Is Not This the Carpenter's
ACROSS the bright days of Christ's ministry
in Galilee, one shadow lay. The people of Nazareth rejected Him. "Is not this the
carpenter's son?" they said.
During His childhood and
youth, Jesus had worshiped among His brethren in the synagogue at Nazareth. Since the
opening of His ministry He had been absent from them, but they had not been ignorant of
what had befallen Him. As He again appeared among them, their interest and expectation
were excited to the highest pitch. Here were the familiar forms and faces of those whom He
had known from infancy. Here were His mother, His brothers and sisters, and all eyes were
turned upon Him as He entered the synagogue upon the Sabbath day, and took His place among
In the regular service for
the day, the elder read from the prophets, and exhorted the people still to hope for the
Coming One, who would bring in a glorious reign, and banish all oppression. He sought to
encourage his hearers by rehearsing the evidence that the Messiah's coming was near. He
described the glory of His advent, keeping prominent the thought that He would appear at
the head of armies to deliver Israel.
When a rabbi was present at
the synagogue, he was expected to deliver the sermon, and any Israelite might give the
reading from the prophets. Upon this Sabbath Jesus was requested to take part in the
service. He "stood up to read. And there was delivered unto Him a roll of the prophet
Isaiah." Luke 4:16, 17, R. V., margin. The scripture which He read was one that was
understood as referring to the Messiah:
"The Spirit of the Lord
is upon Me,
Because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor;
He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To preach deliverance to the captives,
And recovering of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty them that are bruised,
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord."
"And He closed the roll,
and gave it back to the attendant: . . . and the eyes of all in the synagogue were
fastened on Him. . . . And all bare Him witness, and wondered at the words of grace which
proceeded out of His mouth." Luke 4:20-22, R. V., margin.
Jesus stood before the people
as a living expositor of the prophecies concerning Himself. Explaining the words He had
read, He spoke of the Messiah as a reliever of the oppressed, a liberator of captives, a
healer of the afflicted, restoring sight to the blind, and revealing to the world the
light of truth. His impressive manner and the wonderful import of His words thrilled the
hearers with a power they had never felt before. The tide of divine influence broke every
barrier down; like Moses, they beheld the Invisible. As their hearts were moved upon by
the Holy Spirit, they responded with fervent amens and praises to the Lord.
But when Jesus announced,
"This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears," they were suddenly recalled
to think of themselves, and of the claims of Him who had been addressing them. They,
Israelites, children of Abraham, had been represented as in bondage. They had been
addressed as prisoners to be delivered from the power of evil; as in darkness, and needing
the light of truth. Their pride was offended, and their fears were roused. The words of
Jesus indicated that His work for them was to be altogether different from what they
desired. Their deeds might be investigated too closely. Notwithstanding their exactness in
outward ceremonies, they shrank from inspection by those clear, searching eyes.
Who is this Jesus? they
questioned. He who had claimed for Himself the glory of the Messiah was the son of a
carpenter, and had worked at His trade with His father Joseph. They had seen Him toiling
up and down the hills, they were acquainted with His brothers and sisters, and knew His
life and labors. They had seen Him develop from childhood to youth, and from youth to
manhood. Although His life had been spotless, they would not believe that He was the
What a contrast between His
teaching in regard to the new kingdom and that which they had heard from their elder!
Jesus had said nothing of delivering them from the Romans. They had heard of His miracles,
and had hoped that His power would be exercised for their advantage, but they had seen no
indication of such purpose.
As they opened the door to
doubt, their hearts became so much the harder for having been momentarily softened. Satan
was determined that blind eyes should not that day be opened, nor souls bound in slavery
be set at liberty. With intense energy he worked to fasten them in unbelief. They made no
account of the sign already given, when they had been stirred by the conviction that it
was their Redeemer who addressed them.
But Jesus now gave them an
evidence of His divinity by revealing their secret thoughts. "He said unto them,
Doubtless ye will say unto Me this parable, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have
heard done at Capernaum, do also here in Thine own country. And He said, Verily I say unto
you, No prophet is acceptable in his own country. But of a truth I say unto you, There
were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years
and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and unto none of them
was Elijah sent, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, unto a woman that was a
widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of
them was cleansed, but only Naaman, the Syrian." Luke 4:23-27, R. V.
