Portraits of Christ | The Carpenter
Isn't this the carpenter? (Mark 6:3)
Not much is known about our Savior regarding his childhood or early adulthood. The Scriptures are mostly silent. But the few things that are revealed shed some light on what life must have been like for Jesus. We do know his earthly parents were poor, for they offered two turtledoves as a sacrifice in the temple, and this was one of the alternative sacrifices for those who were lacking on money (Luke 2:24; Leviticus 5:7; 15:14).
The question asked by the crowd gathered to hear Jesus in his hometown also reveals much about Jesus' early life, "Isn't this the carpenter?" And Matthew records this scene with a different twist, "Isn't this the carpenter's son?" (Matthew 13:55). So from this we know that Joseph was a carpenter, and that Jesus as the firstborn son was expected to take over the business and support of his family after Joseph's death.
His hands were rough and calloused from years of making the wood obedient to his skill. His grip was hard, like a vice, the kind of grip that would immediately gain trust from burly fishermen whom he would call to be his disciples. And he no doubt faced many of the fears and problems common to anyone who works and runs a business. Did he deal with irate customers who were unhappy and refused to pay? Did he have to borrow in lean times to keep the business afloat? After a long, bone-weary day in the shop, did he have to sit at a desk long hours into the night pouring over the books trying to figure out how to make ends meet? Did he go to the shop on mornings when he didn't feel well or was just tired, but the pressure of feeding a family forced him to get out of bed? On some days did he just feel like leaving it all behind? There must be more to life than this!
Like any artisan, Jesus was proud of the products he created, be it a piece of furniture or a wheel or a yoke. He created each piece with great care and attention to detail, and put of little bit of himself into every project. People could look at his finished creation and say, "I know who made that."
In Jesus' later years, no doubt the carpentry shop began to lose its luster. The calling and urge to go was becoming greater and greater each day. After all, running a carpentry business was not why he was here. Perhaps it even wore on his patience at times, especially when dealing with business problems or unruly clients. Then the day came when he knew it was finally time. He would visit the carpentry shop one more time to make sure everything was in order for his family to keep the business going. Would he miss it? Of course he would. He would recall fond memories of himself and Joseph working together on a project. He would think of all the life lessons and stories he learned here. He would pick up the hammer one more time, the handle smooth and worn from years of use. He would pick up a spike and gently press the point into his hand. What will it feel like? And then he would walk out the door for the last time into the sunlit street and never look back.
Before he was a carpenter on earth, he was the architect and carpenter of the universe. The strong rough hands that shaped wood forged a planet, flung the stars into space, put thunder into the hoofbeats of the horse, and put a song in the sparrow's throat. Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Colosse, "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth." (Colossians 1:15). The apostle John added in his gospel, "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:3).
And after his earthly ministry was fulfilled, Jesus traded in his hammer and saw for a golden sceptre. Now he is King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Jesus is preparing a place for us, and he has promised to come again and receive us that we may be where he is (John 14:1-3). He is building a church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. He is building up our faith, shaping each one of us into His image, and piecing us together to form a church without spot or wrinkle. We are his building, and we are laborers together with him in the construction upon the foundation which Jesus has laid (1 Corinthians 3:6-13). And he will personally inspect and test our work to see if it can stand the test of time.