The Carpenter's Son 5

Matthew 2:13

There were several occasions when I worked at the local newspaper where I was able to listen to police reports on the scanner as information came in regarding this car wreck or that accident. For the more serious collisions I was also exposed to photographs of the wreckage and often pictures of the deceased victims. Those were very disturbing times, and in those experiences I was made keenly aware of how quickly a life might end or be changed forever.

Life may be full of energy and strength, of courage and hope, yet at the same time life can be fragile. My experiences have forever affected my concern about my own children as they learn to drive or take my car to go here or there. I can’t help but fear for their safety.

The telling of the Christmas story each year usually ends before we get to this section of Matthew. The angels have announced the birth. Shepherds and wise men have arrived. And now an angel again speaks to Joseph. What does he say?

In spite of the fact that Jesus is God, that the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit, that shepherds and magi came to visit, the baby is still a human and vulnerable to human situations. King Herod has heard about this new king and fears for his throne. To solve the problem he will have all the infant boys in and around Bethlehem murdered in an attempt to stop this rival king.

To keep Jesus safe Joseph must pick up his family, his wife and young son, and go to a foreign land. We often overlook this part of the Bible, but in this moment in time Jesus was at serious risk. He could have been killed as an infant.

What does that tell us about our Savior? It doesn’t mean that he is weak. It doesn’t mean that he is not able. It doesn’t mean that he is not really God.

What it means is that he was completely human so that he would understand us and we might understand him. Jesus was human, so much so that his life was just as fragile and tenuous as our own, as an act of compassion and love.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Share your fears with Jesus.

The Carpenter's Son 4

John 11:35-36

A very early childhood memory of mine is the morning I awoke to the sounds of my mother in the kitchen crying. I went out into the kitchen. My father sat at the table silently and my mother was trying to keep busy at the sink and stove, all the while weeping and sobbing. Without a word I began crying too.

It wasn’t until several minutes later that I was told my mother’s friend had passed away. I simply knew that my mother was sad and I joined in with the grieving.

When grief and distress enters into our lives there is often very little another person can do to help resolve the situation and make the sorrow go away. Sometimes the only thing that can be done, and the only thing that really helps, is to join in the grieving. Such is the situation for Jesus when he discovers that his friend Lazarus is dead. What does Jesus do? What does that say about Jesus?

I have often made jokes about John 11:35. It is the shortest verse in the Bible and I have made comments and claims that it is the only verse in the Bible I am able to memorize.

In truth, however, the tiny verse is very significant. Even though it is the shortest verse in the Bible, I believe the two words speak volumes. They indeed tell us that Jesus loved his friend, Lazarus. But I feel they say more than that. They show us that Jesus – even though he is God – has the very deep and real ability to have sympathy and tenderness for each of us.

Jesus wept for the loss of his friend. I believe Jesus joins us in our weeping as well. When we suffer a loss, when we experience pain, when we feel sorrows, we can turn to our Lord and know that he completely understands what we are going through. He joins in our sorrows, and that is a great comfort to us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you grieve with those who are grieving?

The Carpenter's Son 3

2 Corinthians 1:6-7

Coming to our current appointment meant moving about 100 miles away from friends and family, but we felt that it was part of God’s plan. In spite of the distance we remain in contact, of course, with our relatives, but also with those who have been our friends for years. The separation has done nothing to diminish or weaken our connection. We still keep in touch and we are still as involved with the lives of those we love as much as we can.

Such an emotional connection is nothing new. In his second letter to the church at Corinth Paul explains the connection the believers share.

What causes distress for the believers outside of Corinth? What brings comfort? What confidence is shared?

The connection Paul describes may at first seem a bit confused and complex. In fact it is quite simple. Fellow Christian believers – those not in Corinth – may feel distress because they want the faithful in Corinth to be comforted. The believers are fretting over the well-being of the Corinthian church.

The believers can receive comfort when they know that the people in the church of Corinth have felt that reassurance of God’s presence in their suffering and struggles. Ultimately, all Christian believers face the same challenges, the trials and struggles of the world and of a tested faith. But all Christians also will share in the same comfort, the comfort of knowing God is with them.

We are little different from the First Century church, or the church from any time or place. We all face struggles and hardship, but we are all part of one family of God. We should take comfort in knowing that our Lord and Savior understands and sympathizes with all we have to go through.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Share comfort and encouragement with someone you know who is struggling.

The Carpenter's Son 2

Mark 14:32-34

Facing the unknown is very stressful, and it gets even worse when you must face it alone. I recall the times I have had to travel for ministry retreats and classes, going out of town to face a situation I was uncertain about. I was worried about what was required of me, and worried about my family left behind, and then I had to be on my own, with no one to share my anxiety.

Fortunately for us we have a God with so much compassion and love that He understands our fears. Jesus was in a situation of worry and fear in the Garden of Gethsemane. He has shared the Last Supper with his disciples and then taken them off to a secluded place where he might spend some time in prayer. What does he instruct his disciples to do? How is Jesus described? What does Jesus say of himself?

In some ways Jesus was facing the unknown. He undoubtedly had no experience with the sensation of death and the pain that was awaiting him. And, at the same time, Jesus knew exactly what was waiting for him, what would happen before too long. He knew the suffering he would go through.

How did Jesus react? He wanted to be with his friends for awhile. He wanted to confide in those closest to him, to confess his fears and anxiety. And then he wanted to be alone with God.

Jesus was upset. He feared. He was concerned and apprehensive. Does this make him less of God? I don’t think so. I think it makes him more.

Rather than seeing Jesus in this moment as weak and fallible, I see him as more empathetic with each of us. He was identifying with the types of trials and suffering any of us might go through, and because of that he is more accessible to all of us. It is easier to turn to Jesus in times of fear and stress, because he knows – he really knows – what we are going through. Jesus understands.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Is there anything overwhelming you with sorrow that you need to share with Jesus?

The Carpenter's Son 1

Matthew 13:55-56

Before I was married I lived on my own a few years. While living on my own, going to work and coming home to see nothing had changed since I left, I realized that there was no one around to help clean up the mess or cook the dinner. There was no one to talk to and no one to offer advice. While there were some freedoms to being on my own, I have often claimed that my time alone was not real life. It seems that it takes other people in your life to make it complete.

When we think of our Savior we often have a tendency to see Jesus as this lone man, this supernatural being, God in flesh, existing on a higher emotional and spiritual level than all the rest of us. While being aware of Jesus as God and remembering that he is part of the Holy Trinity is important and can give us some comfort in knowing of the omnipotent powers of God and Christ, it can also put some distance between us.

Jesus had a human side too, and in Matthew we see Jesus teaching in a synagogue. What are the details about Jesus we get from this passage?

Although completely God, Jesus was also completely human. He had the wisdom and the love and the abilities of God, yet he was like any one of us. He had a father who had a fairly ordinary job. He had brothers and sisters. Growing up he most certainly had to keep an eye on the younger kids now and then. He had to share a house and meals with the others.

There was likely love and laughter, as well as the occasional argument, the hurt feelings, the jealousy. Along the way there were times of joy and times of sorrow. Jesus was part of a family, sharing his life and living with others.

And while it is important to know Jesus is God, it is also important to know that Jesus was a human being. He understands what we are going through. He has experienced all the emotions and fears we have had, and his compassion – his love and comfort and mercy – is genuine and true, filled with complete understanding.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Did you have household responsibilities as a teen-ager? Can you imagine Jesus doing that same task?