“And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? Did you not know, that I must be about my father’s business?” – Luke 2: 48-49
Jesus, at the age of twelve, during the Passover, was missing for three days. When His frantic parents, who thought he was with relatives or acquaintances, had returned to Jerusalem, they found Him in the Temple discoursing with the elders. As He said, He was in His Father’s house tending to His Father’s business. All, save for His earthly parents, did not understand His meaning. For often it was said among those who knew the family: “Is this not Jesus, the son of the carpenter, Joseph?”
When God, the Father, sent His Word into the world in Christ, He sent Him by way of the womb of a sinless women. But, why to a surrogate Father who was a carpenter? Why not to a man of some other vocation?
My cousin, Ralph, is a carpenter. He once constructed a new deck overlooking the back yard of our house. He first tore down the old existing deck and replaced it with a new and improved deck that served better than the first. After he had finished the deck, and as we stood upon it and admired his work, I paid him and shook his hand in gratitude for the wonderful job completed. Have you ever shaken the hand of carpenter? It is a strong firm hand of rough texture. It is a hand of one who knows hard work. But also a hand that validates the skilled craftsman. A hand that attests to a keen creative mind of one who is disciplined to the laws governing his trade. A hand that demonstrates the characteristic of one who possesses an eye for the aesthetic. A hand that transforms an idea into a reality.
Christ spent the first thirty years of His life obeying. In that He was obedient to the nurturing and direction of His earthly parents. During that period of time he learned and practiced the art of carpentry; as was the profession of Joseph. He knew the purpose and proper use of the tools of carpentry of His time; including the predecessors of the hammer and nail.
Christ’s hands were also strong and rough. Made so by His apprenticeship. Yet, His hands healed, as well. Not solely in the repair of worn furniture, leaking roofs and broken plows, but, of most importance, the restoration of a malfunctioning mankind. Broken bodies, empty hearts and tortured hopeless souls were made anew. His were not the soft hands of one who handles money or fine cloth. His work in the practice of carpentry was hard and demanding, requiring much physical strength. God sent Him not to be raised by a money changer nor a trader in goods. He was sent to one who would train Him in hard labor. For the true mission that lay before Him would be hard and laborious, as well. Joseph was a skilled craftsman in the use of the instruments of his trade. He cut and shaped the wood according to the image that he had in mind for a particular item that he was commissioned to make or repair. The parts were then firmly joined by hammer driven nails resulting in the desired product of that image.
The Son of God, too, was a craftsman. Except one of a divine nature. The knowledge, skill and discipline of His earthly trade would be implemented in the mission for which God had commissioned Him to accomplish. Christ was God’s idea and reality. As in carpentry His mission required some tearing down and rebuilding. The then unmerited altered and tainted truths being taught by the learned, which were once truths revealed in perfect purity by God to His creatures as the guiding principles of life, had to be torn asunder. And by the power of divine sacrificial love, God’s reinstated truth would be secured in the longing hearts of the contrite, as the carpenter’s hammer drives nails in fastening. By this action the son of the carpenter set the stage for the Son Of God.
In an absurd divine irony, the son of the carpenter, who often tore down to build anew, would, Himself, be torn down by the very tools of His trade. Hammer and nail that joined two pieces of wood now has fixed the hands and feet of the Son of God to the tabernacle of His own making, formed from the successful execution of His very mission. And on that tabernacle of pain and suffering the Son of God would achieve for mankind what no son of a carpenter ever could; redemption. The hands that once pierced to restore broken woodwork have now, themselves, been pierced to restore a broken world.
By that redemptive act, Christ would forgive the sins that have since, The Fall, separated man from a complete and loving relationship with God. And in three days hence, He would renew a never-ending relationship between God and mankind.
The work done by a good carpenter can last a lifetime. But the work of the Divine Carpenter lasts forever.