Best of Daily Reflections: Jesus Understands the World of Your Work
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they took offense at him.
Those who knew Jesus up close and personal in the first century thought of Jesus not as an itinerant rabbi, but as the carpenter from Nazareth. For them, Jesus was not primarily the enlightened one who spoke eloquently or the miracle worker with a healing touch, but the one whose strong hands made good and useful things. The 17th century French painter Georges de la Tour magnificently captured on canvas the transforming truth we find here in the Gospel of Mark. Georges de la Tour’s classic work entitled Joseph the Carpenter portrays a youthful Jesus working alongside his earthly guardian Joseph in a dimly lit carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. Joseph the Carpenter is a work of art we would do well to fix in our minds and revisit regularly.
Many of us tend to forget that Jesus spent a great deal of time in a carpenter shop on his way to the cross. I don’t know how many times I had read through Mark’s Gospel before I began to reflect on the significance of the incarnate Son of God spending thirty of his thirty-three years working with his hands. If redeemed souls were all that mattered to God, it would seem rather strange and very inefficient for the Savior to spend only three years as an itinerant rabbi preaching the Gospel and healing the infirmed. Cleary Jesus was more than a carpenter, but he was not less.
The truth that Jesus was a carpenter speaks volumes to your daily work and mine. The Bible tells us that we were created with work in mind. Our very physical embodiment and the work of our hands are integral to creation’s design. So it is not surprising that the incarnate Son of God gives us a full and integral picture of what it means to be fully human. The good news of the Gospel reminds us that we are both created and redeemed with work in mind. You are called to contribute to God’s good world and the common good in and through your workplace. Jesus understands your world of work, both its joys and heartaches. After all, Jesus spent a lot of time while he was on planet Earth with sawdust on his hands and some holy sweat on his brow.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How does the truth that Jesus spent thirty of his thirty-three years as a carpenter speak to your vocational calling? What carpenter’s shop has God placed you in? How does your apprenticeship with a Jewish carpenter speak to the dignity of your work? Will you take Jesus with you to work today? Will you learn from him how to do your work well?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, on the way to the cross where you shed your blood as an atoning sacrifice for my sin, you spent a lot of time working with your hands in an obscure carpentry shop. Teach me, Lord, to be diligent, faithful, and content in the work you have called me to do. Holy Spirit, may the work of my hands be an act of worship as I seek to do my work well for your glory, my spiritual formation, and the furtherance of the common good of others. Amen.
P.S. From Mark Roberts: Tom is senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Leawood, Kansas. He is the author of several books, including one of the finest books I have ever read on faith and work, Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. Tom, whom I have had the privilege of meeting at Laity Lodge, is a man of deep faith and wisdom. I'm delighted to welcome him as this week's "guest reflector," and I commend his reflections to you with enthusiasm. - Mark Roberts