Tuesday, April 06, 2004
On the death and life of a Jewish Carpenter:
Yes, this is my Easter post. It will no doubt get buried in the week’s musings, so I may repost it later.
Many years ago, my father sent me a copy of a book entitled The Man Nobody Knows by Bruce Barton. It really changed the way I think about Christ and made me see him more as a human being than as a larger than life figure. Some of my comments below are inspired by Barton’s work. Most of it is my own commentary. It’s my blog, so you get to decide which is better.
He was born to poor parents in the poorest part of a small Judean town called Bethlehem. Though his birth was heralded by a host of heavenly angels, their carols fell upon the ears of humble shepherds. There was no royal reception for the birth of the Prince of Peace.
Scripture tells us little of his childhood, only that he increased in knowledge and stature by degrees. His earthly father was a carpenter, and the young Jesus no doubt followed in the Joseph’s footsteps.
In those days, the life of a carpenter was grueling. The title of ‘Carpenter’ was the equivalent of ‘General Contractor’ in today’s vernacular. When someone accepted the contract to build a house, it was expected that a house would be built from foundation to roof – all by the Carpenter. So, when Jesus taught that one should build one’s house upon the rock, there can be little doubt he was not using only metaphors.
His chosen vocation required him to be strong. He was a tall man judging by the fact that extra room had to be hewn out of the tomb of Joseph of Arimethia. Years of hewing boards out of recently felled trees no doubt gave him great strength. I submit to you that when he cleansed the temple with the cat of nine tails, the merchants he drove from the courtyard had more than just the Fear of God put in them. I would venture to guess they were also fearful of what his muscled arms would do to them – with the cat of nine tails.
For the first 30 years of his life, he was a very unordinary man. This was evidenced by people’s reaction to his early ministry. They said things like “Is this not Joseph’s son?” Jesus had lived among them for a long time.
I will not go into his ministry here. There are other places you can go for that information. I will but mention a few things. Jesus called very ordinary people to work with him. He took a few fishermen, a tax collector, a physician, and other such people and created from them an organization whose effects are still felt in the world today. He was a phenomenal leader. He was a handsome man – so much so that women went to great lengths to be near him. He was the most popular dinner guest in all of Jerusalem. He ruined every funeral he ever went to, including his own. Though he rightly proclaimed himself to be the Son of God, he most often referred to himself as the Son of Man. This being said, his favorite audience was not made up of adults. Even when exhausted, Jesus preferred to surround himself with children. “Blessed are the children,” he declared, “for such is the kingdom of heaven.”
His ministry lasted but three short years. The end of his life was a truly terrible event, well documented by Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ. He was deemed such a threat by both the Roman and Jewish establishments that he was sentenced to death.
Crucifixion is the most barbaric form of capital punishment ever designed by man. The pain and suffering experienced by the victims of this act is truly unspeakable. Never the less, Jesus did not shrink from it. He was, as always, more concerned with the welfare of others, principally his mother, than he was with himself. He said but two words concerning his physical discomfort on the cross. I thirst.
It is simple to see how easy it would be to despair at such a moment. His followers were in disarray. His closest apostle had denied him three times earlier that day. He had been beaten, and he knew he was going to die.
That being said, it is important to remember one of the last moments of his life. According to the gospels, he was hung between two thieves. One of them looked upon Jesus and said the following:
“Jesus,” the man cried, “remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom!”
Think about that for a second. At the lowest point in his life, when it seemed the adversary had one and all was truly lost, the Son of Man held and conducted himself in such a way that a dying man looked into his eyes –
And saluted him as a King.
There is but one thing I can add to this record. The most important thing one can remember about the death and life of Jesus is the following:
The tomb is empty.
Here endeth the lesson.