Jesus at 60
Imagine for a moment that the night Jesus was arrested during that anguished, ill-fated garden party, when he pleaded that his life be spared and the burden of his imminent death taken away, that his father looked down and saw not a man, but his own son. That when the God of the Universe saw his own son sweating blood, he took pity on him, on all humanity, he recognized the injustice of blaming a creation for behaving as you created them. He heard the pleading of a man as the pleading of his own heart and found it in his infinite, silent wisdom to go ahead and let the cup pass. Imagine Jesus survived.
Or perhaps something came over Judas, one square look from his holy buddy at a critical moment of internal conflict and he realized he could not sell out this man he loved. He double crosses the Romans and hatches a plot to disappear the Christ that night, and they leave, a caravan of twelve setting out on a exuberant new chapter filled with the standard high jinks of a classic bro road trip, the symmetry of another frantic flight to Egypt but styled like an irreverent mainstream modern comedy.
There, at the edge of Roman world, Jesus continues his ministry, but he is changed. Maybe his edges soften a little, and in his 40s he's preaching the benefit of certain compromises. He teaches compassion, as before, but that it's more important to mend a bridge than to be right. That sometimes, you don't know all the details, that maybe there's more than one side to the story, and it's better to reserve judgement and trust the systemic universe his father created to rebalance the scales of justice. He focuses on plank removal and teaches his flock to overlook the specks in the eyes of others. He encourages people to find their joy, because life with bring about its own worries and sickening retrospective bouts of guilt, so we needn't seek it out. After all, his father created joy too.
By 50, he's mired in damage control over various scandals among his disciples, now church officials. There's a growing stink of Pharisee about some of them, something the youth in his congregation get pretty hot about. But on the whole he's pleased with what he's built, people are clearly better for their involvement in his church. He's truly built a community, that holds each other accountable, but holds grace above it all.
Secretly, he's feeling some of the restlessness of youth again himself. He thinks about starting a new church back in Jerusalem now that time has cleared his name, or some sort of new movement, some new statement, some way to reignite the passion he senses is fading.
By 60, Peter is hammering hard on succession planning, and Jesus's own son is rousing the rebels in town and building an enviable following of his own, though the thrust of his message displeases the church council, something they find the need to interject during every meeting. Jesus wouldn't wish the burden of this ministry on him anyway.
The more he thinks about the arc of his life, the less he can seem to wrap his head around the daily grind of ministry. The passion for it is gone from him, and every task feels Sisyphean. Has he made a difference, after all? Did he shift the minds of men, or merely shift the balance of power? Should he have died in the garden that day? Did growing up compromise his destiny, his mission, his message?
He's increasingly filled with the desire to make furniture again. The feel of the wood giving way to the tool, the clear accomplishment of seeing raw material transformed into something of use. When you look across your workshop at the end of the day and you're able to see something that has changed. All those hours of not having to talk, the glorious luxury of allowing the chemicals in your brain to shift aimlessly and give the sensation of morphing, mutable, holy thought. A direct commune with his father that isn't diminished by the crude crumbling of translation into words, and words to people, who misunderstand, who seem to work at failing to grasp what he is trying to impart. A chair cannot be misunderstood.
And he thinks about the conversations he had with his father on Earth, which he had gravely undervalued, along with Joseph's impressive range of technical skills. He wishes he could talk to him now, to ask how he made this or joined that, or even how he got into woodworking in the first place. After 60 years of talking, imagine Jesus wants to listen.
The glory of youth, the clarity of vision, the surety of justice, always develops a patina with age. In some contexts, we call that patina wisdom.