The Carpenter’s Son And His Relations
“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His , James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where, then, has this Man all these things?”
Matthew 13:55, 56
WHEN our Savior was upon this earth, there were some persons who, having had their eyes Divinely opened, could see His true beauty and who admired His every action and said, “He has done all things well.” But there were others whose eyes were blinded by sin, malice and prejudice who could see nothing good in Him at all. Because He ate and drank as other men did, they said, “Behold a gluttonous Man and a winebibber.” They said that His zeal was only pretence or else madness–and when He cast out evil spirits by His Almighty Power, they said, “He casts out devils through the chief of the devils.” There were some who wondered at His wisdom and His mighty works and who did not know whether to consider Him a Prophet of God or a Divine Being. But there were others who could only see the carpenter’s human son, whose mother’s name was Mary and whose brothers and sisters were all well-known, ordinary people. The language of the text is the language of many who are living today–for while others see in Christ everything to admire–these quibblers see no beauty in Him and put Him on a level with others with whom they are acquainted.
It seems to me that we have here two views of Christ’s Person–the estimation of Prejudice and the estimation ofPiety. And two views of Christ’s relations, in which we also have the estimation of Prejudice and the estimation of Piety.
- First, we will consider THE TWO VIEWS OF CHRIST’S PERSON–the view of Prejudice and the view of Piety.
Prejudice could not dispute the fact of Christ’s wisdom and mighty works, so it sought to disparage Him by saying, “After all, He is only a carpenter’s son, just the son of an ordinary artisan. Shall a Prophet rise up from among the chips in the carpenter’s shop? Shall we sit at the feet of the Man who is simply a toiler at the carpenter’s bench?” Prejudice may seem very wise in its own esteem, but it is really very foolish. To be prejudiced against a truth because of the lowly originof Him who proclaims it is most manifest folly! Is a pearl to be rejected because it was found in a shell that is itself of no value? Would not a wise man pick up a diamond from a dunghill if he saw one flashing there? Even if the occupation of a carpenter had been a degrading one, which it certainly was not, yet, if his son has something to say that is worth hearing, is he not a fool who will not listen to it because it is uttered by the carpenter’s son? If from the lips of Jesus of Nazareth a stream of Divine Wisdom was poured forth, is it not most flagrant folly to refuse to receive it because He was reputed to be the son of Joseph the carpenter? If He speaks as no other man ever spoke. If His Doctrine is more sublime than that of any other teacher. If the morality which He inculcates is more pure and more heavenly than that of any other leader of men, what matters it that He is the carpenter’s son?–
“He whom man with scorn refuses,
Whom the favored nation hates,
He it is Jehovah chooses,
Him the highest place awaits!
Kings and princes
Shall do homage at His gates.”
But while Prejudice is thus very foolish, it is also very frequent. There are many persons who put an extinguisher onthe candle and then try to light it. For instance, in listening to a certain preacher, they make up their mind that he cannot say anything that can be beneficial to them–and then they wonder that they are not edified! It would be a wonder if they were! Those who hear the Word only to cavil at it will probably be left to cavil to their life’s end, for while the Spirit of God explains difficulties to the sincere seeker after the Truth of God, those difficulties which men, themselves, make often lead them to make more and more so that they continually plunge deeper and yet deeper in the mire. But what a dreadful thing it is that prejudice makes men even object to the Gospel of Christ! They say that it is so simple, so commonplace that it will not do for them. I have heard some who ought to know better say, when they have heard the simple Gospel preached, “Oh, yes! ‘Believe and live’ is a very proper message to the multitude, but something more profound than that is needed for thinking men!” Meaning themselves, as if they were the only thoughtful people in the world. Well, Sirs, if you are prejudiced against the Gospel because of its simplicity, may God disarm that prejudice and bring you to see that it is its simplicity which is its Glory and which makes it that means of rescuing sinners from the ruin into which their guilt has sunk them!
