Here's a multiple choice question. How old was Jesus the first time God asked him to DO something specific and significant task?
B) Younger than twelve
C) About thirty
D) We don't know
In some ways, a case might be made for all four. In adulthood, Jesus definitely seems to have some specific instructions from God, at least at some times. Many assume God directed the 12-year old Jesus to stay in the Temple, but the scripture itself doesn't say so. Likewise, we don't know what God might have told Jesus to DO during his teens and twenties.
Then again, depending on how we define this question, the best answer might be: B) Younger than twelve.
Think about what I mean. It's a blessing, and yet one of the more frustrating aspects of spiritual life, that God's prompting us towards action doesn't have to come with particular instructions. It certainly doesn't come very often with particular words.
There is one form of God's directive communication which speaks simply to us all in our consciences, even as children, but usually without words. When/If the nine year old Jesus was tempted to sass his parents, but his knowledge of the Shem'a and the Ten Commandments brought him back into temperance, that simple awareness was - in that moment - Jesus' sincere, loving obedience to God.
Getting back to the question above, however, if we're talking about Jesus receiving direct and explicit communication with God, tantamount to words in his mind, then in that case I don't think it's heresy to suggest that this probably didn't happen for Jesus early in life. I do think that whenever this did happen for Jesus, it came largely as a fruit of that early and beginners-level experience. The advanced ability (if we want to put it that way) came in time as the payoff for earlier (countless hours and years of) spiritual exercise.
In other words, in short, I think Jesus grew. I believe Jesus learned how to sense His Father's presence at a very early age. He found comfort. He found conscience-bracing firmness. He found companionship. But I do not necessarily think that *hearing direct words from His Father* came anywhere near the beginning of their earthly relationship. The notion that Jesus got marching orders from age twelve onwards is unnecessary, and seems unnatural.
So. How long before the Jordan Baptism was Jesus hearing directly from God? I don't know.
If I ever live enough years with the devotion that little Jesus had there in Nazareth, and if my pursuit of God's presence ever lasts as long as Jesus' did between 4 BC and AD 29... then maybe I'll get to that point myself.
Until then, let's not try to put a clock on anything. Let's just seek out spiritual nourishment that results in some positive growth. Yes, for many of us, at times, some growth would be something to shoot for!