“Is this not the carpenter’s son?” Matthew 13:55
Carpenter’s Son – Why were the people offended by the teaching of Jesus? They certainly recognized His power and they were astonished at His authority. But they were still upset. Why? In order to grasp the answer to this question, we have to know a little about personal identity in the Jewish culture of Israel.
Did you notice that no one has any problem associating Jesus with His profession? No one asks, “Is this man a carpenter?” They expect Him to be a carpenter because His father was a carpenter. In first century Israel, the trade was passed from father to son down through the generations. So, if you met Jesus at a networking event, and you asked the typical “What do you do?” question, you might expect Him to reply, “I’m a carpenter.” That’s how we would answer the question. But that’s not how a Jew would answer the question. A Jew would answer the question, “I am a disciple of (someone). I make my living as a carpenter.” You see, the critical factor in personal identification was not the profession. It was the connection with a rabbi, a teacher of Torah. What a man did to earn a living was not nearly as important as who a man followed to learn Torah. When the crowd exclaims, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?”, they are really saying, “This man has no Torah pedigree. He’s just a carpenter. Where did He learn all this about the Torah?”
We might think that they dismiss Jesus’ teaching because they only recognize His profession, but we would be mistaken. There was nothing wrong with being a carpenter, or any other trade for earning a living. They object because Jesus does not follow a rabbi. He is not a disciple of someone else. They object because He teaches on His own authority!
The Greek New Testament uses the phrase, ho tou tektonos huios (son of the carpenter). But the people didn’t speak Greek. They spoke Hebrew and the Hebrew thought is not focused on the presence of a profession but rather on the absence of a teacher. No man stands on his own authority. No man speaks for God directly (except perhaps Moses). In their experience, every man who taught Torah stood on the shoulders of a previous rabbi. Jesus offends, not because He is a carpenter, but because He stands alone.
This little shift in our thinking should cause us to ponder how we describe our own identity. When someone asks you who you are, do you reply, “I am a disciple of Yeshua, and I work as a banker (or whatever you do)?” That’s the way a Hebrew would think. Why? Because life is not about professions. It is about getting into alignment with God. Professions and trades are only those things that put food on the table while I study God’s Word. They are the after-thought of existence.
In our Greek world, what we do takes priority. Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate that subtle language shift. We are called to be disciples of Yeshua. That is who we really are. All the rest is merely the supporting framework. Right?