By this relation of events in
the lives of the prophets, Jesus met the questionings of His hearers. The servants whom
God had chosen for a special work were not allowed to labor for a hardhearted and
unbelieving people. But those who had hearts to feel and faith to believe were especially
favored with evidences of His power through the prophets. In the days of Elijah, Israel
had departed from God. They clung to their sins, and rejected the warnings of the Spirit
through the Lord's messengers. Thus they cut themselves off from the channel by which
God's blessing could come to them. The Lord passed by the homes of Israel, and found a
refuge for His servant in a heathen land, with a woman who did not belong to the chosen
people. But this woman was favored because she had followed the light she had received,
and her heart was open to the greater light that God sent her through His prophet.
It was for the same reason
that in Elisha's time the lepers of Israel were passed by. But Naaman, a heathen nobleman,
had been faithful to his convictions of right, and had felt his great need of help. He was
in a condition to receive the gifts of God's grace. He was not only cleansed from his
leprosy, but blessed with a knowledge of the true God.
Our standing before God
depends, not upon the amount of light we have received, but upon the use we make of what
we have. Thus even the heathen who choose the right as far as they can distinguish it are
in a more favorable condition than are those who have had great light, and profess to
serve God, but who disregard the light, and by their daily life contradict their
The words of Jesus to His
hearers in the synagogue struck at the root of their self-righteousness, pressing home
upon them the bitter truth that they had departed from God and forfeited their claim to be
His people. Every word cut like a knife as their real condition was set before them. They
now scorned the faith with which Jesus had at first inspired them. They would not admit
that He who had sprung from poverty and lowliness was other than a common man.
Their unbelief bred malice.
Satan controlled them, and in wrath they cried out against the Saviour. They had turned
from Him whose mission
it was to heal and restore; now they manifested the attributes of
When Jesus referred to the
blessings given to the Gentiles, the fierce national pride of His hearers was aroused, and
His words were drowned in a tumult of voices. These people had prided themselves on
keeping the law; but now that their prejudices were offended, they were ready to commit
murder. The assembly broke up, and laying hands upon Jesus, they thrust Him from the
synagogue, and out of the city. All seemed eager for His destruction. They hurried Him to
the brow of a precipice, intending to cast Him down headlong. Shouts and maledictions
filled the air. Some were casting stones at Him, when suddenly He disappeared from among
them. The heavenly messengers who had been by His side in the synagogue were with Him in
the midst of that maddened throng. They shut Him in from His enemies, and conducted Him to
a place of safety.
So angels protected Lot, and
led him out safely from the midst of Sodom. So they protected Elisha in the little
mountain city. When the encircling hills were filled with the horses and chariots of the
king of Syria, and the great host of his armed men, Elisha beheld the nearer hill slopes
covered with the armies of God,--horses and chariots of fire round about the servant of
So, in all ages, angels have
been near to Christ's faithful followers. The vast confederacy of evil is arrayed against
all who would overcome; but Christ would have us look to the things which are not seen, to
the armies of heaven encamped about all who love God, to deliver them. From what dangers,
seen and unseen, we have been preserved through the interposition of the angels, we shall
never know, until in the light of eternity we see the providences of God. Then we shall
know that the whole family of heaven was interested in the family here below, and that
messengers from the throne of God attended our steps from day to day.
When Jesus in the synagogue
read from the prophecy, He stopped short of the final specification concerning the
Messiah's work. Having read the words, "To proclaim the acceptable year of the
Lord," He omitted the phrase, "and the day of vengeance of our God." Isa.
61:2. This was just as much truth as was the first of the prophecy, and by His silence
Jesus did not deny the truth. But this last expression was that upon which His hearers
delighted to dwell, and which they were desirous of fulfilling. They denounced judgments
against the heathen, not
discerning that their own guilt was even greater than that of
others. They themselves were in deepest need of the mercy they were so ready to deny to
the heathen. That day in the synagogue, when Jesus stood among them, was their opportunity
to accept the call of Heaven. He who "delighteth in mercy" (Micah 7:18) would
fain have saved them from the ruin which their sins were inviting.
Not without one more call to
repentance could He give them up. Toward the close of His ministry in Galilee, He again
visited the home of His childhood. Since His rejection there, the fame of His preaching
and His miracles had filled the land. None now could deny that He possessed more than
human power. The people of Nazareth knew that He went about doing good, and healing all
that were oppressed by Satan. About them were whole villages where there was not a moan of
sickness in any house; for He had passed through them, and healed all their sick. The
mercy revealed in every act of His life testified to His divine anointing.
