[Jesus] came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogues, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man et his wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:54-55)
In Matthew 13:54-55 we find Jesus preaching in his hometown. Some of the townsfolk questioned his credibility and ministry. They were not earnestly wondering where he got his wisdom and power; they were attempting to discredit him because he was only a “carpenter’s son.”
The word used here for carpenter, tekton, signifies a common laborer working with his hands, usually in wood, though the word was also at times used to describe stone masons. So Joseph might have been a builder, or a furniture maker, or one who built farm implements. He might also have been a handyman who fixed things for folks. A carpenter who was master builder was called an architekton (from which we get our word architect); but Joseph was only a tekton-and ordinary builder, woodworker, or handyman.
This humble estate of Joseph is consistent with the picture we have of him in the Gospel accounts where he is present. Unlike Mary, Joseph has no “lines”- we don’t read a single word he speaks in the Gospels. It is universally recognized that he played an important role in the life of Jesus, but there are no “hail Josephs” offering to him. He is the patron saint of those who serve and do the right thing without seeking any credit.
I sat in a meeting recently in which I received reports about our clothing ministry at the church. As part of the ministry, our members donate clothing in good condition. It is sorted, separated by size and style, and then carefully folded or hung on hangers and delivered to area homeless shelters and programs for low-income people. The workers in these programs love the fact that our volunteers so skillfully and lovingly prepare the clothes for their people. When I asked about these volunteers, I was told they don’t want to be recognized, and that they don’t look for any credit except what come from knowing that they are helping people in need. The person telling me this said, “They are a team of twenty Josephs.”
Of all the qualities Jesus learned from Joseph, I suspect the most important had to do with humility and servant-hood. When Jesus taught his disciples that “whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26), when he washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper (John 13), and when he said to them, “those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:11), I believe he was teaching what he’d seen modeled by Joseph’s life.
Lord, forgive me for those moments when I’ve sought the limelight or resented others for outshining me. Forgive me for those times when I’ve forgotten your call to “in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” Help me, that I might, like Joseph, live as your humble servant. Amen