Reading Mark 6:3, I began to reflect on the significance of Jesus spending so much of his time on earth working with his hands in a carpentry shop. Here was the Son of God sent to earth on a redemptive mission of seeking and saving the lost, of proclaiming the gospel, yet he spent the vast majority of his years on earth making things in an obscure carpentry shop. We know from Luke’s Gospel that even at the age of twelve, Jesus was demonstrating his amazing rabbinical brilliance to the brightest and best in Jerusalem (Luke 2:47). How did Jesus’s brilliance fit in with a carpentry career? At first glance this doesn’t seem to be a very strategic use of the Son of God’s extraordinary gifts or his important messianic mission. Why was it the Father’s will for Jesus to spend so much time in the carpentry shop instead of gracing the Palestinian countryside, proclaiming the gospel and healing the multitudes?
The New Testament records Jesus spending only about three years in itinerant ministry, what we might refer to as full-time vocational ministry. But for the many years before that, Jesus worked as a carpenter.
When we contemplate who Jesus really is, his joyful contentment to work with his hands day after day constructing things, making useful farm implements and household furniture in an obscure Nazareth carpentry shop, we find him truly stunning. Jesus’s work life tells us that he did not think being a carpenter was somehow below him or a poor use of his many gifts.
It is all too easy for us to overlook the fact that Jesus knew what it meant to get up and go to work every day.
This article is adapted from Work Matters, by Tom Nelson.