What Was Jesus Doing Before He Began His Ministry?

“Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.”  The Bible, in Luke 3:23, gives us that life-marker for Jesus.  The four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) then go on to describe a three year ministry of Jesus.  So we know Jesus died, rose and ascended into heaven at about age 33.  What was Jesus doing all those years before he celebrated his 30th birthday?

Aside from the account of Jesus’ birth and infancy, there is only one account in the Bible about his boyhood.  That’s the time when the 12 year old Jesus was in the temple courts of Jerusalem amazing his teachers with his knowledge of the Scriptures.  You can read about it in Luke 2:41-52.  The account ends in an interesting way.  God tells us that the boy Jesus did not remain in Jerusalem in the temple.  Instead he was obedient to his earthly parents and went back with them to his hometown of Nazareth.  There in Nazareth, from age 12 to 30, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

That’s it.  That’s all we’ve got in the Bible about what Jesus was doing for all those years.  We might wish we had more.  That’s when it’s good to remember that the Bible wasn’t given to us so that we could know every detail of Jesus’ life on this earth.  It was given to us that we might be, as Paul once wrote to Timothy, “wise unto salvation.”  That’s a shorthand way of saying the Bible tells us exactly what we need to know about Jesus in order to believe in him and be saved.

Speaking of “saved,” consider that one little statement that summarizes 18 years of Jesus’ life and what it says about being saved.  “Jesus grew in favor with God and men.”  This means Jesus was loving God perfectly and loving his neighbor as himself perfectly for all those years.  He was keeping every single command of God’s holy will.  The Bible says that he was just like you and me except that he did not sin.  Jesus, true God from eternity, came to earth and became a perfect human being.

So what does that have to do with being saved?  It means you have a perfect Substitute.  Jesus places his perfection over your sin so that you may stand before God as not guilty.  Jesus himself affirmed this at his baptism when he told John that he had come “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).  And the apostle Paul underscored this truth when he said that Jesus “was born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).