Prejudice against Christ is also exceedingly sinful. If it really is true that He is the Son of God, it is very shameful that He should not have a hearing because He stooped as low as to become “the carpenter’s son.” If the magnificence of His benevolence led Him to empty Himself and to be despised and rejected of men, shall the splendor of His love close my ears to the message of salvation that He sends to me? That He who was One with His Father in Glory should condescend to lie as a Baby in Bethlehem’s manger and to go about among men as the reputed son of the carpenter of Nazareth is cause for reverence, for admiration, for love, for gratitude! Yet some for this very reason are prejudiced against Him! If the Gospel had been suitable only to philosophers and men of learning, what a vast majority of mankind would have been left without any hope of salvation! Shall that Almighty Grace which has made it a Gospel suitable to all classes and conditions of men become a reason why prejudice shall turn its back upon it? Surely it is better to be saved by “the carpenter’s Son” than to be lost–better to enter Heaven through Him who was “despised and rejected of men” than to be shut up in Hell through not believing in Him! Better to receive a crown of life from the hand of Him who was crucified on Calvary than to receive the sentence of condemnation from the mouth of the Judge when He sits upon the Great White Throne in all the Glory of His Father and of His holy angels!
If any of you, dear Friends, have a prejudice against any form of Scriptural Truth, I pray you to shake it off. We are all apt to be prejudiced in one way or another, and it needs great Grace to keep us clear of the evil, so let us be on our guard against it. Give the Gospel a fair consideration and very especially and impartially weigh in the scales of sound judgment the Doctrine of the Atoning Sacrifice of Christ. Sit down at the foot of the Cross and study the wounds of Jesus–and do not pour contempt and scorn upon Him until you have found good reason to do so–and that I am sure you never will do. Shake off all prejudice, again I entreat you, for it is a deadly disease which may prove eternally fatal to you.
Now let us turn away from Prejudice and see what Piety thinks concerning Christ. As Piety asks, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” she admires His condescension. Piety is not ashamed of Jesus of Nazareth even though she supposes thatHe worked in the carpenter’s shop. On the contrary, she is full of admiration for the Son of God who stooped so low as to be known as the son of Joseph and who, in that capacity, was obedient to His earthly parents and assisted in the manual labor in which the carpenter engaged. Piety does not think any the less of the Savior because He wore the garb of a workingman, but she considers it to be to His honor that He laid aside His honor! And she regards Him as having more Glory when He laid aside His Glory than when He wore it! I long to see my Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven, but I think I would almost as gladly have seen Him in the carpenter’s shop. I delight in the thought that I shall see Him on the Throne of God, but I sometimes wish that I could have seen Him on the Cross, for it was there that His love reached its climax as He bore our sins in His own body on the tree!
Piety is all the more pleased with Christ because when He condescended to be a Man, He joined the working classes.There are and always will be, and very properly so, different social grades among men, but the difference between a carpenter and a gentleman is, to my mind, so slight that I cannot perceive it. We are all very much alike when we are sitting in the House of God, and when we are lying upon the bed of sickness–and especially when we are sleeping in the silent tomb. Yet, if our Savior had come to this earth as one of the upper classes of society, I can fancy my lords and ladies saying, “Oh, yes! We have much fellowship with the King of the Jews as we think how He rode through Jerusalem in His gorgeous chariot of State attended by such a brilliant retinue!” But I can imagine how working men might then have said, “He has little or nothing in common with us. He does not know what it is to earn His daily bread by hard manual labor.” But “the carpenter’s son” says, “Oh, yes! I do know that and I understand your ways, and I am more familiar with poverty than many of you are! Most, if not all of you, have a home to go to when your day’s work is done, but I had not where to lay My head, so you are better off than I was.” Jesus of Nazareth can fully sympathize with the poorest of the poor, yet at the same time He is higher than the highest in the land, for He is King of kings and Lord of lords! Those who have the greatest intellectual power may well sit at His feet, for He is Incarnate Wisdom! And the feeblest and poorest may draw near to Him even as they did when He was upon the earth. We who toil mentally and you who toil physically may rejoice that Christ also was a toiler. When I see a notice about sermons to working men, I think to myself, “Well, whoever else is or is not a workingman, I know that I am one and that I work very hard.” It is quite a mistake to suppose that those of us who do not carry burdens on our backs, or follow the plow, or wield an axe do not, therefore, work! The most wearing kind of work is that which has to do with the brain and the mind, so I claim the Savior as having fellowship with me! And you workers who have His name, have Him all the better because He also was a worker! He was no lazy lieabed, He was not one who slept and dawdled away His time. He toiled at the carpenter’s bench and afterwards He said of His life’s service, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day.” “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.”
