Jesus grew up in Nazareth, Northern Israel, the oldest of half a dozen half brothers and sisters. He worked to support the family as a carpenter or stonemason (tekton) after his stepfather Joseph died. We know little about his formative years except for a visit to Jerusalem when he was twelve:
“And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.”
And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.
Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:40-52)
It was unusual for a boy or girl in Israel not to marry in their teen years, circumstances permitting. Jesus knew early on that He had a different calling. He stayed single.
Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:57-58)
Knowing He had a specific calling and a limited season for teaching and training, Jesus hand picked twelve followers who could carry on after He left. These young men, all evidently unmarried except for Peter, were energetic and teachable. Jesus had their attention. Their temperaments were all over the map. Few common goals in life united them. Their family backgrounds were generally not all the same. They had different personalities and temperaments.
What an assignment Jesus had in shaping up these men into the mighty apostles they would become after He left!
Later in life some (or most) of them probably married when they could afford to live apart from mom and dad.
The disciples dropped what they were doing and followed Jesus when He recruited them, drawn by His charisma and challenge. (See John 1:35ff) They were a motley crew and would only work together in harmony after their their Leader had died and moved on.
Could a motley crew became a Band of Brothers?
Jesus began to speak publicly when He was “about thirty.” Three plus years later He was killed by the leaders of His nation. (See A Day in the Life of Jesus by Ray Stedman).
But one teaching by Jesus upset these young men greatly. About two years into their internships, the disciples were provoked by what they heard Him teach about marriage. They pressed Jesus later for clarification:
“Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there.
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
And He answered and said to them, 'Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female,’ and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.'
They said to Him, 'Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”
He said to them, 'Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.'
His disciples said to Him, 'If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.'
But He said to them, 'All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.'" (Matthew 19:1-12)
These words of Jesus have echoed down into history ever since. All manner of persons single or married, pagan or devout, young or old have been given pause by the wisdom of Jesus.
He said that God’s intentions for marriage were absolute and that all sexual expression was to be limited to marriage. In a pagan (gentile) world this teaching would prove to be preposterous—electric to be sure, yet fully in line with what Moses had taught 1400 years earlier.
It is now well known (but seldom taken seriously) that Moses was revealing the mind and values of our Creator—but that grace and mercy were given by Jesus, which also reflected the character of God.
Moses and Jesus are not popular leaders in the world today. But God is accustomed to being ignored and opposed.
A few people in every generation do understand and line up with the heart of God’s calling us to wholeness and healing. Others among us seek to impose their values on the innocent and the naive.
But being “merely married” today does not automatically mean wholeness and harmony in the family! Many have wrongly believed that being married guaranteed happiness and bliss in this life. Hardly! It is now clear that this myth has contributed to the alienation of countless Millennials from their parents! Marriage is a crucible where two broken persons strive together with Jesus daily with the result that two whole persons emerge and the marriage reflects the restored image of God in man. “It takes three to tango," in other words, and the Third Party is Jesus.
Of course all interpersonal relationships, (MF, MM, FF) should involve Jesus as Mediator and Healer. We are all so disparate from other persons that a lifetime is needed to know another person!
People are unmarried for a dozen reasons: They are perhaps too young to marry. Their circumstances in life are restrictive, or no one has asked them to marry. Perhaps they fear intimacy? Or they prefer living sexually active lives without the commitment and responsibility of marriage (expediency). Their available role models of good marriages are few and unappealing, the “pleasures of sin for a season” are too powerful to resist—and on and on.
Should a young man find remaining single to be an attractive option, the Bible word “eunuch” is probably off-putting. But Jesus did note that men remained single for life happened for one of three reasons. Either a man had been born incapable of sexual expression biologically, or two, he had been castrated by men before puberty or three, he had voluntarily chosen a single life style of service into the world.
Enforced celibacy of men who are not enabled by nature or calling to remain single is not on the list.
History has much to show us about castrated boys in the church choir whose development was arrested, snatched from them to enable them to sing as sopranos their whole lives. These men were the castrati.
Secondly, kings and potentates often castrated adult male prisoners of war to render them “safe” for working in the ruler’s harem of virgin girls. Eunuchs became most trusted by their masters whereas ordinary men were thought less loyal or found to be unreliable for hormonal reasons in many cases.
Isaiah the prophet had startling words of promise to any and all who were drawn to serve the God of Israel.
They were foreigners (group one) or eunuchs (group two).
