Episode 32 - Eighteen Years of Silence

March 11, 2014

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The Gospels offer no record of Jesus' life and words between His visit to the Temple at 12 and the start of His ministry at 30. What did the living God do during these years of silence? For those with ears to hear, the silence is deafening - for it is in these years that we find the premiere example on how we ought to live as we patiently wait for Jesus' return.

This video is part of the Opening Up the Gospels series.

Hey everyone, Josh Hawkins here, this is episode 32 of Opening Up the Gospels. In the last few episodes we've been looking at the childhood of Jesus. In Episode 31 we looked through the only window the Gospels give us of Jesus' life before we see Him beginning His ministry around 30 years old. The only thing the Gospels tell us about was His visit to Jerusalem for the Passover feast when He was twelve years old. And even there, Luke only gives us a few sparse details about what transpired. He leaves us hanging with one verse in Luke 2: “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.” (Luke 2:51 ESV) From this verse onward, we have 18 years of silence. We see Him in the Temple at 12 and then Him returning to Nazareth with His parents. And the very next time we hear about Him from the Gospels is when He's on the banks of the Jordan River at 30 years old where John the Baptist baptizes Him. This is only a few verses later in Luke 3. Think about this. This is God in the flesh, the creator and ruler of everything, and we have absolutely nothing that we know about Him from Scripture for over 18 years. My gosh! These years are what some have called the "silent years" of Jesus, where He was simply living in Nazareth, working with His hands, and loving His family. There's almost like a magnet in my heart that seeks to know Jesus during these years. Simply because He's not just an ordinary man, and not just because He's a sinless man, but He is the one true living God, the one I worship and the one who sustains me moment by moment. And He's just walking around Nazareth living live like any other townsperson. The author Romano Guardini puts this well: “The public life of the Lord lasted at the utmost a brief three years; some say scarcely two. But precisely for this reason how significant the preceding thirty years in which he did not teach, did not struggle, did not work miracles. There is almost nothing in Jesus’ life which attracts the reverent imagination more than the prodigious silence of these thirty years.” (Romano Guardini, The Lord, p. 20) There is so much to imagine about these 18 silent years, and only one verse in the Gospels gives us a small hint of what Jesus did during that time, and that verse is Mark 6:3. There Mark is talking about Jesus' visit to Nazareth during His ministry, and how the townspeople call Jesus "the carpenter", and they mention His mother, His four brothers, and His sisters. But if you notice, Joseph isn't mentioned at all. Church tradition holds that Joseph passed away when Jesus was 19. That's not in Scripture, but there doesn't seem to be any other explanation for why Joseph is not mentioned with the rest of the family in Mark 6. It also seems like Joseph was no longer around a little later when Jesus was hanging on the cross, because He entrusted the care of His mother to John the Beloved. So if Joseph died when Jesus was 19, and Jesus was the oldest sibling in the home, what did this mean for Him? What sort of responsibilities did He bear in order to provide for His family? Was He trained in the same line of work that Joseph was? There's so much to ponder here. Think about it, this is God throwing Himself into the human experience as most of the earth knows it. Not just in physical human needs like being hungry or tired, but God threw Himself into obscurity, into toil, into non-recognition, and into being unknown and unappreciated. And this wasn't just for a week or two, this was for 30 years. Frederic Farrar gives phenomenal perspective in his work called “The Life of Christ” (p. 57): That Christ should have passed thirty years of His brief life in the deep obscurity of a provincial village; that He should have been brought up not only in a conquered land, but in its most despised province; not only in a despised province, but in its most disregarded valley; that during all those thirty years the ineffable brightness of His divine nature should have tabernacled among us, “in a tent like ours, and of the same material,” unnoticed and unknown; that during those long years there should have been no flash of splendid circumstance, no outburst of amazing miracle, no “sevenfold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies” to announce, and reveal, and glorify the coming King—this is not what we should have expected—not what any one would have been likely to imagine or to invent. There is so much to be seen here if we stop and ponder. Jesus lived day after day in a mundane and common existence far from large crowds, lots of money, endless recognition, and honor before men. As I said back in Episode 20 where I was talking about His birth, Jesus could have put Himself in a beautiful palace and lived in luxury so as to shield Himself from the common experience of nearly all of humanity. But He didn't. When we think about Jesus, we must think about this part of His life because these years are characteristic of the majority of His years on the earth at His first coming. Think about that. He only was in ministry for two years but lived in silence and unrecognition for 30 - where He would just sit around bored under the hot sun or He would feel sore after working hard all day, or His mind would be foggy because He was so tired. We