Again as they listened to His
words the Nazarenes were moved by the Divine Spirit. But even now they would not admit
that this Man, who had been brought up among them, was other or greater than themselves.
Still there rankled the bitter memory that while He had claimed for Himself to be the
Promised One, He had really denied them a place with Israel; for He had shown them to be
less worthy of God's favor than a heathen man and woman. Hence though they questioned,
"Whence hath this Man this wisdom, and these mighty works?" they would not
receive Him as the Christ of God. Because of their unbelief, the Saviour could not work
many miracles among them. Only a few hearts were open to His blessing, and reluctantly He
departed, never to return.
Unbelief, having once been
cherished, continued to control the men of Nazareth. So it controlled the Sanhedrin and
the nation. With priests and people, the first rejection of the demonstration of the Holy
Spirit's power was the beginning of the end. In order to prove that their first resistance
was right, they continued ever after to cavil at the words of Christ. Their rejection of
the Spirit culminated in the cross of Calvary, in the destruction of their city, in the
scattering of the nation to the winds of heaven.
Oh, how Christ longed to open
to Israel the precious treasures of the truth! But such was their spiritual blindness that
it was impossible to
reveal to them the truths relating to His kingdom. They clung to
their creed and their useless ceremonies when the truth of Heaven awaited their
acceptance. They spent their money for chaff and husks, when the bread of life was within
their reach. Why did they not go to the word of God, and search diligently to know whether
they were in error? The Old Testament Scriptures stated plainly every detail of Christ's
ministry, and again and again He quoted from the prophets, and declared, "This day is
this scripture fulfilled in your ears." If they had honestly searched the Scriptures,
bringing their theories to the test of God's word, Jesus need not have wept over their
impenitence. He need not have declared, "Behold, your house is left unto you
desolate." Luke 13:35. They might have been acquainted with the evidence of His Messiahship, and the calamity that laid their proud city in ruins might have been averted.
But the minds of the Jews had become narrowed by their unreasoning bigotry. The lessons of
Christ revealed their deficiencies of character, and demanded repentance. If they accepted
His teachings, their practices must be changed, and their cherished hopes relinquished. In
order to be honored by Heaven, they must sacrifice the honor of men. If they obeyed the
words of this new rabbi, they must go contrary to the opinions of the great thinkers and
teachers of the time.
Truth was unpopular in
Christ's day. It is unpopular in our day. It has been unpopular ever since Satan first
gave man a disrelish for it by presenting fables that lead to self-exaltation. Do we not
today meet theories and doctrines that have no foundation in the word of God? Men cling as
tenaciously to them as did the Jews to their traditions.
The Jewish leaders were
filled with spiritual pride. Their desire for the glorification of self manifested itself
even in the service of the sanctuary. They loved the highest seats in the synagogue. They
loved greetings in the market places, and were gratified with the sound of their titles on
the lips of men. As real piety declined, they became more jealous for their traditions and
Because their understanding
was darkened by selfish prejudice, they could not harmonize the power of Christ's
convicting words with the humility of His life. They did not appreciate the fact that real
greatness can dispense with outward show. This Man's poverty seemed wholly inconsistent
with His claim to be the Messiah. They questioned, If He was what He claimed to be, why
was He so unpretending? If He was satisfied to be without the force of arms, what would
become of their
nation? How could the power and glory so long anticipated bring the
nations as subjects to the city of the Jews? Had not the priests taught that Israel was to
bear rule over all the earth? and could it be possible that the great religious teachers
were in error?
But it was not simply the
absence of outward glory in His life that led the Jews to reject Jesus. He was the
embodiment of purity, and they were impure. He dwelt among men an example of spotless
integrity. His blameless life flashed light upon their hearts. His sincerity revealed
their insincerity. It made manifest the hollowness of their pretentious piety, and
discovered iniquity to them in its odious character. Such a light was unwelcome.
If Christ had called
attention to the Pharisees, and had extolled their learning and piety, they would have
hailed Him with joy. But when He spoke of the kingdom of heaven as a dispensation of mercy
for all mankind, He was presenting a phase of religion they would not tolerate. Their own
example and teaching had never been such as to make the service of God seem desirable.
When they saw Jesus giving attention to the very ones they hated and repulsed, it stirred
up the worst passions of their proud hearts. Notwithstanding their boast that under the
"Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Rev. 5:5), Israel should be exalted to
pre-eminence over all nations, they could have borne the disappointment of their ambitious
hopes better than they could bear Christ's reproof of their sins, and the reproach they
felt even from the presence of His purity.