Friday, September 25, 2015

The Carpenter's Son

Speaking of fathers and sons in the Bible, have you considered why God chose Joseph as the human father of His Son? We speak rather often of Mary and her faithfulness and her favor, but why Joseph?

We don't know a lot about Joseph. We get a couple of glimpses of his character in the early drama of the pregnancy, as he decides, for example, to break his engagement with Mary quietly so as not to make a spectacle of things. We know he does his due diligence to do things correctly. He takes his family, despite his betrothed being very pregnant, to Bethlehem for the taking of the census, and he takes good care of her along the way. We know he makes do with his circumstances. I imagine having a carpenter in a stable could come in quite handy if, say, the manger needs a little something to be safe for baby Jesus. 

And we know he was a carpenter.

This is what strikes me as perhaps most intriguing about the Joseph-Jesus dynamic. God could have given His Son to a man of any profession; there were some good options in those days. He could have been a merchant or a trader. He could have been a fisherman. He could have been a blacksmith/metalworker. He could have been a Pharisee. Jesus could have been the son of any of these men, and yet, God gave Him to the carpenter. Why?

I think it's because the carpenter embodies so much of who God is that it was natural for Jesus to be born into the carpenter's family.

He could have been a merchant or a trader, but what would people have said of Him? The same thing they say about God now - that He just moves pieces around in a cosmic chess game. That He's strategic. That we're all just pieces on His board, that we are mere ideas to Him. The work of a merchant, although involving goods, is primarily a phantom work. It's not a tangible work; it's a business. God would not want His Son to be accused of being a businessman. He needed a work that people could put their hands on.

He could have been a fisherman. Everyone ate fish, so that was definitely a hands-on job. But the fishermen were a bit far removed from the people for Jesus, don't you think? The average man went to the market to buy his fish, and even if he encountered the fisherman, he never really understood fully what the fishing trade entailed. Being on a boat in the middle of a lake with people who do the work you do, for only the result of your labor to be doesn't suit Jesus. The people of God had seen the result of God's labor for generations already; Jesus was meant to reveal the work itself, to show how God was working. God did not send His Son to work behind the scenes, so He could not be a fisherman.

He could have been a Pharisee or some other leader in the Temple. Jesus is uniquely qualified, don't you think, to teach men about the nature of God. To tell God's story. To instruct men in the ways of worship. But there's something absolutely awful about a God who comes only to teach you how to worship. There's something horrid about a God who is interested only in religion. God is so much more than that, and He couldn't see boxing His Son into the Temple.

He could have been a blacksmith or a metalworker. Here was a hands-on job with a good deal of contact with the general public. Men might come in and commission some of the metalworker's work. They could smell the burning metals from His shop, so they could see Him working. They could see the black soot gathering on His hands and face. They could feel the hot fire used to mold the metal. And there's something to this. Who doesn't want a God who is willing to stand in the heat for you? It's a creative work; our God is nothing if not creative. The metalworker's son is oh so close an idea, but it's missing one very crucial detail...


Metal has no life in it; it's an inanimate object. Wood, however.... Wood comes from trees. Trees are life. Trees are living, breathing, growing, producing, vibrant, vital things. Carpentry, then, is the real deal. It has all the essential qualities we want to see in God - it is a creative work, mirroring God's work of Creation; it is a human work, able to be commissioned and receive input from the man/woman/family requesting the item; it is a tangible work, with a finished product you can hold in your hands; it is a visible work, the splinters and callouses and beads of sweat, not to mention the shavings and sawdust all around. And most importantly, it is a work that begins with life. Isn't this who God is? Isn't this the very essential nature of God?

That's why I think He had to be the carpenter's Son. So we could see all the very things He really is through one more work of His hands. 

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