Brother and Friend

When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there.  Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked.  “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?  Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”  And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

  • Matthew 13:53-58

“’The Word became a human and lived among us,’ John said (John 1:14).  In other words … he was touchable, approachable, reachable.  And, what’s more, he was ordinary.  If he were here today you probably wouldn’t notice him as he walked through a shopping mall.  He wouldn’t turn heads by the clothes he wore or the jewelry he flashed.

“’Just call me Jesus,’ you can almost hear him say.

“He was the kind of fellow you’d invite to watch the Rams-Giants game at your house.

“He’d wrestle on the floor with your kids, doze on your couch, and cook steaks on your grill.  He’d laugh at your jokes and tell a few of his own.  And when you spoke, he’d listen to you as if he had all the time in eternity.

“And one thing’s for sure, you’d invite him back.”

  • Max Lucado, God Came Near

The townsfolk of Nazareth dismissed Jesus, because He was just a carpenter’s son.  Okay, some modern scholars think Joseph’s profession was more of a general builder, since little was made of wood in those days.

That reminds me of when I was a young lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers.  In the USA, the military cannot build a lasting structure due to federal law.  The law protects the unions, since the military, writing off the labor as a “training exercise,” could underbid just about any contract.  But outside the USA, the military is allowed to build lasting structures.  I was a vertical construction platoon leader.  That meant, my men built structures instead of earth moving (horizontal construction).  I had carpenters, masons, electricians, and plumbers.  There was only one problem.  In Germany, practically nothing required carpentry skills.  Once the concrete form was installed, the carpenters were done.  Actually, they became grout experts, or they attempted to master the skill.  My more vocal troops would come to me and plead, “Sir, give me a project where I can just drive a nail into something, please!”

So, I am not a Greek scholar to argue one way or the other about whether Joseph was a builder or a carpenter, but I understand the difference.

But now let’s look at Max Lucado’s description of Jesus.  He is simply the brother or the close friend that always is welcome.  He is reliable and he is great with the children.

In his description, I thought of a time when I got a knock on my door in Germany.  I answered the door and there stood before me a man, not too much younger than I was, with a full beard and a bald head, okay a fringe of hair.  I cannot remember what he said, but it was something along the lines of, “Tell Mom I’m home!”  He had this goofy big grin on his face.

Before I could slam the door in his face, my wife looked at the stranger from behind me and screamed, “Michael!”

Now I was really confused.  ‘Michael’ was the younger brother of one of my wife’s close friends when she was growing up in El Paso, TX.  When my wife left El Paso as a senior in high school, little Michael was about to enter high school, about that much younger or even more young.  Back then, he had a full head of hair, no beard, and was probably a lot shorter.  But she recognized him.

When we invited him in, he told us his tale of ‘woe.’  He had become an engineer.  He had a job on the north shore oil rigs in Alaska, but management was so impressed by him that he was offered a big promotion to a cushy desk at headquarters in Anchorage.  He loved the north shore.  How dare they confine him to an office and give him a monster pay increase!  So, he quit.  He cashed in his money and flew to Europe.  He bought a Eurail pass and started travelling.  He planned his trips so that he could sleep on the train and be awakened at his next destination.  When his Eurail pass was about to expire, he travelled to Karlsruhe and found out where we lived.  We had no warning that he was even in Europe, and my wife had not spoken to him in nearly 15 years.

As Lucado described Jesus, Michael got on the floor and wrestled with our son.  I think that my wife was pregnant with the second child at the time, so we only had one boy then.  He told great stories about all the people he had met in his travels.  And then, a few days later, he was gone.  He bought another Eurail pass.  But a few weeks later, he returned saying, “I came back so that Mom could do my laundry,” again with a big cheesy grin.  After over six months of European travel, doing his laundry at our apartment every few weeks, he finally moved on, flying to Jerusalem, and points beyond.  He sent a photo of himself in India, using a public urinal, actually he turned his head to smile at the camera (no naughty photo), but you could tell what he was doing, along with the 20-30 other men standing next to him, outdoors on a sunny day.

‘Michael’ was just a friend.  He felt like a brother.  Our son looked up to him as an uncle.  As Max Lucado described Jesus, Michael was simply a guy, a guy that you would invite back again – although Michael never waited for the invitation…

Michael finally returned to Alaska.  The company gave him his old field job back on the north shore.  He got married, started a family of his own, and bought a home halfway down a ski slope not far from Anchorage, Alaska.  Since my wife keeps up with her El Paso friend, she keeps up with Michael.

Is Jesus this untouchable ‘God figure’ to you?  Or is Jesus like Michael, the one who gets on the floor and plays with your children?  Jesus wants a relationship with us.  He already knows us, but He wants us to have that burning desire that nothing else can satisfy us other than to know Him, to know Him personally.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking Jesus is just a carpenter’s son.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking Jesus is an untouchable God.  If you have ever had a ‘Michael’ in your life, think of Jesus as your ‘Michael’.  He’ll knock on your door at any time with a smile on His face, just to share what He shares best, His love.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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