Sermon for Sunday Evening, October 1st, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
[Mar 6:1-6 ESV] 1 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” 5 And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.
G. Campbell Morgan was the minister before Martyn Lloyd-Jones at the Westminster Chapel in London. And I’ve been reading a “best of” collection of his writings.
He notes, in an excellent article, that there are two statements in the Bible regarding the years of Jesus’ youth.
Mark 6:3 and Matthew 3:17
“Is not this the carpenter?”
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Perhaps he missed another one. In our morning sermon I mentioned the passage about Jesus saying:
Luke 2:52 – “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
But, whatever verses are including in this category of “Jesus’ youth” we must admit that they are quite few in number. Indeed there is so little information on Jesus before his public ministry that a term is often giving to these years: “The Missing Years.”
We have the account of Jesus’ birth. And he have the story of him in the temple at age 12. And then we hear nothing until he is perhaps 30 years old starting his public ministry.
Have you ever wondered, what was Jesus doing before his public ministry. Particularly it is those years from 12 to 30 that are called “the missing years.” Presumably from ages 0 to 12 he was with his family. At some point Joseph passes away and is not mentioned any more. Mary lives on, even through Christ’s ministry and is there at his death.
So mysterious are the Missing Years that fanciful theories have developed. Maybe you’ve heard of these?
There is the theory that Jesus went to the Japan. According to one theory, Jesus didn’t die on Calvary but became a garlic farmer in Japan. Of course, this theory doesn’t address the missing years; it is applied AFTER Christ’s ministry.
But the same theory has it that Jesus studied Buddhism in Japan during his missing years and that he took those teachings back with him, and created sort of a hybrid between Judaism and Buddhism.
Well, the theory is bogus as you might have guessed. It probably originated among some missionaries in Japan in the 17th century.
There are also theories that Jesus went to India in missing years. This one originated, and was probably fabricated by a man in the early 20th century, claiming to have found a document in a Buddhist monastery that spoke of Jesus.
Even further back, in the 12th century in England someone wrote a tale of Jesus having spent his missing years in that country. The English have many fanciful legends about Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Grail, as you might know. And they also had this legend about Jesus visiting there. Why Jesus would want to leave warm Israel for rainy England, no one has ever figured out.
All of these theories are bogus because we know what Jesus did in the missing years. The Bible tells us, and it is simple: he was a carpenter. And you don’t just receive that title, day one working on the job. There is an apprenticeship and many years of work to be done before you are called “a carpenter.” So Jesus, perhaps at 12 years old or so, and perhaps after the death of Joseph, began to work as a carpenter. And he continued in that role until his public ministry. In Matthew’s Gospel (13:55) someone asks “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son.” So Joseph was a carpenter as well. As sons were likely to follow in the father’s footsteps. But Mark’s Gospel is more clear that Jesus HIMSELF was a carpenter.
But, what am I do with this? It is an interesting observation, but I like sermons to be practical, you might think.
Well, realize this … Jesus’s public ministry was about 3 years in length. His work as a carpenter was perhaps 18 years long. Do you relate to that better? Now, I’ve never held a job that long. I had two engineering jobs, each about 4 years long. And, now, here as the pastor in Unionville for 4 ½ years, this is the longest employment I’ve ever had! But maybe you’ve worked somewhere for 18 years. Or longer. You know the daily grind. You know the troubles of the job, the difficulty of moving on to anything else for your so engrained in the work there. Now, you can realize that Christ went through that. Repetitious work. Difficult work. Perhaps demanding bosses.
Well, I’ve heard some conjecture that Jesus wasn’t really a “carpenter.” There wasn’t much wood around. He was, they think, more of a stonemason. He could have been building one of the Roman cities arising in that area. We don’t know.
And then, in the old Nicene Father collections, the earliest writings of the church after the Bible, there is a reference I remember reading years ago. The Christians in the 2nd or 3rd century — at least one Christian anyways — believed that Jesus’ job as a carpenter was specialized to the making of yokes and a plows!
Imagine that. Jesus say “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” And he was a maker of plows! Well, perhaps he did make plows. But I think some early Christian may have confused the fact that Jesus spoke of yokes in his ministry and took this to mean he actually made yokes.
So Jesus was a carpenter.
And the next thing we hear of him, before the ministry work begins in full force, is from God the Father saying from Heaven: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Of course Jesus had lived a perfect life.
God was pleased with Jesus for his holiness.
And God was pleased with Jesus for his attitude, and his love of others, etc.
But no doubt also, God was pleased with Jesus for his carpentry!
What a great understanding we have here of the nature of vocation. Work is good! Work is not a burden put on your by society. Work is not something just for the poor people to do, such that you should strive to be high society and “eat, drink, and be merry” all day without work. But rather, WITH OUR WORK we may please God! Or to say that another way, our work may be pleasing to God.
So we should do our work well!
G. Campbell Morgan points out another fact regarding Jesus and his work as a carpenter. That is, “Jesus WORKED FOR A LIVING.” For those long 18 years, Jesus got up every day but for the Sabbath rest, and went to work. He paid his way. He worked his way. Just like Paul. Paul was a tentmaker, Jesus was a carpenter.
Morgan points out this as well: “All toil is holy if the toiler be holy.” The Shop in Nazareth, not the monastery, is where Jesus spent most of his time. For Jesus these were not “missing years.” He was not MIA – missing in action. He was active. And Jesus spent more time WORKING in the shop than any thing else that he did.
The Lord was indeed preparing Jesus for greater things, but the work itself was a great thing.
So we can pray that God both prepares us for greater things through out work, AND bless us IN our work.
Let us do our present work faithfully. Let us work for the Lord where He has called us.
Finally, and this quote really struck me when I read it, Morgan says “God’s will, for me is in the carpenter shop, and therefore that is the place of my joy.”
We are to be satisfied in what the Lord has brought to us.
And let us turn that quote to our circumstances
“God’s will for me is in the house where I care for my family, and therefore, that is the place of my joy.”
“God’s will for me is in the office, or in the factory, or in the field, and therefore that is the place of my joy.”
Let us, forever and always, and in all places, have joy in the Lord.
And pray that in us God is well pleased, as he sees Christ working in us.
Let us pray.