During Easter time we reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus, which took place at the end of a ministry which lasted at most 3-4 years. Based on customs of the day, Jesus was learning and working carpentry far longer, perhaps from age 15 to 30. Since I love woodworking and consumed by all things trees, I thought it interesting to consider the importance of Jesus as a carpenter.
So why the simple, humble trade of a carpenter? It certainly didn’t sit well with folks in his own home town, who expected the Messiah to have a more grandiose background, royalty or perhaps even military. They were appalled (“Is this not the carpenter?”) and refused to believe him. But Jesus wanted to identify himself with the common people. Perhaps he wanted to demonstrate that as long as we are doing honest work and we remain faithful to God, then any job is respectable. Another way of looking at it is that any profession can be carried out for the glory of God. There’s a tombstone in Great Britain with an epitaph that says: “Here lies Thomas Cobb, who mended shoes to the glory of God for 40 years. Every piece of music J.S. Bach wrote was inscribed with the letters SDG (Sola Deo Gloria—to God alone be the glory). Something to think about next time you show up for work.
A carpenter often fixes things that are broken, and so the trade was good training for someone known for repairing broken lives. And a carpenter looks at things differently. Most people would look at a piece of wood and see all of the knots, warps, and bark edges and conclude that it cannot be used, that it is worthless. But a carpenter will look at the wood and see its potential, thinking “ I can use that”, and knows where to cut and sand to produce a something useful. Later on that’s how Jesus saw people, looking past the flaws and seeing their potential. Peter was a simple fisherman (and a brash one at that), and yet Jesus saw a “Rock” to build his church on.
Perhaps a final reason to come as a carpenter was that Jesus liked to build stuff. John 1:3 says: “all things came into being by Him”, so maybe the builder of the Universe wanted to continue building here on Earth. Nice workmanship.
This article was based on a lesson written by Raymond Exum in 1995.