Q. Why does the Bible say that Jesus started his ministry at 30? What about everything He did prior to that? What marked the actual “start”?
A. Aside from His birth, presentation in the Temple, visit of the magi, escape to Egypt and return to Nazareth, the canonical gospels recorded little of Jesus’ childhood except for one incident, His visiting the Temple at age 12, listening to and asking questions of the teachers. Although there are apocryphal stories, the Bible is silent on His adolescence and young adulthood, which is deemed not important for us to know for our salvation.
The four gospels are unanimous in recording Jesus’ baptism as the beginning of His public life. Jesus waited till He was 30 before launching His public ministry:
• Lk 3:23 When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age …
The Bible did not say why, but there are some clues based on “thirty years old” in Scripture:
1. Age of Service of Levites
• Num 4:3 from thirty years and upward, even to fifty years old, all who enter the service to do the work in the tent of meeting. (See also 4:23, 30, 35, 39, 43, 47)
• 1 Chron 23:3 The Levites were numbered from thirty years old and upward, and their number by census of men was 38,000.
• 2 Chron 31:16 without regard to their genealogical enrollment, to the males from thirty years old and upward—everyone who entered the house of the LORD for his daily obligations—for their work in their duties according to their divisions;
The Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites, descendants of Levi, all entered the service of the tabernacle at age 30.
• John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt [literally “tabernacled”] among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus as the true Tabernacle began ministry at the same age.
2. Age of David
• 2 Sam 5:4 David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years.
• Mt 1:1 The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham: (See also Mt 9:27; 15:22; 20:30-32; 21:9, 15; 22:42; Mk 10:47-48; 12:35; Lk 18:38-39)
David was 30 when he became king of Judah. Jesus as “son of David” began ministering at the same age.
Lastly, although I do not have scriptural proof for it, tradition has it that 30 is the age that scribes can legally teach. Jesus is the Master Teacher and started at the same age.
Jesus held a threefold office as Prophet, Priest, and King. His beginning His ministry at 30 is loosely connected to that:
• Prophet teaching Kingdom of God – teacher or rabbi;
• Priest sacrificing Himself – related to Levites, although Jesus is Great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, not Levitical; and
• King – son of David.