Piety is grateful to Christ for being “the carpenter’s son” because she recollects that He is the type of the Kingdomwhich He governs. When the carnal eye looks at Christ, it sees only a carpenter–but the spiritual eye can see “the King in His beauty” in the garb of a workingman. He who saws the wood and guides the plane and drives the nails is the Great Creator, without whom was not anything made that was made! What was true of Christ is in a measure true of His Church and of His Gospel, too. The Church of Christ often appears to be merely a company of obscure and insignificant folk, yet that Church is “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” and that Gospel which is often despised because of its simplicity is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.” The outward show of the spiritual Kingdom is very little even as it was when Christ was known as the son of a carpenter, yet all the while He was the Son of God from Heaven. I do not know if I can get this Truth of God into the mind of every Christian here, but I should like to do so. The outward form of the Christian Church and the mere letter of Gospel Doctrine may appear to be poor and mean–just so–it is the Carpenter’s Church and the Carpenter’s Gospel, but “the carpenter’s son” was the Son of God, and as He is in His Church we may say of it, “Jehovah-Shammah,” “The Lord Is There,” and the preaching of the Gospel is no mere repetition of the dull, dead letter, but it is God marching forth in Majesty proclaiming mercy to every sinner who believes in His Son, Jesus Christ! Be you content to remain unknown Christian–this is the Carpenter’s Kingdom–the Kingdom of the King in His Glory is yet to be revealed–
“It does not yet appear
How great we must be made!
But when we see our Savior here,
We shall be like our Head.”
“Is not this the carpenter’s son?” Yes, it is, but there is a Divine splendor concealed beneath that lowly form! Someof the early fathers and old writers used to delight in expressing strange ideas concerning “the carpenter’s son.” Julian the apostate, as he is called, once asked a certain Christian, “What do you think the carpenter’s son is doing now?” “Making coffins for you and for all His enemies,” was the prompt reply. If that is not literally what He is doing, we may depend upon it that it will go ill with those who say of Him, “We will not have this Man to reign over us,” for we remember the solemn conclusion of the parable of the pounds, “Those Mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring here and slay them before Me.” One old writer says, “Christ was a Carpenter and a rare Carpenter, too, for He made a ladder that reaches all the way from earth to Heaven–and up that ladder souls are continually ascending to the palace which He has gone to prepare for them!” That is a quaint way of describing how Christ has bridged the gulf between guilty sinners and their offended God by His atoning Sacrifice! Happy are they who not only admire the ladder, but who trust themselves upon it and so are brought safely home to God in Glory!
II. Now, in the second place, we are to consider THE TWO VIEWS OF CHRIST’S RELATIONS. And again we shall speak of the view of Prejudice and the view of Piety.
These men were not content with asking questions about Christ, Himself, but they also made enquiries concerning His relations. They said, “Is not His mother called Mary?” She was a very excellent woman who was highly honored in being the mother of Jesus, but there seems to be something of disdain or contempt in the question, “Is not His mother called Mary?” Then there were His brothers–very commonplace sort of folk, the questioner seemed to imply. “Why!” said one, “I know all of them! James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas, but who are they?” “Well,” said another, “I know His sisters, and there is nothing remarkable about them, so there probably is nothing special about Him. Look at His relations, what are they but just a carpenter’s wife and family? It is true that they belong to the tribe of Judah and that they are of the house and lineage of David, but they are not the kind of people to be invited into the upper circles of society! So there is no reason why we should take any notice of the carpenter’s son.”
