Friday, December 21, 2007

Isn't This The Carpenter?

The Christmas season is a time for reflection. I don't mind reflecting about the Christ as a baby in a manger, but I am inevitably led down the corridors of thought towards His life and work. I wrote this short piece a while ago, immersed in the ideas of work and professionalism.


There are lots of modern professions mentioned in the gospels: tax collecting, law, carpentry, building, teaching and money-changing are some of them. Most of us, if asked to talk about what professional qualifications Jesus had, would talk about Jesus the carpenter – but that’s not the whole story.

The only verse which mentions this is Mark 6:3. Matthew 13:55 has the people referring to Jesus as “the carpenter’s son”. We should probably draw the conclusion that Jesus, as Joseph’s legal son, was an apprentice carpenter. Being the sort of person he was, he would have been a good one. Yet, the whole New Testament doesn’t say anything else about carpentry, and Jesus the carpenter is someone we can only make assumptions about.

Perhaps Jesus the lawyer also comes to mind – Jesus, conducting brilliant defences and legal expositions against repeated accusations and traps made by Pharisees. The questions he tackled are relevant to us today: Matthew 12:1-14/Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-6/Luke 6:1-11 and Luke 14:1-6 have questions regarding the extent to which the law should control our behaviour; Matthew 19:1-12/Mark 10:1-12 are about divorce; and Matthew 22:15-22/Mark 12:13-17/Luke 20:20-26 are about taxation (a topic on everybody’s mind these days, which means that you should read what Jesus had to say about it).

Among the many professions though, Jesus was first of all a teacher. There are almost 90 verses in the Gospels which refer to Jesus as teacher. When he was in Jerusalem, he taught every day (Matthew 26:55, Mark 14:49, Luke 21:37). As in everything else, Jesus was good at teaching. He taught with amazing authority and gave good answers. Other so-called teachers of the law hated him and denounced him, but even then, some gave him positive reviews (see Mark 12:28-34 for one occasion). Mark 12:37 says “the large crowd listened to him with delight”.

This, then, is one reason why I am a teacher. Although I’m no master of the Law, I can learn many things about being a professional from Jesus. Like others who are lawyers and practitioners of healing arts, I can look in the gospels for concrete examples of how I should work while carrying out my professional duties. How to use a good analogy without carrying it too far, how to focus attention with a single statement, provoke listeners to think, make sure they remember, motivate an audience, give a well-structured lesson — all these things are found in courses taught at Institutes of Education; but they were also demonstrated long ago by the Master.

Professional attitude, professional conduct, professional lessons. As my grandfather once told me, “If you’re going to do anything, ask yourself this question: How would He have done it?” There are lots of books on how people should teach. If you want to read them, go ahead – but never forget that Jesus was a teacher too.

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Anonymous Becca said...

I remember reading that Jesus wasn't so much a carpenter, as we understand the word, but more like a builder. Hence Mary addressed him as "Rabboni" (John 20:16), it was derived from the Hebrew, meaning "Master Builder".

Saturday, December 22, 2007 1:43:00 am  

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