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.”