Now, that type of prejudice still exists in the world. We do not hear much said nowadays against Christ’s natural relations, but it is His spiritual relations who now come under the ban of Prejudice. “Yes,” men, say, “this evangelicalDoctrine certainly has a very singular power to attract the multitude. In the hands of Luther it worked a very remarkable Reformation. It is true that the preaching and writings of Calvin carried this Gospel into the hearts of vast numbers of hearers and readers–and we see the power it had over great masses of men as it was presented to them by Bunyan, Wesley, Whitefield and other popular preachers–yet, after all, what is the type of people that is attracted by such preaching as this?” Prejudice does not stop to answer its own question–it hardly likes to say what it thinks, but what it thinks is something like this.
It thinks, in the first place, that they are a set of very poor people and Prejudice considers that to be one of the worstthings you can say of them. In the estimation of those who are prejudiced in this fashion, poverty is regarded as almost worse than crime! A man may be guilty of nearly every form of iniquity, but as long as he is rich, nothing is said against him. Yet, if another possesses every virtue, but in addition to that is poor, Prejudice has not a word to say in his favor! We need not be greatly concerned at this, for we remember that our blessed Master said concerning His own ministry, “the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” If He was glad to have them in His congregation, we also may rejoice if the poor are found among our hearers and among those who are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus!
Prejudice further says, “Well, if these relations of Christ are not all poor, some of them have had very little education.” This is a remark which I often hear or read, but I certainly have failed to discover any wonderfully superior education in many of the gentlemen who seem to take delight in denying many of the Truths of the faith. I often think that if they had been better educated, they would not talk so foolishly as they sometimes do when they sneeringly ask, “What do those uneducated preachers know?” Well, we might seem to be fools in glorying if we replied that if we did not know more than they do of the vital Truths of Christianity, we would go to school again and begin to learn the A B C of theology! As for the great thinkers of whom they so continually prate, we remember that Paul wrote, “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called, but God has chosen the foolish, things of the world to confound the wise…that no flesh should glory in His Presence.”
When these prejudiced people have had our answer upon this point, they say that these relations of Christ, meaning thereby those who profess to be His followers, are very much like other people who make no profession of religion. Onesays, “I know a member of a certain Church who has a very bad temper.” Someone else adds, “I know another who does not pay his bills.” Well, even if this is true, is it surprising that there are hypocrites in the Church when there was a Judas even among the Apostles? “But,” says another, “they are all alike, they are all a set of hypocrites.” Yet the most prejudiced slanderer knows that he is telling a lie when he talks thus. If he would but speak the truth, he would be compelled to admit that the Gospel we preach has made harlots chaste, drunks sober and thieves honest–and that it is our great aim to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” He knows all this, but it suits his purpose to shut his eyes to it and only to see, here and there, the imperfection that is incidental to manhood, or the hypocrisy which no foresight can prevent and which only shows that hypocrites will thrust themselves into any place, however holy, except Heaven, itself–and they would enter even there if they could!
This will suffice as to the view of Prejudice concerning Christ’s relations. So now let us turn to the view of Piety concerning them. Piety says, in the first place, “ Blessed be the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that He should have a mother,and brothers, and sisters here below.” That ever the Son of God should have condescended to have brothers and sisters among the sons of men–and that there now sits upon the Throne of God one of a human mother, born, is a subject for unceasing joy! My soul seems to expand as I think of it! How wondrously our poor humanity is exalted! Angels were never so closely linked with Deity as manhood is now. Christ has no mother among the seraphim, no brother among the seraphim, and no sister in all the shining ranks of holy angels! But looking round upon those whom He has redeemed with His precious blood, He says, “Behold, My mother and My brothers and sisters! For whomever shall do the will of My Father which is in Heaven, the same is My brother and sister and mother.”
