The most popular post of this blog to date is an article I wrote detailing the argument for aging the disciples in their teen years instead of old men. Read the original post here. And while you’re at it take a look at the discussion in the comments section. There has been quite a debate, and lots of great information given there.
Here are some of the points made by the commentators:
- John, often thought of as the most dearly loved disciples, may not have been. Which means he might not have been the one Jesus entrusted the care of his mother to. The concluding thought related to this article, is that Jesus did NOT leave the care of his mother to 13-year-old John. So, who do some think was the dearly loved disciple? Maybe Lazarus? Some interesting arguments for that in the comments. And yes, that means some folks believe John did not write “John.”
- Adolescence, as we understand, was introduced in 1904 with a book by Stanley Hall. In antiquity there were children and men. If you were 13 and confirmed, you were considered a man.
- Tradition plays a powerful part in our idea of an older age for the disciples. The commentators encourage us to let Scripture be our guide. (This led to a discussion on preterism vs pre-millennialism.)
- When James and John’s mother speaks to Jesus about her son’s position in His Kingdom, it makes more sense that her sons were younger than older.
Try a new imagining
As I have been studying John the last few months, I’ve imagined teenage disciples throughout the study. It helps me understand and digest some of the idiosyncrasies of their words and actions. Here are a two examples:
- When the disciples discover Jesus talking with the Samaritan women, their response is hesitant and almost embarrassed. Imagine youths, often literal-minded, having this discussion with him.
Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him [Jesus] talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
“Rabbi, eat something.”
But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
- During a discussion about Jesus’ departure, they express their confusion. Their continued inability to to draw conclusions from his picturesque language is often found in youth, who lack the required brain development and life experience to often see beyond their immediate circumstance. Imagine a group of teens trying to grasp a hard lesson just beyond their mental reach.
Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”
- My favorite to imagine, is Peter jumping into the water to prove his verve and to seek affirmation from his mentor; just like many teen thrill-seekers I’ve known.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.
“It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
- And the easiest to imagine is a group of young men, in awe of their “idol,” afraid to offend in trying times, yet terrified of their own abilities and desperate for help. They are in a boat and out of control.
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
I challenge you to read through the gospels with a new mind. Can you picture young men with Jesus instead of old?