By John T. McNeal
“Happy Birthday to You” has been recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most popular song sung in the English language. For the most part, birthdays are seldom looked forward to after somewhere around the ripe old age of twenty-five.
There are three birthdays that most people look forward to having. The first one is sweet sixteen. This is the age when freedom becomes a reality, and being grounded by your parents means having your car taken away. The next birthday of note is the magic number twenty-one. Those who partake in the newly legal consumption of alcohol in celebration usually wish they had not consumed as much by the following morning. The last birthday most people look forward to having is number twenty-five. This is the last time most people will see a decrease in car insurance unless they change their policy and find a new agency.
After the age of twenty-five, most people try to either stop counting their age, until someone asks, or push their age backward. Have you ever heard the country and western song by Jerry Lee Lewis called “Thirty-nine and holding?” It’s about a man who is trying to hold onto his youth, while struggling to keep his body from growing older.
Today I turn thirty-nine. I was born in the greatest year car manufacturers ever had for making muscle cars. The year Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. The year that Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock and Vietnam was a political issue on college campuses from coast to coast. That year was 1969.
All the events mentioned above are unique to modern life. Jesus didn’t have to wait to get his driver’s license to ride his donkey into town. Nor did he need to purchase insurance in case he got into a traffic accident. As to what age Jesus’ peers looked forward to, I would guess it would be thirty, the age of male adult responsibility in his society.
But for Jesus, reaching this age would not be just a physical event in His life, but also a spiritual event. It was around the age of thirty when Jesus started His ministry. I believe that He began his ministry with great anticipation and aspirations. Being fully God and fully man, He knew that this journey would only last a short time and that great suffering would be waiting for Him at the end of His three and a half years of ministry. He also knew that with that great suffering would come the salvation of mankind.
His ministry wasn’t cheap nor was it easy. He paid the ultimate price for the salvation of mankind. He paid it with His love. It was love that kept Him from releasing the angels upon the Romans that flogged Him. It was love that helped Him carry that heavy burden of a cross through the streets to Golgotha. It was love that allowed the nails to penetrate His hands and feet. It was love that kept Him on the cross, when God the Father turned His back on him. It was also that same love that raised Him from the dead three days later.
So, the next time you sing “Happy Birthday to You”, don’t just sing it for the person who is celebrating their birthday. Go ahead and sing a verse for Jesus. After all, when He was thinking about the spiritual aspect of His ministry, He was thinking about you. If you were to ask Jesus if He loves you, He would probably say from nail scarred palm to nail scarred palm.