How Was Jesus More than a Carpenter?

How Was Jesus More than a Carpenter? September 23, 2016

carpenterI have had several men in my family who were carpenters by trade. Maybe that’s why I like to imagine Jesus being “the son of a carpenter” Matt.13.35 NRSV). Joseph would have taught Jesus that skill. It is amazing to me that Jesus was a blue-collar tradesman for many more years than he was a religious figure. For Luke says Jesus began his public ministry at “about thirty years old” (Luke 3.23), and it likely lasted only 2-3 years. Yet what Jesus did and said in that short period of time—even though he wrote no books and held no religious or political offices—caused him to eventually become the most famous man in human history even to this day, nearly 2,000 years later. (I wonder if he ever carried his hammer, or any nails, with him, you know, just in case.)

Actually, the word in the Greek text is tekton, which is broader in meaning than “carpenter.” It means something like “builder” or perhaps our word “contractor.” Thus, Joseph and Jesus would have worked with metal and stone besides wood. This was one way in which Jesus was more than just a carpenter. (I wonder if he built those sod roofs that seem like they’d be kind of dirty and maybe fall in and have to be replaced with more sod. You know, being a golfer, I’m a sod-buster myself.)

Jesus probably was the only carpenter in Nazareth and perhaps nearby villages. So, people of his hometown of Nazareth knew who Jesus was. Soon after John baptized him in the Jordan River, Jesus went forth to minister. One day he taught in the synagogue at Nazareth. The people who heard him said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hand? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary …?” (Mark 6.3). It seems a change had occurred in Jesus that was noticeable.

Jesus soon delivered the most heralded sermon of all time, called the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7; cf. Luke 6.17-49). In it he said, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Matt. 7.3-5).

That word “speck” in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is karphos in the Greek text. Besides speck, it can mean more specifically a chip of wood, such as a splinter, or a piece of sawdust. Jesus may have had the latter in mind since he compared it to a “log.” If so, surely he was drawing upon his knowledge as a professional carpenter or builder.

At the close of Jesus’ public ministry, he and his apostles ate the Last Supper. Then Jesus taught them for the last time. He first predicted one of them was going to be betray him. Then he indirectly told them he was going to suffer, die, and go to heaven (John 13.21-33). He then said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also” (14.1-3). Notice that Jesus said, “Believe in God, believe also in me.” Here is one of the many times that Jesus spoke of himself and God, and in so doing he distinguished himself from this one God so that Jesus himself did not think of himself as God. And if Jesus did not think of himself as God, we can be sure–contrary to the likes of N. T. Wright, Larry Hurtado, and other leading New Testament scholars–that Jesus was not God but rather God’s agent par excellence.

So, Jesus said he was going to God’s house in heaven and that he would be exercising his skills there as a first-rate builder in preparing many dwelling places for not only his eleven apostles but all of his many millions, if not billions, of people who would believe in him through the message they would preach in the world. And then there will come a day, yet future, when Jesus “will come again” and take his people to be with himself forever.

[Click here to see a list of several dozens of posts about Jesus not being God in the Bible.]


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