The 30 silent years of Jesus - what it means for us

April 27, 2011

Scripture’s hush regarding the first 30 years of Jesus’ life can speak volumes to us if we have ears to listen (see my earlier article here). There is a great feast of the knowledge of God at the table of Christ’s early years as a growing man. Various facets of His family life, the customs of Galilee, the geography of Nazareth, and the religious culture of the Jewish people collectively paint for us an informative picture of what Jesus’ days might have been like. The loud silence heard in these years serves as a unique doorway of fellowship with Him that is foundational to seeing Him rightly in the rest of the gospels.

These “silent 30” were completely sinless years of childhood, boyhood, youth, and manhood that Jesus spent in humility, toil, obscurity, submission, contentment, and prayer. The preoccupation of Jesus during those years was most likely loving His family, serving His father’s trade, and learning the Law and the Prophets as He grew and became strong in spirit before God. Jesus embraced the common experience of humanity in everyday toil and monotony. In everything He was made like His brethren (Hebrews 2:17). Oh that we might find fellowship with Him there!

Jesus was indeed a sinless man, yet what makes these silent years most significant is that the One we see preoccupied with His family and learning the Law is the glorious LORD from everlasting, the Genesis 1 God. As we see Him humbly picking up wood chips from Joseph’s work in the shop, carrying the container of water back from the well for His family, or sleeping on top of the roof in a hot summer night in Nazareth, we are beholding the Maker and Sustainer of all things. When we feel the weight of His choice to leave the perpetual adoration of Heaven and live completely unrecognized, unappreciated, and unknown for 30 years, our hearts are tenderized with love. God’s humility moves to center stage, and from that position we are beckoned to ask what His early years teach us about our own lives.

These years, far beyond His ministry years, are an eternal example to all of mankind on how we ought to live as we await the promise of the resurrection and restoration of all things. We can never expect to imitate Jesus in the occupations of His ministry, nor can we even remotely reproduce in our own experience the external circumstances of His life during those few crowning years. But we can (and in fact we’re called to over and over by scripture) imitate His life in the silent years. Consider these passages from Paul, a man completely obsessed with making his life like Christ’s:

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself...”
(Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV)

“But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 NKJV)

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”
(1 Timothy 2:1-2 NKJV)

When we see that the vast majority of us are placed by God’s hand amidst the quietness and commonness of a mundane, uneventful, routine life, the silent years of Jesus speak to us as the main example of how we ought to live. In our western Christian culture where ministry impact and platform anointing are equated with success in God’s eyes, we must let Jesus’ silent years redefine what success is. After 30 years of silence and before any of His miracles, His Father thundered from the heavens saying:

“And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”” (Matthew 3:17 NKJV)

The life Jesus lived and that His Father endorsed – that of hiddenness, humility, and servanthood – runs completely opposite of our modern Christian ideas of success. Jesus had not yet performed a single sign and was regarded as “just one of the boys” for His entire life (Luke 4:22). He sought fellowship with His Father as His utmost priority. More than impact on people, the one thing needed is to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His words so that we may make an impact on His heart. Do we continually strive to make ourselves of no reputation like Jesus did? And when we are highly esteemed before men, do we regard it as a fiery trial from the Lord to test our hearts and draw us deeper into the first commandment? (Matthew 6:1, Mark 12:30)

Our dreams of impact are often driven by self-assertion, pride, and false humility. It is presumption to assume that we can ever produce a ministry with impact even close to that of Jesus. Though the Lord has called some to the crucible of platform ministry in this present evil age, the overwhelming majority of humanity has a God-given task to live and love in the mundane and commonness of everyday existence. I’m thoroughly convinced that the ones whom Jesus most deeply cherishes are not well known or esteemed among many men. Who are we seeking to impact the most anyways? If we truly knew the worth of Christ and really believed the first commandment was also an invitation into deep fellowship with Him, our perspective would change radically. Lord, open my eyes!

For over 90% of Jesus' earthly life, the One who deserved the most recognition labored, served, and slept in complete obscurity in a despised town in the Middle East. When He did make Himself known, His only mission was to march to His cross and bring glory to His Father. Self promotion was simply not part of His ministry agenda because He had lived before His Father's eyes for His entire life.

Why do we so quickly turn from His example of faithfulness and humility in smallness, so earnestly desiring to leave a legacy and impact the masses? If we are placed by the Lord in a position of influence for a season, do we seek to emulate Christ and Him crucified through it? We need a higher vision than platform ministry or massive impact for the glory of His name. May the Lord enlarge our vision to behold Christ in His silent years, and may He give us revelation and grace for living our lives in such a way that puts Him and His cross on display, whether before our immediate family of three or four or before the eyes of three or four million.

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About the author

Joshua Hawkins is a pastor, Bible teacher, and content creator for disciples of Jesus from College Station, Texas. He co-hosts The Apocalyptic Gospel Podcast, a weekly audio show exploring how a first century Jew would have understood the Gospel. He's also an all-around tech nerd and enjoys road cycling.

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