By Elizabeth Prata
I wrote a short bit about Joseph, foster-father of Jesus, and posted Gari Melchers’ painting of The Nativity.
Now, I will mention just this. In biblical times (now, too), the son took on the father’s profession. The tailor’s son became a tailor. The butcher’s son became a butcher. The blacksmith’s son became a blacksmith. The fisherman’s son became a fisherman. My own father, and his father before him, became a funeral director.
Many professions are mentioned in the New Testament. Tentmaker, tanner, lawyer, merchant, silversmith, coppersmith, governor, soldier, shepherd, scribe, tax-collector, seller of purple, potter, all those professions and more populate the pages.
Of all the professions God could have chosen for the foster-father of Jesus to be, and then Jesus himself, God chose carpenter.
Why not Shepherd? After all, Psalm 23:1 explicitly identifies the Lord as a metaphorical shepherd. Why not an actual one? It was a frequently mentioned profession. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Amos, and even Rachel were shepherds. The motif was huge. But no. He is the Good Shepherd, but not a shepherd.
Many of the disciples were fishermen…but God did not choose for Jesus to be a fisherman, even though He became a fisher of men.
Tax collectors were hated, and Jesus was destined to be rejected and hated, but God did not choose for Jesus to be a tax collector.
On a brief side note, we know that Jesus knew of His mission. He was there to follow God’s will. He said as much in the first NT recorded words of His incarnation: Did you not know I must be about my Father’s business? (Luke 2:49). He knew who His Father was and He knew what he was there to do. And He said later at the Wedding at Cana, before He began His public ministry, “My time has not come.” (John 2:2). We know He knew of his life, and his death. It would be on that most painful grotesque, cursed methods of execution, nailed to a tree. Even death on a cross.
So, as Jesus grew and learned His foster-father’s trade, as the carpenter pounded nails every day, did He wonder about the nails that were to pierce Him? Did He see the holes in the wood even as he took over Joseph’s shop upon Joseph’s death? Did He think about the holes in His hands and feet as he worked in the wood shop? He said in the Garden of Gethsemane upon the night of His arrest, that His spirit was willing, but his flesh was weak. Always the nails were before Him.
Jesus had an entire lifetime to see wood and nails, and to keep the method of his painful death always before His eyes.
Praise Him to the highest for His love.