Did Jesus Really Do That?

In many children’s Bibles we see images of a young Jesus with his earthly father Joseph sawing wood, and hammering nails as Jesus learned the profession of Joseph. In our english Bibles we read the Nazareth crowd ask “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary?” (Mt. 13:55) Jesus’ earthly profession has no bearing on his status as the Savior of the world, but exploring his profession may shed new light on some of His teachings.

The Greek word in question here is tekton which early english translators rendered as carpenter. In reality, the word is more accurately translated as craftsman or builder. With all fairness to the early translators, a carpenter is certainly a craftsman and builder, but this word was translated outside of the first century Jewish context in which it appears.

A quick Google search of first century Jewish villages will show you exactly what houses were made of: stone. Now this doesn’t mean that Jesus never made anything out of wood, but we have to remember that trees are scarce in that part of the world. Jesus most certainly wasn’t constructing wood framed housing. Hebrew scholar James Fleming puts it this way: “Jesus and Joseph would have formed and made nine out of ten projects from stone either by chiseling or carving the stone or stacking building blocks.”

What’s the point of all of this? Again, knowing what a tekton actually did has no bearing on Jesus role as Messiah, but notice how the Psalms foretold, and how Jesus described himself: “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone?’ Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed. ” (Lk. 20:17-18, Ps. 188:22) Peter also uses this verse in Acts 4. Later Peter would write: “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” – (1 Pt. 2:4-5)

Can you see Jesus holding you in His strong stone mason hands, looking you over, and carefully chipping away your rough edges until you are the perfect fit in the kingdom He is building? He knows where best to place you, how to cover your flaws, and how to shape you into exactly what you need to be.

In all things, we need to remember that we serve the perfect Savior of the world, the perfect builder of God’s kingdom, and the only name by which we can be saved. And maybe we should also keep in mind the words of the children’s song, “He’s still working on me, To make me what I need to be.”

Jesus’ Scandalous Family History

I was reminded this week that where we come from matters. While having lunch with a friend we were discussing our backgrounds…where we grew up, what we enjoyed doing as kids, and we found some common ground that we didn’t know we had. Where we come from matters.

Matthew starts his gospel off with a genealogy of Jesus that tells the reader where he came from. In the genealogy we learn that Jesus came from the lineage of many great names that the Jewish world would remember: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Solomon. Matthew also includes the names of some Gentiles, some women, and some rather scandalous events that occurred. “Zerah (whose mother was Tamar)” was born as a result of her grandfather sleeping with a prostitute who just happened to be his own daughter-in-law. The child born of this sinful act wound up being an ancestor of Jesus (Gen. 38).

Rahab was a prostitute that helped save two Israelite spies as they entered the city of Jericho. The Israelites spared her and her family for her kindness, and she wound up marrying a guy named Salmon, with whom she had Boaz. Boaz eventually married a gentile woman named Ruth and the two of them had children and grandchildren, one of whom was King David. (Joshua 2, Ruth 4). King David committed adultery with a woman named Bathsheba, had her husband killed, and the two of them had a child named Solomon, also an ancestor of Jesus (2 Sam. 11).

There are other names we could mention, but Matthew does something here that is highly unusual. We think of genealogies as being fixed…we trace our ancestors generation by generation. Matthew doesn’t. He includes three people from the same generation, as well as leaves a few generations out in order to provide for us these specific names so we would know where Jesus came from. But he does something else amazing as well that we miss with our english eyes.

The number 7 in scripture indicates perfection, completeness, and God’s involvement (think about creation). Ray Vander Laan points out that when you look at Matthew’s genealogy in Greek, here’s what you find:

The number of words in Jesus’ genealogy is evenly divisible by 7. The number of words that begin with a vowel is evenly divisible by 7. The number of words that begin with a consonant is evenly divisible by 7. The number of letters used is evenly divisible by 7. The number of vowels used is evenly divisible by 7. The number of consonants used is evenly divisible by 7. The number of words that occur more than once is evenly divisible by 7. The number of words that occur only once is evenly divisible by 7. The number of nouns is evenly divisible by 7. The number of non-nouns is evenly divisible by 7. The number of proper names is evenly divisible by 7. The number of male names is evenly divisible by 7. The number of female names is evenly divisible by 7. The number of words beginning with each letter of the alphabet is evenly divisible by 7. If you add up the value of all the letters (because they used letters for numbers) it is evenly divisible by 7.

Even though some of the readers of Matthew’s gospel may have turned up their noses at the genealogy of Jesus, Matthew is telling us it was perfect, and orchestrated perfectly by God.

Where we come from is important, and God has put you in this world in just a way that you too can do something great in His Kingdom. We look at the dark spots in our backgrounds as an obstacle, but God uses those dark spots to save the world. Where we come from is important, but God’s more interested in where we’re going.