Jesus began His public ministry at around the age of 30 years old. That public ministry lasted about 3 years before He was crucified, died, buried, and resurrected.
One of the questions that comes to many people about Jesus’ life here on earth is why His public ministry was seemingly so short. Three years. That’s less time than what most of us spend in college.
Usually we don’t fault Jesus on the shortness of the end of His life. We figure that time had come and that His death was a product of three years of build up with the temple priests and Pharisees that didn’t get Him.
Yet we do wonder why He waited until He was (about) 30.
In my sermon research the past couple of weeks I’ve found a few possibilities and I figured that I would share:
+ The Caretaker Theory - This theory revolves around the Gospel reading from last week - Mark 6:1-13. In that story we find out that Jesus has a mother, some sisters, and at least four brothers. Oddly, we don’t hear any mention of Jesus’ step-father, Joseph.
Most people assume that Joseph has died by this point in the story, and that gives an interesting possible reason for Jesus holding off His public ministry.
We know that Jesus was the first born of Mary (she was a virgin, after all), and from that we can deduce that Jesus was also the oldest of His (half) siblings from the union of Joseph and Mary. We don’t know when those siblings were born.
Since Joseph, Mary, and Jesus had to flee to Egypt before coming back to Nazareth, we can assume that it was at least 2 years before Joseph and Mary even thought about having more children.
When they returned to Nazareth, Jesus would have grown up as an apprentice to Joseph (and His hometown neighbors seem to give witness to this, “is this not the carpenter, Joseph’s son?”).
Depending on when Joseph died, it could be that Jesus stayed in the family business, “bringing home the bacon” until He could sufficiently train one of His brothers in the family business or at least until they could support the family.
This would fit what we know of how Jesus related to His parents from Luke 2 (51), that He submitted to them under the 4th Commandment (Honor your father and mother), and from John 19 (26-27) that He sought to take care of His mother and by extension His earthly family.
So basically Jesus waited until 30 because He was taking care of His earthly family.
+ The Priest Theory - Numbers 4:2-3 tells us that a priest must be between the ages of 30 and 50. This age requirement was held pretty stringently by the priestly class for quite a while. In II Chronicles 23, it appears this age gets bumped down to 20 but most traditional Jewish scholars hold that this is because there was a 10 year apprenticeship period for priests.
The back-end of this number seems to have not meant as much as the front end as many priests of the Old Testament seem to be serving well past 50. Notably, we know that Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, seems to be very old (Luke 1).
It was, however, the case that Zechariah (and all priests at the time) were only able to offer the burning of incense (what’s he’s doing in Luke 1) once in their lifetime. It is probable that the daily lottery to see who would burn the incense was only for those who were 50 years old - or at least close to the time when they could not be priests anymore.
Either way, Jesus’ appearance around the age of 30 could signify His work as “priest” among God’s people. Jesus’ work is often talked about in terms of three Old Testament offices - Prophet, Priest, and King. This would have perhaps been something that God would have ordained, the beginning of His work at the age of 30, in order to keep in line with the priestly requirements of the old covenant which is fulfilled in Jesus.
So are these the definitive or only reasons that Jesus came on the scene at age 30? No. However, both of these reasons do give us perhaps a little better view of who Jesus is and what His character may have had to do with His timing.