patty kirk

patty kirk lying down, getting up, sitting at home, walking down the road doing deuteronomy 6:7

Sunday, February 17, 2013

when he begane

Today’s discovery is that early on in Jesus’ three years of preaching and healing, he hung out not only with his disciples but also, on occasion, with his mother and brothers, too. After the wedding at Cana, which he attended with his mom and his disciples, Jesus went on what sounds like a family vacation with his disciples in tow: “After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days” (John 2:12 NIV).

Matthew describes Capernaum as “by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali” (Matthew 4:13) and quotes Isaiah as having called it “the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matthew 4:15). It was here, according to Matthew, that Jesus “began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of God has drawn near’” (Matthew 4:17). The NIV translation refers to this p

I wonder what Jesus’ mom and brothers did while he was preaching. Hang out on the beach? Did they have relatives to stay with in Capernaum? And was it there, at Capernaum, that Jesus’ family had first suspicions that Jesus maybe wasn’t really doing God’s will but was crazy, as they would later say he was (Mark 3:20-21)? Was it then, on that family trip, that Jesus’ brothers began to be skeptical of what he was saying, as we find them later to be (John 7:5)? And, during this trip, where was Joseph, who, “it was thought” (Luke 3:23), was his dad? At home working? Dead, hence Mary’s travels with her oldest son? We can only speculate about these matters.

We do know that Jesus’ age at this time. According to Luke, “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry” (Luke 3:23). That word ministry, though, is an invention of the NIV and several other translations, added, say the NIV translators, for clarity. The NRSV adds the word work. I hate when they do that. I’d rather seek my own clarity with what’s actually in the Greek.

Early translations, felicitously, leave it out. In Wycliffe’s translation of 1382, “Jesus himself was beginning as of thirty years." Tyndale, in the revised version of his 1526 translation, wrote, “And Iesus him silfe was about thirty yere of age when he begane.” Martin Luther’s 1545 German translation reads, “Und Jesus war, da er anfing, ungefähr dreißig Jahre alt” (trot: And Jesus was, when he began, around thirty years old.). The King James Version of 1611 and the Geneva Bible of 1599 on which the KJV was based both say, “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age."
Jesus “began,” Luke wrote, and a flurry of modern translators, worried we’d not know what he meant, surged in to fill that gap with a churchy word never once mentioned in the Greek accounts of Jesus’ life that we toss back and forth at one another meaninglessly. Later, in Acts and Paul’s letters, the word commonly translated as ministry does surface: the Greek word διακονία (diakonia), which probably meant something more like service, as in servant, than what we mean when we say ministry, if we mean anything at all. From it comes our church word deacon.

But Jesus, at thirty, at the lake in Capernaum with his family, simply began.


  1. He began... a whole lot of things that are larger than ministry or work. I like it.

  2. Indeed the Greek word for ministry is not in Lk. 3:23. So what was beginning with Jesus at around the age of 30--as far as Luke was concerned?
    Lk. 3:23b introduces a long genealogy about Jesus' sonship and forefathers, ending with Jesus being "the son of God" (3:38). This links with 3:22, where at his baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon him and a voice from heaven announced him as the beloved Son, with whom "I am well pleased." Lk. 4:1f then says Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the desert, tempted by the devil ("if you are the son of God . .."). Through the power and guidance of the Spirit the son of God pleases his Father by remaining faithful to his Father (and Spirit) and not becoming faithful to the evil spirit.
    So perhaps what Luke meant by "began" is that Jesus now began to be led by the Spirit of God to fulfill his role as the faithful son of God who pleases his heavenly Father rather than the greed and ambition of the "ruler" of this world (who offered him all the authority and glory of the kingdoms and ruling "fathers" of the world in 4:5-6).