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Chapter 4

The Days in the Little Carpenter’s Shop

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: This chapter is of course purely imaginary. It may, however, have as much basis in truth as various other things that are in the accounts of the life of the Master.)

We would know more of Joseph, the father. He may have played a far more important part in the inheritance, and in the sympathetic companionship, of the eldest son than we know. The simple, homely type and manner of life and toiling together for their daily bread that there might be a supply for at least seven others would perchance suggest this.

Joshua, too, would perhaps have us help restore his well-nigh lost manhood — a loss which cripples his leadership among many clear-thinking and even devout men and women, and cripples therefore his big human-divine message, which to establish in the world was the absorbing passion of his life as well as the cause of his death.

It may help also his purpose (he who almost impatiently at times had to repeat, ‘I am a man as you are’), which institutionalism has well-nigh emasculated and frustrated.

No wonder the people said: Our teachers have not this man’s manner — the manner of this man Jesus. They are continually harping on, ‘It is said,’ ‘The prophets have said.’ But there is no life in their words. And besides, they impose upon us such silly practices and observances and mumbling formulas.

The things they give us sink as stones in our stomachs, while this man truly gives us bread to eat; and besides, his very teaching makes him brave.

Ezra, Ezra Ben Joseph, was over in the adjoining village yesterday. He heard Jesus there, and what do you think he said? (Come close and do not repeat it. Say not that I told you.)

Right in the face of two who were there — he was speaking of the priesthood of his and our religion and the traditions of its priests and elders — he said: ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you take tithes on mint, dill and cummin, and have overlooked the more important matters of the law, such as justice,
mercy, and trustworthiness; which were necessary for you to have done, and by no means to have left undone. . . . Oh, blind guides, who strain at gnats and swallow camels.’

The Romans oppress us and rob us — damn their souls. (Come closer.) God knows we have little enough; but these that this Jesus denounces as hypocrites, that sit in the high seats and mumble their self-made formulas, and imprecations, and penalties, arrayed in their fine robes which they collect the pence from us to pay for, do us the greater harm. Woe to us! Woe to us, and to our children!

Let us arise and follow him, this man Jesus. Surely he is a teacher sent of God. Some do not believe in him because he is a Nazarene. They say, ‘What good can come out of Nazareth, that small village less than twenty furlongs from us!’ At Nazareth he was known as Joshua Ben Joseph. His father had a carpenter’s shop there that joined on to their home.

My father worked at one time with Joseph in his shop. He was an older man, but always kindly and thoughtful. While my father was there Joshua Ben Joseph and his next younger brother worked also in the shop. There were five brothers: Joshua the older, and James, and Joses, and Jude, and Simon. There were two or three sisters — two that my father met, but he never learned their names. Joshua as a young man, my father said, when he worked with him in the shop at Nazareth, had a strong, vigorous constitution, and always a happy, buoyant disposition. He was always thoughtful, but always pleasant to work with. He was a good worker and always helpful to any working with him.

He and his father Joseph always got along well together, and there seemed to be an unusual comradeship between them. They would joke with each other and seemed always happy to be together, and this seemed to lighten their work in the shop.

My father told of an incident that occurred while he was working there: a woman came into the shop to have some work done. She was the wife of the Rabbi of the little synagogue at Nazareth. She argued long and hot with Joseph to make him do the job at a much lower price than he was willing to contract to do it for.

Joseph stood his ground, and she went out to another shop. When she had gone Joseph sat down on the bench as if to get a bit of rest from the ordeal, and said to Joshua: ‘Look at that! She has taken almost an hour of my time, trying to get her work done at about one half of what it is worth; and they have a great deal more money than we have. In a good-humoured way Joshua replied: ‘Well, father, you shouldn’t belong to the same race.’
‘Anyway,’ replied Joseph, ‘I hope she will stick to the Gentile shop she has gone to, and that her shadow will never darken the door of this shop again.’

‘Come now, father, enjoined Joshua, laughing, ‘she’s the Rabbi’s hurmat. [a husband’s most sacred possession].

Joseph, with a twinkle in his eye, replied, ‘But not entirely jubn, [shy, retiring, of few words], and got up and went to work again.

While Joshua was a good worker, he seemed always when his work was done to want to be alone — either alone or down at the caravanserai when the caravans came in, especially those from Egypt and India. When he returned one evening from the caravanserai my father overheard, through the little window, part of a conversation with his mother in regard to Gautama Siddhartha and his followers — and his longing to know more of the real teaching of the Buddha.

He repeated then something that he had heard which Gautama Siddhartha had said as a young man and after long periods of contemplation and thought: ‘I have awakened to the truth, and I am resolved to accomplish my purpose — verily I shall become a Buddha.’ It was this deep conviction and resolve that made him become the Light-bearer to vast millions of people. ‘My people,’ continued Joshua, ‘need help. It would be a wonderful thing to be the Way-shower to my people. How they need a deliverer!’ Then he added, ‘Tomorrow there will be no work in the shop, and I will go early to the mountain for the day, that I may know more of my Father’s love and purpose, and business.’

There was a gentle reminder and remonstrance on the part of the mother then, about his going with them to the synagogue, that he might hear the reading and the expounding of the Scripture, and - ‘lest the neighbours talk.’

Joshua listened very attentively and then said: ‘I love the Law and the Prophets, the religion of my Fathers. I honour those men of God, and I get from them all that I can; but today is a new day. God has given me a heart for longing, as well as for reverence. He has given me a mind to use, and a leading to follow, and He will hold me responsible for the way I use that mind, and the way I follow that leading.

