Jesus the Carpenter

The majority of Jesus’ life is not recorded in the Scriptures.  We have the record of His birth and then a few glimpses into His childhood, but besides that, Scripture is silent until He started His public ministry at the age of 30.  These are what many have called “the silent years”.  As I have spent time in the carpenterGospels looking at Jesus’ life I have always found myself drawn to this period of His life before public ministry.  I believe these silent years are a treasury of revelation for the hungry heart.  Jesus was & always will be the Word of God (John 1:1).  That means every event in the life of Jesus shows us what God is like, including the years that aren’t recorded in Scripture.  The loud silence heard in these years serves as a doorway into fellowship with Him that is foundational to seeing Him rightly in the rest of the gospels.

So what happened during those years?  Of course we can never know in detail or go beyond the boundaries of Scripture but various facets of His family life, the customs of Galilee, the geography of Nazareth, and the religious culture of the Jewish people collectively paint for us an informative picture of what Jesus’ days might have been like.  The beauty of these years is in their normality.  For 30 years of His life Jesus lived like any other Man in Galilee at the time.  The Son of God who created the world was now hardly recognized or payed attention to.  We know from Mark 6:3 that Jesus was a carpenter and that He had 4 brothers and at least 2 sisters.  It’s also likely that sometime during this time Jesus’ father Joseph died.  Joseph isn’t seen anywhere in the Gospels after the event in the Temple when Jesus was a 12yr old boy & if he was still alive at Jesus’ death its unlikely Jesus would have committed His mother to John the beloved.  If that were the case Jesus would have the responsibility of taking care of His family.  What was it like as the One we worship and pray to lived, ate, work, walked, talked, laughed, prayed, and cried?

Jesus’ humility is seen so beautifully when we meditate upon Him during those years.  Leonard Sheldrake, in his book “Our Lord Jesus Christ” says:

There was a renown all His own in those tender years because He was content to be lowly and silent without renown in the world His hands had fashioned.  It was a matter of new renown to Him that He who had been so honored and renowned in glory, should be altogether without renown within this cold, barren world.  Lovely lowliness was never so altogether lovely as when in the person of the King of kings He was a carpenter in Nazareth.  He whose glory had flooded the heavens walked unknown on the lanes of a despised village in Galilee.  He who had sat on the throne of God sat now on a rude bench in a cottage of the poorest of the people. 

He whose hand had arranged the stars in the firmament worked hard with saw and hammer to provide that coarse and scanty livelihood that fed the hungry mouths of the laboring poor.  He in whom God found all His delight was never once recognized or known by those nearest to Him, His kinsman according to the flesh.  His hidden years are hidden manna for those who can rise to appreciate the perfect submission and lowliness of Christ our LORD in Nazareth.”

These years war against our pride & selfish ambitions.  If we truly are called to be like our Master then we too should be content to live in obscurity and be faithful with the small things that God has entrusted to us.  He lived before His Father’s eyes alone.  He was carpenter 2overlooked, misunderstood, and even looked down upon as an illegitimate child (because of the virgin birth).  Yet not once during Jesus’ life did He get frustrated because someone wasn’t honoring Him or respecting Him.  The majority of His life, people had no idea He was God in the flesh.  And so He passed from one stage of His life to the next – childhood, boyhood, youth, and manhood.

We must learn to fellowship with Jesus here.  This will bring significance to every aspect of our lives.  When we are washing dishes we can fellowship with Jesus, remembering Him in the carpentry shop chopping wood.  When we simply love our family day by day we can encounter Jesus who took care of His mother & siblings.  When we sit down to eat a meal, we fix our mind upon Jesus who also sat down to a humble meal in their small home in Nazareth.  The silent years of Jesus make the most common things meaningful & holy.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name…”    -Phil 2:5-9

We don’t have to fight for our honor or reputation.  The One who deserved to have the adoration of everyone made Himself of no reputation.  We don’t have to get offended when we’re mistreated.  Our LORD was the most mistreated & misunderstood Person to ever walk the earth.  He was made like us in all things, except without sin.  We’re called to follow in His footsteps and to be faithful with what God has given us.  It’s not the amount that we’re faithful with, that God rewards.  It’s the quality of love and meekness we do it in.  Before Jesus ever stepped onto the public stage of ministry, before He ever did one sign or wonder, the Father’s voice declared from heaven.  “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”   God’s definition of success is much different than ours.

3 Ways to Describe Meekness

Though it’s not talked about much in the West, meekness should be the foundation of every Christian’s character.   The Bible has much to say about this virtue.   It’s one of the “beatitudes” in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:5) and it’s the only virtue Jesus described about Himself in the Gospels – Come to Me all you who are weary…for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt 11:28-29).  Meekness, in my opinion, is also the hardest and rarest thing to walk in.  We are born into a world where the very air we breathe is selfish ambition and self-centeredness.  The more I try to be humble the more I realize how prideful I really am.  But for those who embrace it, meekness will transform our heart and conform us into the image of Jesus like nothing else.

