Is not this the carpenter’s son?
– Matthew 13:50
For a man that is not given to say much in the Scriptures (indeed, Joseph is not recorded in any of the Biblical texts as saying anything), he is certainly a man that has much to say to us even today.
A wise person knows it is the one who holds his speech that has the most to reveal.
May 1st is recognized throughout much of the Church body as the feast day of Saint Joseph the Worker. While the feast day of Saint Joseph the Husband of Mary is generally celebrated on March 19th (You can read my blog post from that day by clicking this link Joseph – More than a Carpenter, “Terror of Demons,” Guardian of God and Protector of Christ’s Church), many choose to honor this Guardian of Jesus on this day in a particular way that denotes his humanity. I would argue, this distinction is well warranted. For there is much we can gain about the divinity of our Lord through the spirit of revelation in looking at Joseph’s humanity.
The Rejection of Jesus is noted in each of the four gospels and has become a central point of division among various communities in the Church body regarding the perpetual virginity of Jesus’ mother Mary. For the sake of time, I will save that portion of the texts for another post. What I hope to encourage you with today is something that quite often gets lost if we become too narrowly focused.
In Matthew 15:53-58 we encounter the Rejection of Jesus, saying “Is not this the carpenter’s son?”
And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there,54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
But Matthew’s story is not the first accounting of this rejection. The Gospel of Mark actually recorded it first in chapter 5 verses 1 through 6, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?”
He went away from there and came to chis hometown, and his disciples followed him.2 And don the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and emany 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 fIs not this gthe carpenter, the son of Mary and hbrother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And ithey took offense at him.4 And Jesus said to them, j“A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”5 And khe could do no mighty work there, except that lhe laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.6 And mhe marveled because of their unbelief.
The discrepancy is subtle, at first, but perhaps you will notice it further in the context of Luke’s Gospel (4:14-30).
Following the infamous reading of Isaiah in the temple, Jesus announces he is the fulfillment of the prophecy and sits down, an act that is only recorded in the Gospel of Luke interestingly enough all on its own but again for another post. The people are in awe. Verse 22 tells us: “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.”
When we list these responses in order of first recording, we can begin to catch a glimpse at what the Spirit is revealing.
First, Jesus is only seen among his own people as “the carpenter, the son of Mary.”
How often do we look at him as such?
Rather than affirm the works of one among us, whom we have seen grow in wisdom, we see only the current status and the markings of their past, a lowly carpenter and his controversial mother. “How are such mighty works done by his hands?”
And like those who had the closest proximity to him, we reject them both.
But then, that Spirit of wisdom and revelation the Apostle Paul so adamantly prays will come to us all in Ephesians 1:17 returns to us once more and reveals to us through Matthew, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?”
The terms ‘carpenter’ and ‘son of a carpenter’ are used in the Jewish Talmud to signify a very learned man, and suggests that a description of Joseph as ‘naggar’ (a carpenter) could indicate that he was considered wise and highly literate in the Torah.
When we look again with new eyes by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation we can see beyond the carnal response of the mind. We can see there is always more to be revealed.
Jesus is the carpenter’s son. He is both son of God and son of man.
Jesus was not only the son of Mary, he was the son of a carpenter, a learned man of noble character. Joseph was a wise and highly literate Jewish man of the word, the Torah. He no doubt would have encouraged and nurtured Jesus in his Torah studies. He was more than provider of shelter, Guardian of his well being, Joseph was also Guardian of Jesus’ wisdom. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?”
Now we can see, there is more here than a lowly carpenter and his mother, there is a wise and learned man who leads them both. And who is this man?
In the papal exhortation Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer), Pope John Paul II pointed out that as legal guardian of the child Jesus, Joseph fulfilled all the obligations that entailed: in having his son circumcised according to the law, in conferring a name upon him, and in presenting him in the Temple at the proscribed time.
The growth of Jesus “in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man” (Lk 2:52) took place within the Holy Family under the eyes of Joseph, who had the important task of “raising” Jesus, that is, feeding, clothing and educating him in the Law and in a trade, in keeping with the duties of a father. …For his part, Jesus “was obedient to them” (Lk 2:51), respectfully returning the affection of his ‘parents’. In this way he wished to sanctify the obligations of the family and of work, which he performed at the side of Joseph.
We can see this same spirit of revelation at work once more in the Gospel of Luke when we read “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
Though this incident does not appear at all in the Gospel of John, we read in a parallel story the disbelieving neighbors refer to “Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know” (John 6:41–51).
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
– Ephesians 1:17
If we are to believe the scriptures, the law and the prophets, and the words of our Lord when he says, “Ask and it shall be given to you,” then we can follow the example of the Apostle Paul and ask God to give us that same Spirit of wisdom and revelation, not for our own sake but “so that [we] may know [Jesus] better.”
The life of our Lord is filled with mysteries, like his time in Egypt, and his growth as a young man, among many others. These are all mysteries that we are invited to have revealed to us as sons and daughters of God (Read again Matthew 13:11). Mysteries that upon there revealing, help us to know the whole God-man, and the greater works of His Kingdom.
It’s no coincidence Matthew shares the Rejection of Jesus following immediately after the telling of his Parables. A story tells as much about the storyteller as it does the one listening. To truly understand the story, you must get to know better the storyteller. If we become too familiar with the lines and try to fill in the story for ourselves, we risk losing the mysteries the storyteller planned to reveal.
Just as Jesus’ sonship was revealed slowly among those who rejected him, his revealing continues today to all mankind through the Gospels by the same Spirit of wisdom and revelation. The more we come to know him better, the more we see his treasures hidden in the word.
We are not only invited to “know him” but we are invited to “know him better,” not just as the son of God, but as a lowly carpenter (as Mark did), as a son of Mary (like Matthew did), as Joseph’s son (as Luke saw), and as knowing both his father and mother (as the Beloved Disciple John reveals).
Love is an invitation to not only know the One we love but to also love those they love.
The beauty of the human nature is that it becomes love by being loved. Jesus was deeply loved by those who did not reject him. Let us ask the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to reveal to us how him who first loved us became love in human form by those who first loved him.
“Together with Mary, Joseph is the first guardian of this divine mystery. Together with Mary, and in relation to Mary, he shares in this final phase of God’s self-revelation in Christ and he does so from the very beginning.” “The Gospels clearly describe the fatherly responsibility of Joseph toward Jesus. For salvation-which comes through the humanity of Jesus-is realized in actions which are an everyday part of family life… All of the so-called “private” or “hidden” life of Jesus is entrusted to Joseph’s guardianship.” – Redemptoris Custos
In light of the mysteries of our faith, it cannot be at all coincidental that our Lord’s earthly father was a man who said little and guarded much, while his mother was known to do the same and ponder much. What more might these Guardians reveal to us about becoming daily Gatekeepers of Wisdom and humble Carriers of the Father’s Heart?
When we come to know and love his father and mother, we will know better this Jesus the son of Joseph, the carpenter’s son.
Lord, help us to know you better. Give us a Spirit of wisdom and revelation that in seeing your mother and father in the light of your eyes they might also reveal to us your sacred heart. For both obeyed God’s will immediately and completely, so that God may be glorified. And both lived very simply, virtuous, and humble lives. Holy Spirit, come, give us obedient hearts so that, like Mary and her husband Saint Joseph, we may join you in bringing glory to the Father in Heaven. Amen.
Until the Day Dawns and the Shadows Flee,
“St. Joseph is the model of those humble ones that Christianity raises up to great destinies;…he is the proof that in order to be a good and genuine follower of Christ, there is no need of great things-it is enough to have the common, simple and human virtues, but they need to be true and authentic.”
– Pope Paul VI
If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy these also:
- The Gardener’s Son – Woman, Why do you weep?
- Joseph – More than a Carpenter, “Terror of Demons,” Guardian of God and Protector of Christ’s Church