The latter class included any and all single persons who were drawn to serve Jesus in a world where heterosexual marriage was the norm.
Here are those timeless promises from Isaiah:
Thus says the Lord:
“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
For My salvation is about to come,
And My righteousness to be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
And the son of man who lays hold on it;
Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath,
And keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
Do not let the son of the foreigner
Who has joined himself to the Lord
“The Lord has utterly separated me from His people”;
Nor let the eunuch say,
“Here I am, a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths,
And choose what pleases Me,
And hold fast My covenant,
Even to them I will give in My house
And within My walls a place and a name
Better than that of sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
That shall not be cut off.
“Also the sons of the foreigner
Who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him,
And to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants—
Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath,
And holds fast My covenant—
Even them I will bring to My holy mountain,
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
Will be accepted on My altar;
For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says,
“Yet I will gather to him
Others besides those who are gathered to him.”
Jesus the man was denied the joys of marriage and raising kids—for good reason. Yet the heart of God is all about the union on man and wife in marriage. From creation till now.
The Old Testament portrays Israel as the wife of Yahweh. God was forced to divorce this wife because of her unfaithfulness, but the last chapters of reconciliation and restoration for Israel as restored wife are yet to unfold in history. See Hosea.
Jesus came first as a Jew to his own people. His rejection opened doors for Jesus and His disciples (now Apostles) to reveal God’s good favor to the entire world.
But Jesus the bachelor has been given a partner in the life to come.
This “calling out of a people for His name” is symbolized by the selection of a Bride for Jesus. She is to be a gentile virgin bride, a not-yet married woman. Furthermore the Bride of Christ is not one woman but millions (billions ?) of men, women and children —all who know and love Jesus. They are now bring readied for the return of the Bridegroom who will restore all things to wholeness and harmony.
Jesus is still a “single man” to this day. That will soon change!
How much can He do through us who choose to stay single for whatever reason?
I have met few people who are unconditionally available to Jesus. It has been said that there is no limit to what God can do through any man or woman who doesn'tt care who gets the credit.
More than that, Jesus was unconditionally available to His Father. He never took matters into his own hands, never drew upon his own unlimited powers as God the Son.
Do we not serve God with rewards in mind? Are we often selfless when we give? Do we expect to be paid back for our time and effort and investment?
We can’t expect Jesus to use us if we ignore the same terms he gave His disciples!
Full circle back to Jesus and His band of brothers:
And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.
These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.
“Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
“Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.
“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10)
C.S. Lewis said, “God is so masculine that we are all feminine in comparison.” (SciFi trilogy, That Hideous Strength)
This is an important topic! See “Made in the Image of God,” http://www.ldolphin.org/image.html
The image of God in man is both masculine and feminine at the same time. God is redeeming Adam and Eve and He seeks to redeem us who are very broken and lost!
Jesus as the Second Adam is a whole person and we are not! Neither do we know ourselves well.
In the Old Testament, Israel is depicted as the wife of Yahweh (Hosea for instance).
In the New Testament, the true church is seen as the intended Bride of Jesus Christ:http://www.ldolphin.org/Msup.html
The Bride of Christ is not one woman butmbillions of men, women, and children who know and love Jesus. There is no need for sexual intimacy and procreation in the coming age. Nobody need feel cheated in heaven since Jesus will be fully available to everyone: to men, to women, to widows and orphans and to children! Eunuchs and foreigners will be welcome.
(Thomas Ice notes in the above reference, “...is there a difference...between the marriage of the bride (the church) to the Lamb and the marriage supper of the Lamb...I believe that Scripture indicates that there is a difference in these things and that they are two events that will take place at two different times in history....”)
Wholeness brought about by God restores what we all lost “in Adam.” No two people are alike! God likes variety and individuality.
The true church as a whole is the church Jesus Himself said He would build (Matthew 16:13-19) can be glimpsed in the Song of Solomon:
Who is she who looks forth as the morning,
Fair as the moon,
Clear as the sun,
Awesome as an army with banners? (Song of Songs 6:10)
Let marriage be considered honorable among all, and the marriage bed be kept undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say:
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:4-6)
A wonderful Arab tour guide in Israel in 2001 said to our group, “You all know that money is a root of all evil and that money causes much suffering. I want to help you. Just give me your money and I will suffer for you.”
Dcember 30, 2018
Edited: 7/27/19 by AL
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