The Disciples Were Young People

My family are into museums. One day as a family, we were going through Buckingham Palace, where there in front of us was a drawing by an artist (who I can’t remember), with a baby Jesus in Mary’s arms, and a man behind Mary receiving a set of keys from the baby Jesus. Although an interesting perspective of this metaphorical event, the man receiving the keys, Simon Peter, is quite old. He looked about 50 with a full beard and bags under his eyes: a tired look for a man who is about to embark on the heavy journey of having keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.

If the picture were an accurate representation of Matt 16:19, by the time Jesus was 30, preaching the Kingdom of heaven, Simon Peter would have been needing a zimmer frame to keep up with the Messiah.

I’ve heard at many talks, conferences and festivals that the opposite of this picture is true: that the disciples were young people. Sounds great, especially when it makes all the young people go “yeah, we can change the world”. The only problem for me here though is, where is the proof? Is there any biblical evidence to suggest that the disciples were indeed young people?

I’ve been looking, and I think I’ve found it, the evidence is found in one of my favourite stories of things that Jesus did.

In Matthew 17, Jesus and the disciples are wandering through Capernaum, where they come across the temple and wish to go in to worship. There was an entrance fee, known as the ‘temple tax’ that had to be paid. Those who collect the tax stopped the disciples and asked if their master, Jesus, should pay the tax. Jesus wisely decides to pay, even though as God’s son he shouldn’t really need to, but they’ve run out of cash. Jesus tells Peter to go down to the river, cast out a line and wait for a fish. The first fish that is caught, you’ll find a didrachma.

Great story, but where’s the evidence here?

In Exodus 30, God has commanded Moses to write down the laws regarding the temple. One of the commands, found in verses 11-14, regards the temple tax. The key is found in verse 14: “Everyone among those who are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the LORD”. It is only for 20 year olds and above. What do we find in Matthew 17? Only two people needed payment, verse 27 makes this clear, and Jesus specifically talks to Simon Peter about the issue. Although I doubt that Simon Peter was in his 70s, it does certainly mean that the other disciples were under twenty years old.

Although this is very encouraging for young people: the idea that Jesus’ followers were young, it does not mean that Jesus has written older people off either. Moses was 80 when God spoke to him through the flaming bush, and Abraham was almost 100. We need to remember that God can speak to us through the older members of our church: if anything it can show us that God is a god who shows continual favour and shows the faith of the people of those who have kept Him close for so many years, especially though the difficult times. I do not advocate the actions of Either extreme of some churches: who either favour older members only, or who favour young people only. In a family there are people of all ages, young and old.

I am encouraged when I read the stories of how God uses older people, even today. I am also equally encouraged when I see young people for the first time discovering the one true living God.

Lord, help us to remember that we are a family. You use the older as well as the younger. Help us to be encouraged when we read in your word times when you use both the younger and the older to display your glory. We also ask that you may teach us more when we read your word.

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About Dave Lucas
Christian, husband, blogger, geek.

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