As I have been thinking about the events leading up to Easter–Jesus’ suffering in the Garden, His self-giving on the cross, and the mystery and glory of His resurrection–I’ve spent some time thinking about the disciples’ actions and re-actions within the drama of Jesus’ experiences. For example, there is James’ and John’s mother asking for preferential places of honour in His kingdom – “one on your left and the other on your right, please.” All 12 of them passed on the task of washing feet before the Last Supper. Peter seems to be the self-appointed spokesman and defender and one wonders if he is older or just more assertive. He had the only sword among them in the Garden and tried to take out one of the armed guards when they came to arrest Jesus. When things got tense, they all took off.
How old do you think these 12 men were? How old would you say they are in the traditional pictures of the Last Supper? What if they are actually quite a bit younger – say, late teens and early 20s? If so, this may explain a lot about their reactions…their passion and their zeal, and perhaps the playful nicknames, “Sons of Thunder” that Jesus gave James and John.
One writer has suggested that Peter, who was married, may have been the only one over 20 years of age. The reason given was that the story of the “coin” in the fish’s mouth (Matthew 17:24-27) was enough to pay the taxes for Jesus and Peter only, even though the other disciples were present. Men under 20 were not required to pay the Roman taxes, which led to the suggestion that the other disciples were all under 20. I don’t know enough about Roman law to comment on this notion, but if we recall that Jesus’ himself was only in his early 30s when He died, then at a maximum, they were likely around his age or younger than him. Hmmm.
I bring this up because a reminder was given to me that the Board of Administration has requested that a special invitation be given to leaders of ministries to children, teens, and young adults to come to the Regional Gatherings. If Jesus called late teens or at a maximum late “20-somethings” to be the group into whose hands He would place His church, He saw something that we need to look at. Hmmm.