What does age have to do with Easter? More than you might think.

It’s easy to imagine, as the ‘young’ Jesus bursts from the tomb bringing in a vibrant new era, that Easter is all about the active and brave ‘young’. And that those in later years, looking for examples to follow, can only watch from the side-lines.

Time to think again.

First consider the story of that long beyond the age of childbearing couple; the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. They were there right at the beginning of Jesus’ life on earth – as the parents of John the Baptist.

For years they’d been faithfully trusting God – praying on in the face of the impossibility of ever having the child they longed for. In his later years, despite his disappointment, the elderly Zechariah is faithfully carrying duties in the temple.

Though ‘faithful’, Zechariah was not perfect. He failed to believe God’s promise of a son even though the message came from an angel appearing in the holy place where no one other than a priest should be.

But, when the time comes, the couple obediently call the new-born son John as instructed. I love how the couple’s neighbours try to get them to change their minds about the baby’s name. And that the Gospel writer describes the outcome of the whole story as ‘all the neighbours were filled with awe’. (Luke 1.65).

This grey-haired couple is such a great example to us of faithful and believing prayer, of pressing on despite failure, being obedient to what God says and engaging with their community – all of which contributed to an outstanding impact on those around them.

Yet the journey doesn’t stop there. Come the time the infant Jesus is ceremonially presented at the Temple it’s the elderly God sends as witnesses. One ‘ordained’ and one ‘lay’ – and both awake to God’s leading to be where he wanted them to be and say what he wanted others to hear.

First there’s Simeon, an ‘ordinary’ run-of-the-mill Jewish adult described as ‘faithful and devout’ and with the Holy Spirit on him. For decades he’d patiently waited for the Messiah that God had assured him he would see.

Next, there’s the eighty-four-year-old prophetess, Anna, fervent in her faith. Both she and Simeon are in the Temple at exactly the right time to assure the new parents that their son truly is the Special One.

Fast forward to the events of the first Easter. The women who first meet the risen Jesus and rush to the disciples brimming over with their story include Mary, Jesus’ mother. Simple mathematics tell us she would be at least fifty years old. And, with the life expectancy then for those surviving childhood being about fifty-five, that puts her among the elderly.

Those who then share the message from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and the ends of the earth may have launched out in their middle age. But as years go by – and hair turned grey – they continued to preach, to pray, to mentor others, to trust God.

These world-changers were still making waves well into the years we reserve for retirement. And, if them, why not us?

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Comments

  1. what is the Mary mathematics? marriage was usually very young in these days.
    That would make her 85 approx when Jesus died on cross – was that likely in these days?

    1. Thanks for asking. The mathematics are that if Mary was in her teens when she conceived and Jesus was about 30 when he died that gives a ballpark of about 45 to 50 at a time when the average life expectancy of those who survived childhood was about 55. So she would have been in her later years. Hope that helps.

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife