So far I’ve spent Lent catching up on my reading. Literally. That is, I’ve been reading things I never got around to reading before. Hence, currently I’m reading Meletios Webber’s “Bread & Water, Wine & Oil”. Certainly not a new publication but something I’ve been meaning to read nonetheless. Either I’ve been extremely busy or just lazy in getting around to reading some of this stuff. I’m afraid the latter is the case. Anyway, I hope to blog about it.
But just before that I did read something newly published: “The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ” by Patrick Henry Reardon. Surprisingly enough, I’ve seen quite a few Protestant bloggers out there already blog about this book. In place of the standard book review I would, instead like to offer a brief excerpt from this very fine book. By the way, I think it goes without saying that I recommend you go out (or, on Amazon as is the case) and get your copy this Lenten season!
In speaking about the humanity of Jesus, Fr. Patrick has to talk about the people in the life of Jesus and here he writes about his human father, Joseph:
Jesus’ family bore Joseph’s name. Although Matthew and Luke testified that Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, it was through him that both Evangelists traced Jesus’ family lineage (Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38). Jesus inherited the messianic title “Son of David”, not from Mary but from the man who served him – literally – in loco patris.
Jesus “was supposed” (enomizeto – Luke 3:23) to be “the son of Joseph,” Jeshua Bar Joseph (John 1:45; 6:42. When he first addressed the citizens of Nazareth, those in the synagogue inquired, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22).
Matthew provides an instructive variation on this question: “Is this not the craftsman’s son?” (Matthew 13:55). The underlying Greek noun here, usually translated as “carpenter”, is tekton, a term including any sort of builder, craftsman, or skilled worker – even a blacksmith. A tekton was someone who constructed and fashioned things with his hands.
In short, Joseph taught Jesus those cultivated manual talents summarized by George Eliot as the inheritance bequeathed from a craftsman father: “the mechanical instinct, the keen sensibility to harmony, the unconscious skill of the modeling hand.”
Joseph passed these technical skills on to Jesus, who was also known as a tetkton. A tekton was a man with talented hands, and Jesus’ hands could heal the sick and injured! Mark surely recognized the irony of calling Jesus a tekton in the context of his miracles and teaching: “And what wisdom is this which is given to him, that such mighty works are performed by his hands. Is this not the tekton?” (Mark 6:2-3, emphasis mine).
What more did Jesus learn from Joseph? Let me suggest that he also found in Joseph an ideal son of Abraham – that is to say, a man who lived, as Abraham did, by faith.
Consider the calling of Joseph. Every vocation is unique – in the sense that the Good Shepard calls each of his sheep by its own proper name – but there was something supremely unique in the vocation of Joseph, who was called to be the foster father of God’s Son and the protector of that divine Son’s virgin mother. Joseph’s vocation was not all that difficult; it was impossible! In a sense, Joseph had to figure it out as he went along, simply following God’s call, as best he could, wherever it led. He was obliged to leave the heavy lifting to God.
With so distinctive and demanding a vocation, Joseph might be excused, if, on occasion – the flight into Egypt, for instance – he felt anxious and insecure. The evidence, however, indicates that this was not the case. Joseph was not a person given to anxiety. He appeared, rather, as a man of extraordinary serenity. We find Joseph in five scenes in the gospel of Matthew, and every single time he is sound asleep (Matthew 1:20-24; 2:12, 13, 19, 22). Whatever troubles Joseph endured, they did not include insomnia.
Perhaps we see Joseph’s mark on Jesus – particularly the example of his serenity and simple trust in God – when we contemplate a later New Testament scene:
Now when they had left the multitude, they took Jesus along in the boat as he was. And other little boats were also with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat the boat, so that it was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. (Mark 4:36-38).