have to see that there is nothing too common about the human experience, except sin of course, where we can't find fellowship with Jesus. Now, what contrast is really in view here? Think about it. This is the who inhabits eternity, the High and Lofty One, the One who brought Isaiah to his knees, the One who shook Mt. Sinai, and He's the first sinless man since Adam to walk the earth, and now after a long day of work He's helping with dinner preparations for His family in an obscure town in the Middle East. What kind of meekness and humility do we see in Jesus? It's just downright shocking when we really begin to see it rightly. It's only right that the One who voluntarily submitted Himself to this indescribable contrast between exaltation and humiliation be rightly seen, recognized, known, and loved. And this, if you could sum it up in one sentence, would be the whole reason why I am doing these videos on the life of Jesus. Think about it - the one we worship and pray to, the one who is going to show Himself to the world by fulfilling His promises to the nation of Israel lived completely unnoticed and ate, worked, laughed, cried, prayed, and slept. Just like you and me. And this is why He's deserving of our everything. So what does this mean for us? How then shall we live in light of Jesus' life and His meekness? Scripture's hush can speak volumes to us if we have ears to listen. I believe that these silent years, far beyond His 2 years of ministry, are an eternal example to all of us of how we ought to live as we await the promise of the resurrection and the restoration of all things. We can never expect to even come close to the impact Jesus' ministry had, no matter how many signs and wonders we do. Why? The reason for our lives as Christians is to point to someone greater than ourselves. Our lives point to Jesus. Just like John the Baptist would later go on to say, He must become more important, I must become less important. This is why the entire New Testament calls us to look at Jesus' example of humility and emulate it, because in doing so, we display what He is like. Consider these few passages from the Apostle Paul's writings later on in the New Testament. First, from Philippians: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5–8 ESV) And 1 Thessalonians: “But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (1 Thessalonians 4:10–12 ESV) And again in 1 Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1–2 ESV) What do you see in common between these few passages from Paul? Do you see how Jesus' meekness and humility is the example for Christians in this age? When we remember that Paul not only had heard about who Jesus was and what He did, had the chance to talk to people who had known Jesus, watched Him, interacted with Him, and heard His voice, we can better understand why he would say these things. Let me say this clearly: these 18 and yea 30 silent years of Jesus speak to us as the example of how we ought to live. Our Western Christian culture tells us that dynamic ministry impact and platform anointing are what God defines as success. But how can it be that way? Sure, big meetings in stadiums and round the clock worship is great, but is that really the goal and should that be the ambition of the church? We've gotten to the place where somehow professional ministry is the dream of so many churchgoers and that working with our hands, raising a family, minding our own affairs, and seeking to love God well in the mundane are kind of "lesser" things. So many believe that lie, whether it's articulated that way or not. It really doesn't matter what ministry or movement we're a part of. The Bible calls us pilgrims, exiles, strangers, and sojourners. We're not building the kingdom, we're not seeking to make the world awesome so Jesus can come back, we're waiting for Him and bearing witness to Him until then. We can't forget that Jesus was just one of the boys for 30 years of His life. No ministry impact, no joining a movement, just toil, labor, mundane, common existence. Oh, why do we so quickly turn from Jesus' example of faithfulness and humility in smallness, so earnestly desiring to leave a legacy and impact the masses? We need a greater vision for our lives that is shaped by Jesus and his cross, and that begins with these silent years. And I believe we need or perspective changed to where we see platform ministry as a fiery crucible rather than a promotion from the common, everyday existence. If we were to be honest, our dreams of impact are often driven by self-assertion, pride, and false humility. And 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 want to put courage in your heart to have a vision for this - this is what God did when He took on flesh. He puts His stamp of approval on this type of sojourning lifestyle. May we be ones who continually strive to make ourselves of no reputation - to live, as the Apostle Peter said, as strangers, pilgrims, and exiles in this present evil age, and may we be ones who patiently endure and eagerly wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus, the coming king of Israel. I hope this episode today enlarged your vision to behold Jesus in His silent years, and I pray that He would give us grace for living our lives in such a way that puts Him and His cross on display, whether it's before our immediate family of three or four or before the eyes of three or four million. In the next few episodes we'll begin to look at John the Baptist - who he was, his message, and his importance to the story of the Gospels. Be sure to check out any episodes you may have missed on my website, www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless, see you next time.

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