Have you ever wondered which portion of Christ’s life is to be our primary pattern? His hidden years or His public years?
And from the Father’s perspective, is there really any difference? (I’ll tell you upfront: No. But people look at things much differently than God does!)
Evangelicals (and especially Pentecostals and Charismatics) usually point to Christ’s final three years as the model for our lives and ministries. These were the years of His public works and miracles. (And we have a written history of a lot of these years.)
The works that I do shall you do also, and greater works than these shall you do because I go to the Father….
But there are eighteen totally missing years in the biblical record of the life of Jesus. The Bible gives us clear details of the period surrounding His birth, then sketchy details up to age 12, or so. But then there is total silence and an apparent time warp up to age 30, when His public ministry began. We are told nothing in the sacred Scripture about those 18 middle years.
As a carpenter, Jesus would have mostly worked for the public. He was a craftsman. I wonder what the furniture He made looked like? I wonder if He was ever called upon to make a coffin? Did a sick person ever come into His shop in those days? Did a neighbor child die? Did an ox cart crush a friend’s leg? The answer has to be “yes”. Did he ever fashion a cross for the Romans?
What did Jesus do about human suffering and the tough circumstances he observed around Him? We are not told. But we are told that His first miracle didn’t occur until He turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana.
Jesus was keeping in step with His Father even during the 18 “silent” years. He didn’t launch His own initiatives. He didn’t attempt to improve on the justice of God. He didn’t fret over the things that were or were not being done around Him. He didn’t feel anxious or responsible to fix everything or everyone. He simply walked with His Father and lived simply and contentedly for those years. He allowed the Father to develop His character, to teach Him how to love and serve people in the simple things. He learned patience and submission to God-ordained authority. He studied the Scriptures and discovered His destiny from the inspired pages therein.
One of the dangers of public ministry for us is that many times we have not learned how to live secretly with the Father first! And so we use ministry for our own purposes…to create an identity for ourselves…to feed our insecurities…to establish ourselves as a success…to earn the favor of people…and on and on.
The first 30 years of Christ’s life were not wasted years. No, we have no record of any major accomplishment from those days. He apparently left no major impression on anyone in those days. He didn’t go to college or seminary. He didn’t write a book or hold public (or private) meetings. He didn’t heal the sick or raise the dead. Apparently, He didn’t disciple anyone either.
He simply walked with the Father through the ups and downs of life in His own family and community setting. He learned to love God with all His heart and His neighbor as Himself. He learned how to recognize His Father’s goodness and presence in the normal things of life. He learned how to serve and comfort and share and celebrate and mourn.
And He was well-pleasing to His Father in all of this! Remember, the Father’s audible voice of confirmation (“Thou art My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”) was not at the end of His public ministry, but rather at the end of His 30 quiet years!