Jesus Was a Painter

Perhaps you have been drawn into the scholarly debate about what Jesus did for the first 30 years of His earthly life. Was He a carpenter or a stone-mason? There are two references/translations that are commonly used to suggest that Jesus was a carpenter, Matthew 13:55, where he is called “the son of a carpenter and Mark 6:3 where he is called a carpenter. But is the translation accurate? Does the Greek word used mean a worker of wood, i.e. a carpenter, or might it mean something else?

A quick glance at the standard Greek lexicon for the New Testament era (see * below), will let you know that the Greek word τέκτων that is used in Matthew 13:55, did commonly mean a worker of wood but might also be used of a worker of stone, i.e. a stone mason. So which is it? Or might it mean that Jesus and his father Joseph worked with both wood and stone? Perhaps one specialized in wood and the other in stone? No doubt the stone mason’s union and the carpenters union in our own time would each like to claim Jesus as their own.

Stone masons might actually have the upper hand in this argument/debate. Look at all the stone imagery that peppers the New Testament, from Peter’s name change to Jesus calling Himself the “stone which the builders rejected” and “the chief corner stone” (Matthew 21:42) and a whole lot more like millstones as illustrations and talk of turning stone into bread or children of Abraham. Added to that, there is what we know of the construction methods of the time and region. Most homes and towns were built from the most available resources on hand. If you have been to Israel, you know that stone, rock and clay and the professions working with them are more likely and numerous than a carpenter. It’s why we have archaeological dig sites all over the Holy Land.

Perhaps.

But for me, when I think of Jesus’s purpose, and words, and way of His life and death, yes, maybe most particularly, His death, I think of Jesus as a painter. His whole life is a painter working in mixed mediums. His words paint a picture of God for the blind and the lost, for the seeing and the unseeing. His life and compassion paint a picture of the love of God not just for Israel, His chosen people, but for the whole world. But in His death He paints in another medium, another texture altogether. In His death the Master Painter demonstrates “that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). With his dying breath, His words and His life all come together, and His final cry, “It is finished” is the announcement that the portrait is done so He bows His head and dies (John 19:30) only to rise again in triumph. 

He was a painter all along.

He used His body as the canvas, and His blood as the paint, stretched out His arms to the world and said “I love you this much.”

That’s why we love Him.

That’s why we commend all men to worship Him.

* Arndt, W., Gingrich, F. W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (1979). In A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian Literature: a translation and adaption of the fourth revised and augmented edition of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schrift en des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur (p. 809). University of Chicago Press.

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