Jesus between 12 and 30
Written by: Paul Lickteig
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At 12, when his parents find him at the Temple, Jesus shows that he knows he’s the Son of God.
At 30, when he is baptized in the Jordan, Jesus also knows that he’s the brother of all humanity, and he’s ready to face profound temptations.
I like to contemplate, with my imagination, the span of Jesus’ life between those two key moments. Something happened during that time which can explain the difference between Jesus’ first Passover feast in Jerusalem (in the Temple among the doctors, provoking admiration with his intelligence) and his last one (washing the feet of his disciples like a servant, and transforming the ritual meal into a saving gift of self… and about to be crucified outside the city walls). It seems that during that time, Jesus grew in his inner “downward mobility”; he advanced on his path of humility which is punctuated by the Incarnation and the Cross. Surely, the walk back home to Nazareth, after the embarrassment of being scolded by his parents in front of the Temple doctors he’d been talking to, was an important part of this path of humility for the young Messiah. Jesus may have been of “legal age” as an adult in his time, but Mary and Joseph knew he still had a lot of growing up to do (“in wisdom, in stature and in grace”). Clearly, Jesus’ understanding of his own identity and vocation deepens during these years. Perhaps the most important difference, for us at least, is that he identifies with the Messianic identity not of the political king, but of the servant who suffers in solidarity, from Deutero-Isaiah. Jesus identifies with us, with the humanity that we share with him. This is the Jesus who tells his disciples “You give them something to eat,” because all and any people in the crowd are “our” people and we can’t just send them away to fend for themselves. This is the Jesus whose invitation to grow in holiness is at once an invitation to accept fully my humanity. This is the Jesus who makes genuine friendships with different kinds of people, the Jesus who feels compassion for sinners and who lets himself be surprised by a Syro-Phoenician woman. This is the Jesus who saves.
I have long been anxious to “do my part” for the world, to finally be able to work and give and teach and serve, no-holds-barred. But God is showing me, in these long years of Jesuit formation, that I still have a lot of growing up to do. I still have a lot of inner “downward mobility” to do if I want to keep following the humble Lord who makes himself a servant and a brother to all. And so as I move on now to theology studies, my next stage of formation, I will keep asking our Lord to grant me inner knowledge of him, that I may better love and serve him.
Photo: “Baptism of Christ (Detail)” by “Sacred Destinations” from Flickr (Used under Creative Commons license)