Jesus — The Working Man
Peter the Great, Czar of all Russia, and in some respects the mightiest monarch of his day, used to make shoes like a common cobbler, that he might enter into sympathy with his people and help them to realize that labour is not menial, but honorable and full of dignity. It was a great stoop from the throne of Russia to a cobbler’s bench, but I will tell you of a greater.
We are told that God made the worlds by His Son, and that the Son upholds ‘all things by the word of His power’ (Heb. i. 2-3).
John tells us that ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made’ (John i. 1, 3). He is the Master Workman whom the Heaven of heavens cannot contain, inhabiting eternity (Isa. lvii. 15), stretching forth the heavens as a curtain, making mighty systems of sun, moon and stars, creating worlds and hurling them into the awful abysses of space and causing them to move, not in chaotic confusion, but in more than clock-like harmony, by the silent, resistless energy of all-embracing laws.
He scoops out the bed of mighty oceans, He tosses aloft hoary mountains and stretches forth vast prairies and sandy deserts. He peoples the worlds with living creatures, until the imagination is almost paralyzed by the contemplation of the wonders of His handiwork. He is Maker of the infinitely great and the infinitely small. He made the fixed star billions of miles away and millions of times bigger than the earth on which we live, and He made the tiny insect so small that it can be seen only by the aid of the microscope, and He fitted that little mite with its perfect organs of digestion, respiration and reproduction.
He garnished the heavens and stretches forth the rainbow, and He painted the insect’s wings and polished the lens of its little eye. Oh, He is a wondrous Workman!
But John tells us ‘The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth’ (John i. 14). And another writer: ‘Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; . . . For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren . . . ‘ (Heb. ii. 14, 16, 17).
And when He clothed Himself with our flesh, when He hid His dignity under the humble garb of our humanity, He did not come as an aristocrat, but He took a lowly place in a peasant’s home.
He alone of all the children of men chose His mother, and He chose one who was poor and humble and unknown amongst men. In His mighty descent from the bosom of the Father to the womb of the Virgin, He might have stopped at the throne of some mighty earthly empire, or among the rich and lordly; but instead of that He went down past thrones and palaces, and was born in a stable in a manger among the cattle, that He might not be other than the lowliest of His brethren. He came to a life of obscurity, of poverty and of toil, and He who made the worlds and upheld them by the word of His power, learned to be a carpenter.
The artists, when they paint a picture of Jesus, paint a face of almost womanly softness, and would picture Him to us as a delicate man, with hair parted in the middle and with patrician hands and tapering fingers; but the Bible rather pictures Him to us a horny-handed man of toil, whose back was bent to labour, and who earned His bread by the sweat of his brow. Bless Him! Indeed, ‘He was made like unto His brethren.’ He became brother to the humblest son of toil, and since He has been a working man, He has put a dignity on labour that exceeds the dignity of kings and queens.
Jesus was a working man, and as such understands working men. He knows their weakness, He has been pinched with their poverty, He can sympathize with them in their long hours of toil that bars them from that culture of mind which, no doubt, many crave. He understands. But while He suffered and toiled and was tempted and tried as His brethren, and was debarred from the luxuries of wealth and the culture of schools, yet He was not debarred from culture of the heart and fellowship with His Father. He could be pure, He could be holy, He could be loving and patient and kind and true, and He did this, dying for us to escape from our sins and become men after the pattern of Himself
We may not be great, but we may be good. We may not be able to erect a Brooklyn bridge or build a St. Peter’s, at Rome, but we can do our little task well and in the spirit of Jesus. We can be kind and patient, and faithful and true. We can become partakers of His Spirit, and do our work as unto Him, and by-and-by we shall enter into His glory, and we shall not be rewarded for the greatness of the work we have done, but rather for the faithfulness with which we have done it. The carpenter who has built houses; the blacksmith who has shod horses; the man who has carried a hod; the boy who has blacked boots; the clerk who has toiled over the ledger; the farmer who has plowed the fields and fed cattle: if he has done it faithfully, with his heart washed in the Blood and full of love for the Master and his fellow men, in the spirit of prayer and thanksgiving, will have as abundant an entrance into the everlasting Kingdom of Jesus the Carpenter, and will have a place as near the Throne as the man who preached the Gospel to thousands of governed states and ruled kingdoms.