A Bible Story: Joseph's Apprentice
Joseph's Apprentice Reflects On His Life And The Life of Joseph's Son Jesus....
We grew up in a small, secluded village which met with scorn from the outside world, and which the two of us found to be a great place to learn, though we looked forward to adult lives in the wider world of Jerusalem and beyond.
We were a contrast, but it was impossible not to love him, and he found it impossible not to love everyone with his seemingly effortless love, and his concentration on their every word and gesture.
There was a warmth in his home which was so attractive that it early on became the favored place to be when the infrequent rains drove us to shelter, as well as at any other time there was enough excuse to explain such additions to his welcoming household.
In all outward respects he was ordinary. He was neither handsome, nor unattractive. He could work as hard as any our same age, but he took delight in the quiet, peaceful moments he sought away from any group.
When he was working it was usually with his father Joseph. Joseph seemed to love him so much that other fathers were heard to remark that "he might be spoiling hat son." The son, however, was never known to arouse concern in any area of his character.
His relation to his mother was even more unique. If either parent was actually in danger of "spoiling" him, it would have been his mother. Even as he reached his maturity, it was as if she was still holding him in her heart as she had held him in her arms as a baby, and one could imagine that her beautiful voice singing softly as she went about her daily chores was a mixing of her love for her son and her love for her Heavenly Father. The light in her eyes as she observed him during the day, and listened to him in the evening, was somehow even more that that of a mother's love, though I had no idea that was possible.
Like his father, he had an affinity for working with wood. He worked so skillfully and quickly that pieces of wood seemed almost to dissolve into the shapes he intended. I had worked with his father as an apprentice, and it was as if I was apprenticed to the wrong master carpenter. The son, had he not been my contemporary, might have been a better choice of teacher.
At times we worked together and he was always encouraging me to greater excellence, telling me that one day I, too, could be a master carpenter and that others would come to me to apprentice.
I would laugh at that because I was convinced, even then, that I was more likely to be a "rough" carpenter than a finished one.
As we reached our full manhood, I married, moved from the village, had children, and settled in Jerusalem. My wife and I were living our dream. The temple mount was within a short walk and my work included some of the better paying jobs from our Roman occupiers.
It was with such a connection that I secured an ongoing contract to provide wooden crosses the Romans used to punish serious criminals and rebels. It was indeed "rough" carpentry, but it paid well and met our growing needs as our family grew and dealt with the needs of city life.
My wife at first complained about this particular contract, saying that it made me part of the Roman effort to crush those of our countrymen who were determined to overthrow Roman rule.
I countered that Roman rule was at least effective in holding down big city crime, and at least the Romans could be thanked for that. I was merely doing my part.
She had resigned herself to being looked down on by the wives of some of the other carpenters, and I helped her rationalize that they were just jealous that we had a contract which could have made their lives more comfortable.
We were content with our lives and could even help our aging parents who still lived in the secluded valley of our childhood. So it was that on one of our visits we were surprised to find the normally peaceful village in an uproar over the carpenter's son I had grown up with.
Some said that he had blasphemed in the synagogue, naming himself as the one foretold in the words of the prophets, while they knew he was only the son of Joseph the carpenter and Mary. So it was that the townspeople had chased him from the synagogue and he was now a wanderer carrying out the simple role of a Rabbi, teaching even the Syrians and Samaritans along with a group of men who traveled with him and hung on every word, even declaring him to be the promised Messiah.
On returning to Jerusalem, I heard that he was of no little fame even there, for it was said he had not only healed the sick, and cast out evil spirits, but had even raised a friend named Lazarus from the dead!
Stories such as these were not sitting well with theSadducees or the Pharisees, and then he did the unthinkable. He chased the money changers from the temple, calling them thieves and defilers.
I wondered why Jesus would do such things, this carpenter, son of a carpenter, oldest son in a loving and quiet family from our small, unassuming village where he had never acted any violence, nor uttered the words of a zealot.
I decided to avoid him as one might avoid a leper. He could not be anything but trouble, and, if it were to be known that I had apprenticed under his father Joseph, I would surely be regarded with suspicion by the already suspicious Romans and the resentful Sadduces and others he had offended.
Yet the rumors and affirmations that he might indeed be the hoped for Messiah, led a crowd to welcome him to Jerusalem calling him the promised one and hoping that he would directly challenge the Romans. When he turned instead to go again to the temple, the crowd dispersed except for a few stalwarts and those sent to ensnare him and bring cause for his arrest.
I caught a glimpse of him there at the temple. He seemed taller, more auhoritative, troubled perhaps, for there were lines of concern upon his brow, and the youthful, peaceful face I had known in our youth was swept aside by a certain majesty and resolve. It was a transition which, had I not seen it myself, I could not have believed.
Thus it was that a short time later, when I heard that he was once again accused of blasphemy and rebellion, and was under arrest, I joined in the throng which gathered in Pilate's courtyard to see whether or not he would condemn Jesus to death as the elders of Israel were demanding.
Pilate appeared determined to treat a zealot named Barabas as the enemy of Rome which he was, and seemed shocked that rather than Barabas the throng shouted for Jesus to be crucified in place of Barabas who would be set free despite his crimes under Roman law.
In his shocked disbelief, Pilate made a ceremony of washing his hands and mumbling that the seemingly fickle crowd must bear the responsibility for their choice. He probably also determined to have Barabas arrested again, as soon as possible.
It seemed Jesus looked directly at me for just an instant, and I glimpsed in my childhood friend that same look of tolerance and total love, but the new majesty and resolve remained. It had survived even under the hands of the cruel Romans who had mocked him so.
As hardened as I had become to the barbarism of the Romans, it was a personal moment for me. I reflected on his loving parents, the warmth of his home, the path which had led us both to our separate sides of my cross, his cross.
Never in a million years would I have guessed that our paths to Jerusalem would have led him to Golgotha and me to prosperity.
I resolved to take the income from his cross and find an unblemished lamb for sacrifice. It was the least I could do for him.
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