The Young Woodworker
( Originally Published 1915 )
FOR EIGHTEEN years after the visit to the Temple, Jesus was living in Nazareth, growing up from a boy to a young man. A Jewish boy generally left his school at about thirteen years of age, and began working at some trade or business. Jesus went into Joseph's shop and helped in the work, making plows and ax-handles and rakes and the plain furniture for the houses. Whatever Jesus did was done well, and we cannot doubt that in his trade he soon became a skilful worker. His ax-handles and plows were as good as the best; and if he made a bushel measure, it was a true one, for Jesus was a boy that could be trusted.
As a boy, he was like other boys, playing happily in playtime and working heartily in work-time. Some boys like to be alone, reading and thinking and dreaming; but Jesus was not one of that kind. All through his life he liked to have people around him, and as a boy we may be sure he had many friends among other boys. He was strong, in good health, could run and jump and climb trees. With his boy friends he wandered among the mountains and upon the great plain just over the hills from his town. The Sea of Galilee was only twenty miles away, and we do not doubt that Jesus with his friends went fishing in its blue waters and brought home to his mother the fish which he had caught.
After a time, Joseph, the husband of Mary, died, and Jesus was left to care for his mother and her large family of children. It is no light load for one just coming out of boyhood and just beginning to be a man, to have laid upon him the earning of enough money to buy food for a mother and at least six younger brothers and sisters; and this was the load which the young Jesus took up. But although Joseph who had been a father to him was gone, Jesus knew that his heavenly Father was still with him, and he could call upon him for help in every need.
Jesus worked hard all the long days, but when the Sabbath day came, which among the Jews was Saturday, his shop was shut up and he sat on the floor of the village church, listening to the reading of the Old Testament and joining in the songs of praise. He took his turn as the reader at the desk, and as he read the lesson in Isaiah or Micah or Hosea, he saw meanings in the verses that others could not see, for in the long hours of the workshop he was thinking and praying and listening to the voice of God.
While Jesus was living this quiet life in the home and the shop some changes were going on in the land. The ruler in Galilee was Herod Antipas, the son of that wicked Herod who killed all the babies in Bethlehem; and he was very little better than his father. In Judea, the part of the land around Jerusalem, Archelaus, another son of Herod, ruled so badly that all the people sent to the Emperor Tiberius at Rome asking to have him taken away. The Jews hoped that they might then have rulers of their own people; but' the Emperor sent them a Roman governor, whom they did not like but dared not make angry. In many places through the land, especially in Galilee, where Jesus was living, some of the people refused to pay their taxes to the Roman empire, and began fighting against the rulers. They could not battle with the Roman armies, and hid in the woods and caves and mountains, but came out in bands and robbed the people on the roads. All through the land, north and south, were fear and trouble. The people were not contented with their rulers, and all hoped that the time was near when the Kingdom of God would come and their Roman officers and tax-gatherers would be driven away. They looked for a kingdom like the one over which David reigned a thousand years before, a kingdom with armies and victories over its enemies and a palace for the king.
But they did not know that in that little one-room house on the hillside of Nazareth, the King was waiting for his call to go forth and bring in the true Kingdom of God.