With the advent of Freud and the whole psychoanalytic approach to understanding human behavior, a person’s origin; a person’s DNA; a person’s early childhood, seemingly innocuous events in their childhood, have a great import on a person’s development. They explain a great deal, even though every person remains a mystery.
To understand Jesus of Nazareth in His humanity is a difficult task. After infancy until He is 30 years of age, there is nothing that we can go on. His life in Nazareth is shrouded in silence.
Yet, since Jesus was completely human (as well as Divine), he would likewise be very affected by what happened to Him during those 30 years of his life; but, we only have data on the three years of His public ministry.
So what happened during those 30 long years?
He learned. That is a momentous statement that has important consequences. Like any human being, even one so finely tuned and expertly open to His experiences, He grew in wisdom and learning. The one incident that we have during those years is when He was lost in Jerusalem at 12 years old. He made a mistake and thought it was time to do His “Father’s work”. But Mary and Joseph said “not yet”! So, obediently, He went back with them. This is typical behavior for a young teenager: jumping the gun. This was a mistake, not a sin. It would have been a sin if, after Mary corrected Him, He had disregarded what she said and disobeyed her. But He did not. This example is good to remember because often we confuse mistakes and sins.
So what can we deduce from the hidden years of Christ’s earthly life and what importance do those years have for us?
We know that there was something very atypical of His life as a Jewish Palestinian man of that era: He was not married and did not have children. We can infer this from the complete silence of the New Testament about any such family of His. This was very rare among Jewish men. It must have meant that He had a sense throughout His life of a Divine Calling that He had to prepare for (“His Hour” in the Gospel of John) and that would have precluded any adoption of a role as head of a family.
This must have struck people as odd given that He most likely lived a normal life in the small town of Nazareth. When He finally announced to the people of His town His calling—in the Synagogue of the town—the result was swift and violent: total rejection of this calling by His townspeople who saw Him grow up before them.
We also know that He was a builder and a craftsman. The Greek word used means more than a Carpenter. He did not just work in a little shop in Nazareth. This village was small and would not generate enough business to help His family survive. He probably went to a city like Sephoris where many wealthy people lived that had large estates, where there would be plenty of work. So while Joseph was alive, the Lord probably walked each morning to this city to work.
Meanwhile, He was growing in grace before God and men.
If you think of it, this is astounding! For 30 long years, he lived and worked in obscurity doing simple things for His family, His Synagogue and His Village. What is the implication of this high percentage of time that He spent on ordinary tasks?
One can only deduce from this amazing fact of His life that the ordinary is where God works the most, even in the obscurity of an out-of-the-way village in an obscure province (remember Nathaniel’s statement in John: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”)
Now, our lives are hardly filled with miraculous happenings or even with the dramatic events of the Passion and Death of Christ. Our lives are generally lived closer to the silent years of the life of Jesus. Since they were so significant and important for His own development, then the ordinary way God works in our ordinary lives must be filled with eternal consequence. This manifests in two senses: Firstly, because they move us closer or further away from a possible final judgment on our lives; and secondly, because they are the principal way that God forms our being and our personalities.
The implications of this insight are vast and multiform. Every slight decision that we make, every event that comes upon us both internal and external, is important to God and should be seen as important to us.
We are all in our silent years that will flower, not in any public way here on earth, but in the final revelation of our lives in the ‘mansion’ that God has prepared for us and to which He Himself will lead us at our earthly death.
Therefore, everything I do and say today is crucial to my future life in God!
The silence speaks volumes!