The First 30 Years of Jesus' Ministry

If Jesus came to be the savior of the world, why did he spend the first 30 years of his life doing nothing? There were people to heal! Scriptures to teach! Miracles to perform!

Imagine all the people who probably died, right there in the region of Galilee, during those 30 years, without ever hearing the Gospel! Without ever knowing that the Savior of the world was there, living just a few miles away! Why would Jesus “waste” 30 years of His life when so much ministry could have been done?

All of us who are called to preach, teach, and serve others feel the same way from time to time. “I can’t wait another five years! I have so much to teach! So many ideas! There are so many people all around me who need to hear the Gospel. I’ve got books to write, minds to change, people to serve! If I don’t do it now, I never will!”

For some people, that may be true. Maybe God does want you to get out there and get to work right away. But I think that for most of us, including Jesus (and Joseph, Moses, David, Paul, etc), there is something God does in our lives during the “back burner” years that cannot be accomplished any other way.

I love how William Barclay explains all this (Luke 1975:39f). The quote is long, but it’s worth reading (Let me tell you…it hit me HARD today).

This passage begins with the most suggestive statement. It tells us that when Jesus began his ministry he was not less than about thirty years of age. Why did he spend thirty years in Nazareth when he had come to be the savior of the world? It is commonly said that Joseph died fairly young and that Jesus had to take upon himself the support of Mary and of his younger brothers and sisters, and that not until they were old enough to take the business on their own shoulders, did he feel free to leave Nazareth and go into the wider world. Whether that be so or not, three things are true.

(1) It was essential that Jesus should carry out with the utmost fidelity the more limited tasks of family duty before he could take up the universal task of saving the world. It was by his conscientiousness in the performance of the narrow duties of home that Jesus fitted himself for the great task he had to do. …It was because Jesus faithfully performed the smallest duties that the greatest task in all the world was given him.

(2) It gave him the opportunity to live out his own teaching. Had he always been a homeless, wandering teacher with no human ties or obligations, men might have said to him, “What right have you to talk about human duties and human relationships, you, who never fulfilled them?” But Jesus was able to say, not, “Do as I say,” but, “Do as I have done.”

Tolstoi was a man who always talked about living the way of love; but his wife wrote poignantly of him, “There is so little genuine warmth about him; his kindness does not come from the heart, but merely from his principles. His biographies will tell of how he helped the laborers to carry buckets of water, but no one will ever know that he never gave his wife a rest and never—in all these thirty-two years—gave his child a drink of water or spent five minutes by his bedside to give me a chance to rest a little from all my labors.” No one could ever speak like that of Jesus. He lived at home what he preached abroad.

(3) If Jesus was to help men he had to know how men lived. And because he spent these thirty years in Nazareth, he knew the problems of making a living, the haunting insecurity of the life of the working man, the ill-natured customer, the man who would not pay his debts. It is the glory of the incarnation that we face no problem of life and living which Jesus did not also face.

This post is based on the Grace Commentary for Luke 3:23-38.

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  1. says

    We like to say that being ordinary was part of the game plan when God became flesh…not an oversight. Christians are so consumed with being extra-ordinary, addicted to drama and allergic to the ordinary. But being ordinary was part of the plan from the beginning (Isaiah prophesied that the messiah would be so ordinary that people wouldn’t notice him). Only ten percent of Jesus’ life was consumed with full-time ministry. The rest was pretty ordinary. We should take our lead and set our standards by him, I think.

  2. Dr. Baugham/Kim Epps says

    Are you still pursuing the Chaplaincy? We still have you active in our files.
    Please let us know.

    Dr. Baugham
    (Kim Epps, Office Manager)

  3. says

    Thanks for this insight – it is very timely for my husband and me! We will remember this about Jesus as we step into a more ‘normal’ portion of our ministry of being with family instead of on the ‘field’ in ‘mission.’


  4. says


    I have a sister named Laura who is also in Bible translation, but in an Papua New Guinea instead of England. Anyway, keep going strong in your mission and ministry there in England with your family and in your neighborhood until God takes you elsewhere.

    Be encouraged! Remember that when it comes to mission, “we must repudiate the mystical doctrine of salt water” (Bosch, “Transforming Mission” p. 10). In other words, you don’t have to cross an ocean to be involved in mission.

  5. joseph says

    my name joseph from india iam also pastor .please pryer for my famly and my church believrs okey byyyyyyyyy
    my india peoples also belive only idols not come to jesus christ plase prayer for my church .and once more come inindia
    plase see the my ministry okey byyyyyyy

  6. Philip Woodill says

    Often people in what we call “full time ministry” for get that their family are people too. As followers of Christ we are all called to be in full time ministery. If we are faithful at home then God will enlarge our borders to enclude others.

  7. says

    Dear Brother,
    I am Zeeshan Javed from Pakistan. I have studied your web site, and I found it the most wonderful site to get right to the True Word of God. My suggestion for you is to create your material in my language of Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Pashto, Sindhi, Sraiki, and Balochi also. It will bring lots of blessings of the Word of God for the Pakistani and Indian Urdu and Punjabi and other local languages speaking people. For that purpose, I as a translator will bring your material into my languages and into Indian language as well. I will be printing and distributing your material to my people around me. Although it will take your low expenses as well, as fund for the Word of God to reach out to the deserving people. I my self, work on a local radio station also. Many times it becomes difficult for us to keep doing this because of being minorities and because of the lack of the financial resources. I will wait for your response.
    Sincerely yours
    Zeeshan Javed

  8. Somie says

    Dear Brother/Sister,

    Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ.

    I am Somie Saleem, from Pakistan. Urdu and Punjabi are the biggest languages of this country. I visited your website and impressed by your work. I have one suggestion regarding booklets, sermon, tracks, and Bible studies and recording, it would be good, if these will be available in our native languages in Urdu and Punjabi. Reaching out to the people in their own languages is very helpful, affective and fruitful. If your ministry is interested and willing to reach unreached and untold in Pakistan with the materials in native languages, I can arrange to translate for messages, bible studies, biblical tracks, books and also Urdu page on your ministry website. Our all services will be provided with reasonable rates and whatever we get we use it to spread the word of God.

    Would please to hear from you.

    With prayers

    • says


      I cannot pay for translation, but do not mind if the works are translated and made available to others. I would prefer that they be offered to others free of charge, but understand if there has to be a small fee to cover time and printing expense.

      My prayers are with you as well.

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