In the next place, instead of finding fault with Christ because of the imperfections of His relations, Piety sees in theirimperfections a further reason for blessing Christ? Have they imperfections and do they make mistakes? Then all hail, blessed Savior, that You are not only related to humanity, but to sinful humanity! And though You are Yourself sinless, yet You call sinners Your friends and You are called theFriend of Sinners because you receive them and eat with them!“ Yes, in the sense in which Christ Himself spoke of them, His mother and brothers and sisters are still with us–and though they are not all that they ought to be, we love Him all the more because He condescends to permit such people to be in close relationship to Himself!
Piety also says that she wishes she was quite sure that her own relationship to Christ was as close as this. “Oh,” saysthe humble and sincere soul, “if I might be but the meanest among those whom Christ calls His brothers and sisters, I would sooner have that honor than be the wearer of an earthly coronet or crown or possess the greatest wealth of gold or diamonds!” When Piety is assured of her own personal relationship to Christ, instead of being ashamed of Him because of His poor brothers and sisters, she counts it a priceless privilege to be numbered among them! Have you ever read the inscriptions that have been found in the catacombs of Rome? If you have done so, you must have noticed that many of them were evidently the productions of persons who were quite illiterate. Probably many of them were not able to write at all, so they obtained the services of others who were little more educated than they were, themselves, to write their epitaphs. Many of these first followers of Christ were certainly very ignorant so far as human learning was concerned, but do you now feel ashamed to belong to the same sect to which they belonged? Oh, no! If you really love the Lord whom they loved, you feel that it is an honor to be a member of that blessed Christian brotherhood in which many of the members cheerfully laid down their lives rather than give up their connection with Christ their Savior!
Some people seem never to tire of railing at our particular denomination. “Oh, Baptists,” they say, “who are they?” But shall I be ashamed to be called a Baptist because some who ought to know better try to pour contempt and scorn upon the name? Oh, no! But the more they are despised, the more closely will I cling to them! When our Lord Jesus Christ asked John the Baptist to baptize Him, He said, “Thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness.” And with such an eminent example before me, I cannot be wrong if I seek very literally to “follow His steps” whatever disgrace that may involve. A man is not worthy to be connected with a Christian denomination if he is not prepared to take upon himself the reproach of the body to which he belongs–so let none of us be ashamed of being Baptists! And let none of us be ashamed of Jesus, and though His brothers and sisters may be poor and ignorant, let us love and esteem them because of their relationship to Him!
Piety also rejoices that Christ’s brothers and sisters are here on earth and that they are poor, for she says, “ I can minister to Christ by helping them.” Piety feels, concerning the brothers and sisters of Christ, as David felt when he said, “Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” He was kind to Mephibosheth for Jonathan’s sake–let us be kind to Christ’s brothers and sisters for His sake. Let us ask, “Where can we find any of the household of Jesus that we may show them kindness for His sake!” Christian charity delights to find the poor Believer and to minister to him for Christ’s sake. If our names are found enrolled among the brothers and sisters of Christ, we shall surely count it an honor and privilege to do all that we can for the rest of the family, especially for those who are in the greatest need!
Now I close with just two questions. First, dear Friends, what is your view of Christ? Is it the view of Prejudice orthe view of Piety? Do you say that however lightly Christ may be esteemed by the world, He is precious to you? Then I trust that you also are among the brothers and sisters of “the carpenter’s son” whom He will acknowledge when He comes in His Glory. Those who follow the despised Christ will not be rejected by the reigning Christ!
The other question is, what is your view of Christ’s people? Is it the view of Prejudice or the view of Piety? Are youwilling to cast in your lot with them? Will you join the sect that is everywhere spoken against? Are you ready to be hooted and jeered at for Christ’s sake? If you are, I trust that you are among His brothers and sisters who suffer with Him here and who shall reign with Him, by-and-by. “Who is on the Lord’s side?” Let that question ring in your ears as you go your way, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” If God is your God, serve Him. If Christ is your King, follow Him. Unite yourself with His people and let all men see that you are not ashamed to acknowledge your Lord or those who are His brothers and sisters today. Let not your view of Christ and His relations be the view of Prejudice, but let it be the view of Piety! And may God bless you, for Jesus' sake! Amen.