Dear Friends: April

As passiontide approaches I share a reflection for the coming days.

His father was a carpenter. Not that carpenters, know each other, certainly not from Jerusalem to that rural backwater. But I knew of the family. Generations of carpenters, not from the backwaters but from Bethlehem. A proud family, a good family, and with connections to merchants that traded to the ends of the earth. Craftsman, good work.

His mother, well she was young when she married I hear. From a family with good connections too, relatives who served in the temple.

It must have been a shock to his father, not the events that took place in which I had a part, but his son not following the family trade. Closer to his mother perhaps. A very different apprenticeship training to be a Rabbi. And the desert too - they say he spent time with John, that strange teacher whom Herod had beheaded.



It must have shaped him all the same, just as a carpenters shapes the wood. The asking of questions, the learning of the law and all the teachings of the rabbi’s that had gone before. There is plenty to learn as a carpenter’s apprentice, but the Rabbi’s they have to be able to speak the words of Moses and the prophets off by heart.

All that shaping, that working, ended in a terrible way.

He had made quite a stir of course, going through the regions, visiting Jerusalem. They say he healed the sick, spoke words of life. But I never heard him.

I did see him though, coming into the city, riding a donkey. Crowds around him, shouting, praising, waiving branches. His disciples were with him, and he was with them - Not distant from them like some Rabbi’s. He had the care a carpenter would have for his apprentices. He had a carpenters look about him too, it’s hard to explain, a keenness of eye.

And as I stood at the back of the crowd our eyes met, just for a moment. Like the acknowledgement between two craftsman.

Thing is times have been hard. I may be a carpenter but the work I have been doing is nothing like the work of His family. And so when the work came up I took it. I know what we all think of the Romans, but we needed to money. A simple job, no craft or great skill. Rough wood hewn and shaped, two parts one up and one across. And then they take them, make a condemned man carry them and nail the man to them, standing them upright to die.

When I saw him, when our eyes met I had no idea what would follow, of the arrest, of the crowd turning against him. But they took him, they crucified the son of a carpenter, nailed him to the wood that I had crudely shaped.

Perhaps it was because our eyes had met that for the first time I went to the place where the work of my hands was turned to execution. I saw from a way off what only the women would see close up. They were there, with the Romans. His mother and some others.

The men were further away. Some mocked. Others were quieter, I recognised them. Some had been his followers.

I cannot bring myself to say much more about his last hour. There was pain, pain that I was in part responsible for. But something else. It was a death, but not like any other. When a carpenter looks at a block of wood we can see all the things it can become. As He died it was like that, somehow it was like every death – that has been and could be. Like death itself was dying.

Afterwards some said he was a prophet. Some said he was the messiah. Others said that he couldn’t be. That no messiah could come from the rural backwaters. But I knew of His family. Generations of carpenters, not from the backwaters but from Bethlehem. The City of David. The City of the Messiah.

I found his disciples, asked the questions.

I no longer do the work I did.

The wood of death is behind me.

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