renowned lawyer arguing important issues before the United States Supreme Court will never surpass the instantly brilliant answers that Jesus gave to His critics in their numerous verbal challenges, which have intrigued skeptics and admirers down through the centuries (Matthew 22:46). World-famous university professors and intellectuals cannot begin to reach the depth of insights in the teachings of Jesus (Mk. 1:22; Jn. 7:46).
Yet one of the most profound things about the character of God as revealed through the earthly ministry of Jesus the Son of God, is that the famous saying: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34), was put into practice and is in full operation at the beginning and throughout the ministry of Jesus.
Jesus knows the men of religious and political power who will eventually reject Him and bring about His death (Mt. 12:14-15; Jn 6:64; 7:19; 8:28). Yet Jesus accepts invitations to eat in their homes (Lk. 7:36), teaches in synagogues throughout Israel and in the temple in Jerusalem, and has Pharisees and scribes around Him most of the time He is in public (Mt. 9:11; 12:2; 12:38).
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” was not just a moment of inspiration expressed from the cross, but was a part of the consistent character of loving outreach of Jesus Christ to every person alike during His entire ministry on earth.
The point here is that no one could invent Jesus Christ. The huge character span capacity we see in Jesus is beyond the conception and creative imagination of human literary invention. Jesus in the midst of His many challenges recorded in the gospels never falters or makes a mistake. With Jesus there are no lessons learned the hard-way from past mistakes.
No one could invent such a perfect person. What frame of reference could the gospel writers draw upon for inspiration to create the perfect person of Jesus Christ? Not only could not Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John invent the person of Jesus Christ, but no one in any century in all of history could make His story up.
The life of Jesus recorded in the gospels has a unique and singular context as demonstrated only through a perfect, sinless, divine Son of God at the pinnacle of character expressed in a human body, yet with the unfathomable capacity of unselfish love to become the physical sacrifice on the cross as atonement for the righteous judgment of God for our sin.
Shakespeare, Dickens, Tolstoy, Tolkien, or Follett could not invent the person of Jesus, or the broad encompassing adventure of faith that Jesus modeled perfectly for us.
Such Knowledge is Too Wonderful (Ps. 139:6)
This breadth and depth of divine/human experience is how Jesus, and only Jesus, can craft individually tailored life-plans different for every Christian disciple.
Jesus can blend the heights of sublime achievement with the depths of divine humility through the cross, because He went before us in this regard to become the way, the truth, and the life…the author of our salvation.
Jesus Christ as Savior means both the elevated Light of the world, and the lowly sacrificial Lamb of God for our sins. This means that the breadth and the depth of the opportunities for individual callings is almost limitless in our modern world.
Instead of being incorrectly viewed through fearful unbelief as a limiting and narrowing approach to life, a biblical journey of faith following Jesus Christ is the most broadly liberating adventure in life that is possible (Jn 8:36). The part that is beneficially narrow…in going through the “narrow gate” of Matthew 7:13-14…is that our self-centered ambition and stubborn adherence to self-in-charge will not fit through the gate leading into this journey of faith.
The second half of the cross is not opposed to the fullest realization of our talents and abilities. Jesus the Son of God spanned both the heights of divine achievement and the depths of loving self-sacrifice, combined together in perfect harmony.
The Bible is the unprecedented and uniquely singular record of God taking flawed and fallible people and crafting them through a journey of faith into the fulfillment of their created potential.
This is possible because Jesus Christ our Sovereign King fills all-in-all…the height and the depth of what any of us will ever experience in our individualized callings of God. Jesus Christ fills all-in-all, from the low-point of the utter rejection of the cross (Isa. 53:3-6) to the high-point of the resurrection morning for the redemptive salvation of the world.
Amazingly almost beyond comprehension, flawed and imperfect humans even need God’s help to teach us divine humility through the experiences of the cross.
With the life of Jesus, the cross is not divided into a first and second half as has been done in this book. Jesus experienced all parts of the cross in perfect totality. The divine love of God demonstrated through Jesus Christ, is the whole of the cross in its entirety. Even though Jesus Himself was without sin, He suffered the penalty for sin for us on the cross. The second half of the cross—death to self-will, self-direction, and self-reliance in favor of God the Father’s will and plan, is integral throughout the life of Jesus from beginning to end.
Through Jesus we have an opportunity to see into the very heart and character of God. In the life of Jesus, God is telling us that in His world where love and peace rule, there is no place for stubborn self-centeredness.
In the idyllic, morally perfect reality of God, even the eternal Son of God is willing to step down off the throne of His human life in favor of God the Father, in order to fulfill His appointed role and calling as the Savior for mankind.