The “ordinary” life of Jesus

Posted by Travis Threats on

In her book Liturgy of the Ordinary (InterVarsity Press, 2016) Christian minister Tish Harrison Warren says the following about most of the Jesus’s adult life:

“The one who is worthy of worship, glory, and fanfare spent decades in obscurity and ordinariness. As if the incarnation itself is not mind-bending enough, the incarnate God spent his days quietly, a man who went to work, got sleepy, and lived a pedestrian life among average people” (p. 16)

These wise words lead to my question for this blog- “Why wasn’t Jesus a child prodigy?” A prodigy is generally described as someone with professional abilities before age 10. The Bible certainly tells of a miraculous birth. There is mention of Jesus at 12 and then nothing is said about Him until He is 30. But if God wanted to show the world that Jesus was His son, no ordinary human, why not start Him off as a star? Mozart published his first music at 5 years old. French mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal published his first scientific breakthrough at 12 years old. Chess champion Bobby Fischer by age 14 won
the US Open Chess Championship. These are examples of prodigies, and they were indeed exceptional. But they were not divine, they were not the Son of God.

So back to the question. If God wanted to show everyone that this was His son, why not make it obvious from the beginning? What father or mother does not want their child to be the star athlete, the national winner of the Spelling Bee, top in their class, the best-behaved child who always works to please his parents, the child with the most friends? Why is Jesus not described as in 1 Samuel 9:2 “He had a son whose name was Saul, a choice and handsome man, and there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel; from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people” (NASB). In Genesis 39:6, Joseph was described as “handsome in form and appearance.” Surely,
if one could create a child, one would create a perfect and exceptional one from the beginning. Jesus could have been able to recite all the holy scriptures by memory by age 5, able to out debate the most learned rabbi by 8, be able to play every instrument like a professional by 10, and been the best in the
sports of the time. By 14, all could have come to Him for advice and healing of their afflictions. He could have gained admission to the best schools at an early age and lived a life of admiration, success, and wealth. Then if he declared His divine mission at 30 some might have said that He is so obviously superior in every way that perhaps He really was the Son of God.

There are no stories about Jesus from 12 to 30 perhaps because there was nothing anyone thought interesting enough to write about Him. He was most likely a carpenter but could also been also a fisherman. We do not know. But we can think of some “perhaps.” Perhaps He once ate some spoiled food and got sick. Perhaps He was once was not paid for one of His carpenter jobs. Perhaps He was yelled at by his boss. Perhaps someone stole from Him. Perhaps He was harassed by a tax collector. Perhaps He was bullied by someone who thought he was better than Him.

God wants each of us to know that we are special, that we are blessed. That is why He created this beautiful world for us, so that the “everyday” is a sign of His love and blessing.

To return to someone more eloquent than me, I again quote minister Tish Harrison Warren (2016):

“Alfred Hitchcock said movies are “life with the dull bits cut out.” Car chases and first kisses, interesting plot lines and good conversations. We don’t want to watch our lead character going on a walk, stuck in traffic, or brushing his teeth- at least not for long, and not without a good soundtrack. We tend to want
a Christian life with the dull bits cut out. Yet God made us to spend our days in rest, work, and play, taking care of our bodies, our families, our neighborhoods, our homes. What if all these boring parts matter to God? What if days passed in ways that feel small and insignificant to us are weighty with meaning and part of the abundant life that God has for us? Christ’s ordinary years are part of our
redemption story. Because of the incarnation and those long, unrecorded years of Jesus’ life, our small, normal lives matter. If Christ was a carpenter, all of us who are in Christ find that our work is sanctified and made holy. If Christ spent time in obscurity, then there is infinite worth found in obscurity. If Christ spent most of his life in quotidian ways, then all of life is brought under his lordship. There is no task too small or too routine to reflect God’s glory and worth.” (p. 21- 22).

Everything in our world He created has His spirit- the wind, the sun, the water, the sky, the birds in the sky, the life in the seas, the creatures on land, the plants, the trees, the flowers, the grass, and even the weeds. If our everyday world was deemed worthy for God’s son, we should view it as worthy for us. If Jesus found holy purpose in His life before 30, so should we in all our lives. For all His creation is sacred, for God is everywhere.

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