Before describing what humility is, I have found it helpful to first describe what it is notFirst, Humility is not a personality trait.   Often when we hear the word “meekness” we think of being a quiet person or having a less outgoing personality.  Because of this confusion, people who are more outgoing are repelled by the idea of meekness.  Fortunately, humility is not being quiet or reserved.  There is a vast difference between having humility & having a quiet demeanor. Secondly, Humility is not timidity.   We often think that if we are humble, people will walk all over us.  A victim mentality is not glorifying to the Lord at all.  We are called to be “bold as lions” (Prov 28:1) and to be confident in who we are in Jesus.  In fact I would say that most prideful people are actually the most insecure people of all.  Thirdly, Humility is not weakness.  It is “power under control”.  Jesus had all authority in heaven and earth.  He knew that “He had come from God and was going to God (John 13:3), therefore He took the towel and began to wash His disciples’ feet.

So what is Humility?  I think the best short answer is “power under control”.  Among the many different facets of meekness I would say there are 3 main themes:

1) Humility is being content to live before God’s eyes.

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.  Let this mind (mindset) be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God (He knew who He was), but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil 2:3-8)

The key phrase is “made Himself of no reputation”.  You would think that God in the flesh would make Himself of at least a little reputation before men.  I mean after all, He created everything and upholds it by the power of His word!  Yet Scripture says otherwise.  Jesus lived completely before the eyes of His Father.  The time in Jesus’ life that shows this more than any other is Jesus’ “silent years”, the 30 years of His life that aren’t recorded in Scripture.  For over 90% of Jesus’ earthly life, the One who deserved the most recognition labored, served, and slept in complete obscurity in a despised town in the Middle East.  Self promotion was simply not part of His ministry agenda because He lived for His Father’s glory His entire life.  Fredric Farrar says:

“That Christ should have passed thirty years of His brief life in the deep obscurity of a provincial village; that He should have been brought up not only in a conquered land, but in its most despised province; not only in a despised province, but in its most disregarded valley; that during all those thirty years the ineffable brightness of His divine nature should have tabernacled among us, “in a tent like ours, and of the same material,” unnoticed and unknown; that during those long years there should have been no flash of splendid circumstance, no outburst of amazing miracle, no “sevenfold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies” to announce, and reveal, and glorify the coming King—this is not what we should have expected—not what any one would have been likely to imagine or to invent.”

In contrast, we exert so much energy to be recognized by men.  But Jesus ever serves as our example, content to live before the Father.

2) Humility is putting others before our self.  We often use our resources to get ahead, to appear wiser, stronger, or better at certain things than others.  Humility is the opposite, putting our own wants, preferences, and likes behind the needs of others.  It is choosing the lowest place and being happy we’re there.   In Luke 14, after being invited to a supper by the Pharisees Jesus saw how everyone was choosing the places of honor at the table.  In response He said:

When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man’, and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place.  But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher’,  then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-10)

The true test comes when our “enemies” are exalted in some way.  When the people who annoy us and come against us get blessed are we frustrated?  Or do we rejoice when others are put in places of recognition above ourselves?  When we choose to rejoice it does something in our heart.  As we exercise that humility “muscle” we become strong in spirit and experience a deeper level of fellowship with Jesus.  In time, we will be exalted and vindicated by Jesus Himself.  But we much choose the lowest place.

3) Humility is being a servant.  When we use our energy to help others it requires meekness. Jesus showed this to us wonderfully in the Gospels when He fed the multitude in the wilderness by multiplying food.  Right before this event, Jesus’ best friend John (the Baptist) died.  He was tired and had been ministering non-stop for some time.  After hearing of John’s death Jesus took His disciples to a secluded place to rest and recover.  But as we see, the multitudes ran to find Him and crowded around Him with their needs.  In his humility, Jesus was “moved with compassion” for them and stayed with them the entire day.  Jesus put the needs of the multitude before His own.  This is seen everywhere in the Gospels.  Even the Sermon on the Mount was spoken after a completely sleepless night (Luke 6:12-20).

Those are three things I think of when it come to Meekness.

When God created humanity He put a desire within us to be great. We have tried to fulfill this longing in all the wrong ways but our desire to be great is not evil.  In fact, Jesus commended it.  When James & John came to Jesus and asked Him if they could sit at His right and left hand in His kingdom He responded:

“..to sit on My right hand and on My left is not mine to go give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father“.

There is a real position in the next age reserved for the most humble people on earth.  Jesus was setting the vision before them.  In essence, He was saying “Do you want to be great in my kingdom and sit at my right hand?  I’ll show you how.”

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.  Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.  And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to go His life a ransom for many.”  (Matt 20:25-28)

This is how we become great in God’s sight – by humbling ourselves and washing the feet of our brethren.  Though the earth is currently ruled by the proud and arrogant, a day is soon coming when “the meek will inherit the earth”.