‘If my heart is pure and my longing is great, He will reveal Himself to me in the unfolding light, and the duty of today. The manna that He gave to our people in the wilderness in caring for their needs was for the day that He gave it; stored and hoarded it staled and rotted. His promise was more for the new day. They trusted him, and the new day’s supply never failed them.

‘There is no such thing as “the truth once delivered.” That is a shameful lie, intended to palliate and deceive the people. And if they are slow enough mentally, and cowardly enough morally, to believe it, they are the ones who must suffer, but suffer they must. It is the law of God and from it there is no escape.

‘Because of our moral cowardice, and our mental lethargy, a priesthood has established itself in our religion. They repeat over and over again, “It is said,” “The prophets have said.” A dead level has ensued, and no prophet has arisen to speak to us for over three hundred years.

‘The prophet thinks and aspires and listens. He goes to the mountain for his message. God meets him in this High Place of communion; and depending upon his aspirations, his motives, and his faith, he speaks audibly or inaudibly, marking the difference between the greater or the lesser prophet.

‘In either case, then, he comes down from the High Place, he gives his message and leads the people for a while. Then he goes, and sooner or later — and it is surprising sometimes how soon — the priest sets about modifying the faith, fashions it into a system, builds a dogma and an organisation upon it, and guarding it as his own in this form, makes his living upon it. Many times, then, he with others fashions it into a high-towering system for personal and political power. The motive is self — as it rides the backs of the people.

‘That is what has happened to all religions, and what should be the life-giving and helpful has become lifeless, stale, and in some cases rotten. Blind leaders of the blind! The condition of our people is pitiable. They are as sheep straying without a shepherd. They need deliverance from their overlords, the Romans, but more than this they need deliverance from the more deadly overlords, the priests and the scribes. As the great prophet-singer said: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

‘A deliverer must come. God’s light, as He reveals it today, must illumine and energise a Messiah, one accepted and anointed of God to give today’s truth, and through it life and light and power to carry on, to the people.

‘Don’t think that I am a fanatic, mother, or that I am beside myself; also forgive me if I seem to speak harshly of the religion of your people. Whether with your consent or without your consent — but I hope with your blessing — I must go to the mountain tomorrow, and often. I have established relations with God, my Father, there, and I must be alert and obedient and carry them through. And I foresee the time, mother — do not grieve or be anxious when I must leave my father Joseph’s shop, to be about my Father’s business — my real Father’s.

‘I have talked it over with my father Joseph, as we have worked long days together in the shop. He understands. The work has been at times hard, but we have always got along well together. It was only yesterday that he said: “You have been more than an obedient son to your mother and to me. I have had a responsibility — nine of us to care for, and work not always plentiful. Our little carpenter’s shop has had its ups and its downs as you know, but you have helped lighten my load. James and Joses are growing up and they can take your place. When you go you will go with my blessing, as well as my gratitude.

‘ “I am proud of you, my son. I appreciate the help that you have been, the confidence that you have had in me, and I in you. I am grateful for the good times we have had together. I believe you will prove a teacher, a prophet, truly chosen of God. My God and your God will care for you, as He always has cared for us.

“He will care for you in the degree that you make His business your business. But this I have never told you, and I hesitate to tell you now: I shudder to think what may in time be in store for you. Ignorance, and passion, and blind leadership on the part of the people, combined with self-seeking, jealous ecclesiasticism and fury, have combined to kill some of our greatest prophets — God help and protect you. But one were a coward to stifle oneself, and not go forward. I may not live to see it, I must go down — you must go up.

‘ “Each must live his own life according to his light. God raises up the light-bearer, the Way-shower, when he is sorely needed. Our people are in sore need. I rejoice to see your day. You have been candid and open in unfolding yourself to me. You have helped me, and I know full well what you mean by your real Father, and your Father’s business. I do not resent it.

‘ “Some of your brothers and sisters have smiled and have talked. Some of the neighbours have talked, but that is always so. Your mother sometimes questions, and doesn’t seem always to know. That is many times true. Our real relations are not always those of our own household. They are those who are most akin to us in mind and sympathy and spirit — many times they are not related to us by blood ties. It would save many a heartache and misunderstanding did people realise this law more fully.

‘ ‘’ Your mother’s mother, Ann — who is one of the salt of the earth — understands you, and stands up for you, and it is by virtue of her understanding and her sympathy that you have always thought so much of her. She divines the part that you will play with our people.

‘ “Do you ever recall when you were a little boy? I do often. Every weekend you would take her that big bag of shavings which we would fill here together in the shop. I can see you yet as you trudged up the hill — such a little boy and such a big bag on your back.

‘ “She lived alone then in her well-kept little house, and she was always on the look-out for your coming. Pushing open the door she would say: ‘Here is little Joshua, my saviour. My fire will glow now brightly again; and it will be so much easier for me that he has come with his cheery smile, and his big bag of shavings. And how clean they smell — just like Joseph’s shop.

‘ “I think she looked forward every week to your coming, and staying to have the evening meal with her on that day. She would always have the farthing ready for you. You would say: ‘No, grandma, I didn’t bring the shavings for hire, I brought the shavings for you.

‘ “ ‘Bless you, little Joshua,’ she would say, ‘I know you did, but the labourer is always worthy of his hire.’ She had imagination. She understood the child mind and heart. She had sympathy, sympathy that makes the world kin. That was the reason you were always so fond of her, and so was I and all who knew her.” ‘


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