As we approach our celebration of God made man in Jesus Christ, I find that this little passage in Mark 6 is a wonderful picture of the mystery of God made man.
Although by the beginning of Mark 6 we have already seen ample evidence that Jesus is God, we see it here again: Jesus lays His hands on a few sick people and heals them. But perhaps the greatest miracle God ever performed, along with the Resurrection and Atonement, is for God to be made man. How God can squeeze His infinite Self into a bodily vessel such as yours or mine defies the human mind and imagination.
But this God who can command the wind and waves actually did become a man. And this is why it is important to know that Jesus was a carpenter. Those in His hometown of Nazareth knew Him not as the Son of God or the Messiah but simply and only as Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph and Mary’s son, the carpenter.
Jesus the carpenter has captivated the imagination of Christians for centuries, and rightly so. Because Jesus is truly a man, He had hands, and with these hands He worked. He Himself, by His divine hands, had fashioned the heavens and the earth and ordained that man should work for six days of the week. He Himself created the physical things of the world and declared them to be good. How fitting, then, that the Creator of the world should become part of it and show us the sanctity of work.
It has not escaped the attention of Christians over the years that the same medium, wood, in which Jesus worked in His life as a carpenter was the medium by which He was put to death. By His working with wood, of the things of the earth, Jesus taught us the value of the world to Him and of man’s labor in it.
There is a wonderful Nativity Hymn by Ephraim the Syrian, a 4th century Church Father, part of which is:
“Blessed by your coming, O master of workers everywhere.
The imprint of your labor is seen in the ark,
And in the fashioning of the tabernacle
Of the congregation that was for a time only!
Our whole craft praises you, who are our eternal glory.
Make for us a yoke that is light, even easy, for us to bear.
Establish that measure in us in which there can be no falseness.”
The next time your work seems boring or meaningless or drudgery or heavy, learn from Him who both created and redeemed human labor. Remember the hands that created not only carts and tables but also healed mankind. Remember the hands that were pierced and bled for you. “And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands!” (verse 2.)
Jesus as God is a wonder to behold, and so is Jesus the man. But it is God in man, the Incarnation of God Almighty of which we sing and which especially makes Christian hearts everywhere rejoice! Here is the greatest mystery and miracle and the greatest Christmas present of all: Immanuel, God with us, God in us!
I see this mystery at work not only in the life of Jesus of Nazareth but also in the lives of ordinary men. I see it even in the unbelief of the citizenry of Nazareth, in that mysterious verse, Mark 6:5, “Now He could no mighty work there . . . .” He could do no mighty work there because the people of Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown, lacked faith. Now God can and does perform His mighty works without our faith, and yet He has chosen to work through our faith, and not usually apart from it. This is another mysterious implication of the Incarnation.
This is St. Paul’s mystery of “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:9.) God’s grace is sovereign, and He will give it to whom He will give it. It is all from Him, and we in no way deserve it or can do anything to obtain it. This we know, and this is the divine side of Christ. We also know that God comes to us in our humanity, for He has laid His hands upon us and healed us. But it is in faith that the grace of God and the healing of man meet, faith which, though entirely of grace, is also a truly human response to this grace. God’s grace, received through faith, results in the healing of God’s people.
This is the miracle of Christmas, of God made man that man may be with God.
Let us rejoice because of the holy and loving hands of Jesus the Creator of the world and Jesus the carpenter. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10.)
Prayer: Blessed be the Wise One, who reconciled and joined the Divine with the Human Nature, one from above and one from below. Blessed be the One who blesses us with His nail-torn hands and hallows all human labor. Blessed be the All-Merciful One who by His grace has made us His work and made us in Christ Jesus to do the works of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. How can I set aside sufficient time to behold Jesus Christ this Christmas? It will be useful to remember that Christmas begins December 25th and lasts through January 5th (you have 12 days to celebrate and 12 days to meditate!)
2. Make specific preparations for how you can honor Christ by keeping a holy Christmas and one that is not polluted by the things of the world.
3. Reconsider your attitude toward the work that God has given you in life, in light of the labor of Jesus the carpenter.
Resolution: I resolve today to begin to ponder the meaning of Jesus Christ, God made man. Since this is such an immense mystery and blessing, I know that a few minutes on Christmas Day is not sufficient to devote to my Lord, and so I will meditate on Him today.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Christ in the House of his Parents by John Everett Millais, Wikipedia entry on Historical Jesus
Category: Give Us This Day