Segment 1 of G. Campbell Morgan's The Hidden Years at Nazareth is here. Segment 2 is here, and Segment 3 is here. What follows is Segment 4.
Sometimes we have overshadowed the carpenter's shop with Calvary's cross. We have no right to do it. We have come to forget the fidelity of the Son of God in the little details of life as we have gazed upon His magnificent triumphs in the places of passion and conflict. In the second place, the divine approval meant that the influence of the life had been pure and bright and good. You all know the effect of influence. What sort of influence has He exerted? Pure and strong!
I have sat sometimes in meditative mood, and thought of my beloved Lord, and tried to carry myself back, with all the interests that are nearest to my heart, into that land and that time when He was on earth, and I have thought, if I could just have taken my boy and apprenticed him to that carpenter, what a blessed thing it would have been.
I don't think that Jesus would have given him the One Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm to learn before he came to work in the morning, or have been talking to him forevermore about heaven and getting ready for it, and hell and shunning it. But he would have lived a bright, strong, glad life before Him, for no life ever touched the life of the Son of God but was the brighter and purer and stronger for the contact; and so, when the years of the carpenter's shop are over, God sets His seal of approval upon them, first, because the work has been well done; and secondly, because the influence of the life has been true and right and noble.
Who is this coming up out of the waters of baptism, upon whom the dove hovers and settles, and concerning whom heaven's voice is heard to speak? God marks Him out here from all His fellow-men. "Thou art My beloved Son." Not "Thou art a son, a child of Mine," but "My Son." And, to the Hebrew mind, that links Him with all the prophecies of the past.* He is the anointed of God. He is the one personage who is charged with the great mission of restoring the kingdom of God. God marks Him in that great word as His appointed Messiah, as Shiloh, as the Daysman from on high, as the Dayspring; all the wondrous words of past prophecy are settled upon Him, and God marks Him as the anointed One for carrying out the great scheme of redemption for the human race. And now He is standing on the banks of the Jordan, and we look upon Him for the first time with amazement and astonishment, and wonder, if this be the beloved Son of God, what has He been doing, where has He been in the years preceding this public manifestation?
Come back to the questions, "Is not this the carpenter?" and the wonder is presented in a new vision, from a new standpoint, from another side. The Son of God, charged with the greatest commission that any being in heaven or earth has ever had to bear, was for eighteen years at work in a carpenter's shop. Now, we hardly see the wonder of this thing until we look more closely at it.
I may be speaking to some young man upon whose heart is lying the burden of India, the need of China; he is travailing in spirit, even in this favored land, for the dark masses of Africa; he is touched with the sacrificial passion of the Son of God to go and save somebody, and yet God has shut him up here at home. He has to live and care for a sick one. He can't go. The fire is there, but the door is not open. The passion for men consumes him, but God shuts him out from service. Now, it is only those who know something of that experience who can understand the strange marvel of the Son of God, commissioned to do the work that precedes your passion, the infinitely greater work, holding in its grasp and love all the enterprises for the uplifting of man. And yet with that passion upon Him, with the cross ever before Him and His ultimate triumph in front, every morning He goes to the carpenter's shop, every day He does work, every night goes home to rest.
I tell you it is a mystery of mysteries to us restless spirits. What does it mean? How is it that He, the beloved of God, the anointed of God, can be - there is no irreverence in saying it - content? Now, the answer is here. Jesus lived in the power of the truth, which we are so slow to learn, that there is something infinitely better than doing a great thing for God, and the infinitely better thing is to be where God wants us to be, to do what God wants us to do, and to have no will apart from His - to be able to say:
I worship Thee, sweet will of God,
And all Thy ways adore!
And every day I live, I seem
To love Thee ore and more.**
Jesus understood that. The carpenter's shop was the will of God for Him, and therefore He abode in that shop and did the work incidental to it. Now, pray do not misunderstand me. From the illustration I used a moment ago, you may come to think that I intend to say Jesus did it as a duty, while He longed for the cross. Nothing of the kind. "I delight to do Thy will, O my God." Go and ask Him, talk with Him reverently across the distance on nineteen hundred years. "O Nazarene, where wouldst Thou rather be today, here among this work, or among the crowd, healing and teaching, and preaching to hem?" and the answer would be "God's will for Me is in the carpenter's shop, and therefore that is the place of My joy."
But I am going to ask you to press this question a little further. Was this a capricious matter, this will of God for Jesus? Does it not look hard and arbitrary that God should have put that saintly soul to such common labor? Why not have let Him face the conflict and get the victory, and hie Him back to heaven? There was a deep necessity in the whole arrangement. Let me put it superlatively, and say, Calvary's cross would have been nothing but the tragic ending of a mistaken life, it it had not been for the carpenter's shop! In that carpenter's shop He fought my battles. My hardest fight is never fought when there is a crowd to applaud or oppose, but when I am alone.
Now, that was what Jesus was doing for eighteen years. There was no crowd to sin "hosanna"; no other crowd to cry "Crucify Him"; but alone He did His work and faced all the subtle forms of temptation that beset humankind, and one by one He put His conquering foot upon the neck of them, until the last was baffled and beaten, and His enemies were palsied by the strong stroke of his pure right arm. That is what He was doing.
There was necessity for it, and because of Nazareth's shop there came Gethsemane's garden and Calvary's cross, and so, abiding in the will of God, by victory upon victory, He won His final triumph, and so opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
To be continued...
(The conclusion is here.)
*The first biblical prophecy, Genesis 3:15, is called the "Edenic Promise" because it was made to Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors who lived in Eden. The Bible describes Eden as a vast region bounded by the Tigris and Euphrates on the east, and on the west by two rivers in East Africa. In this prophecy, the "Woman" brings forth the divine "Seed" under whose foot the serpent is subdued.
** Frederick William Faber (1814–1863) was an Anglican hymn writer and theologian who converted to Roman Catholicism and became a Catholic priest. His best known work is Faith of Our Fathers.