Through A Carpenter's Eyes: Studies in Mark, Pt. 70

In the commencing verses of Mk. chapter 2, we encounter a terribly fascinating story. I've already approached this episode from one angle, arguing that is suggests that Jesus owned a home near Lake Galilee (click HERE to read that post). I've also argued that this story, as part of a larger narrative, was one that Mark used to begin to show mounting or building hostility towards Jesus by the political and religious leaders of His day. Here, I want to take yet another angle on the story and look at it through carpenter's eyes.

Of course, the carpenter I'm referring to here is Jesus. I do not wish to get into the argument about the Greek term "tekton" but I would say that the evidence is clear that it refers to someone who has worked with wood, stone, etc. It is my view that Jesus, indeed, worked in the field of construction. I have wondered too, if being so close to the Lake, He ever helped build boats? But to get to the point, in Mk. 2, we read of an instance where, when Jesus was teaching in a jam-packed house, two men tore apart the roof and lowered a man through, down to Jesus. Now, it is quite easy to jump to theological conclusions about this passage (e.g. determinism in antiquity, the divinity and humanity of Jesus, foreknowledge, etc.) but I want to come at this differently: through the eyes of a carpenter.

In fact, if we read this story in Mk. 2 through that lens, I would contend that what we see is, while everyone in the story appears to be so serious, Jesus is actually being humorous. Yes, He is serious at points but right after the roof is ripped off, He makes a comedic statement. I think this may be one of those points where we have to stop reading with such a "dry" mentality and add some flavor and tone to the story. What if we read Mk. 2.5 with a humorous tone instead of a serious one? For instance, "When Jesus saw their faith..." should be read humorously. As a carpenter, He knew what what it was like to build a roof and to take it apart. Seeing them tear the roof (perhaps His own roof!!!) off, He couldn't help but be suprised. And then, we hear the punch-line: "Son, your sins are forgiven."

What if Jesus' statement is like a double-entendre here? What if it has a serious meaning to it but is said with a joking tone? Can you imagine Him saying this and the people in the crowd laughing? I can! What if Jesus' remark has the idea of: "You seriously just tore my roof apart, you guys!!! But...I forgive you for it, I forgive your sins." In my mind's eye, I can see the whole place erupting in laughter while some teachers in the corner see no humor in the statement but rather a threat. And then, just as the laughter dies down, Jesus does the unthinkable and restores this guy. The move from humor to restoration, along with the mixed emotions of the crowd, is, in part, what gives this story such force.

As a carpenter, Jesus had an "inside" on what it took to tear that roof apart. As a homeowner, Jesus was surprised that people tore His roof apart. As a man with a sense of humor, Jesus was able to make light of the situation. As a teacher, Jesus was able to take the situation and turn it into a teachable moment. And as the Messiah, Jesus knew that saying and doing these things would ultimately get Him killed but He loved people so much that He followed through with it anyway.


  1. Very interesting thoughts. I like it.

    Nazareth, of course, being where he did all his carpentry work, was not by the lake. Still, this is the first time I've imagined his "carpenter's eyes" during the ministry years. I've done some small contracting work, and I see things on houses others wouldn't. I bet there was a part of him that missed it.

    The interpretation of humor is possible. I do believe Jesus secured a home for Mary and his brothers in Capernaum in early 29 AD. (Can you imagine living in Nazareth at her age if your son was the biggest nasty rumor in town?) I like the point. "he was at home." Never caught that before.

    You may very well be onto something, Michael!

    This is my kind of stuff! :)

  2. Bill,
    thanks for your thoughts and comments. As for Nazareth, it is clear from Mark's account that Jesus moved from there to Capernaum when His formal ministry started.

    It is interesting, this year-by-year thing you're doing but I'm not so quick to stamp dates on things. Not saying you're doing it "too quickly", I'm sure you put thought into it, but I'm saying I haven't done that so much.

    Also, I'm not so sure that Jesus secured a home as I think it is entirely possible that Joseph was still alive. However, even if Joe wasn't still alive, part of the reason that Jesus was snubbed by the Nazareth village people in Mk. 6 is probably beacuse they were envious of Jesus' entourage, fame, etc. (EG: They think: "Why should He get all the glory when I did what I was supposed to do and stuck around w/the family?" I've written about that in other Mark posts.)

    As for the humor and whatnot, I do think it's there. The point you make about "seeing" things from a carpenter's standpoint that others don't or can't is spot-on, I think. Good stuff.

    Thanks Bill.

  3. Here's a "quick" date or two. Take them roughly, for what they're worth. Numbers can be as much a part of context as wood and thatch. ;)

    Assume Joseph was roughly 20 years old (give or take) when Jesus was born. With my dates, that was 7 BC, and the paralytic through the roof was early 30 AD. Joseph would be 46 or older. Now, kings and emperors could live to age 70-ish, but common men didn't often make it to 50.

    Point: Joseph was old. Jesus was 35, which made him old enough to be a grandfather himself. Actually, 30 is old enough to be a grandfather, if your daughter gets married by age 15!

    When Jesus moved to Capernaum, I'm assuming he was the man of the house. There were plenty of reasons for him to move, but I personally believe it was partly out of kindness to Mary.

    Btw, Joseph was known to the Capernaum Jews. See John 6:42 & 6:59. But my hunch is that he died about the time Mary and the boys came looking for Jesus. (The "who is my mother scene".)

    Food for thought. But yeah, doing dates is always going to be tenative to some degree. I just think it can be much better than its been in the past.

  4. I liked your boat musing, too. I can see Jesus standing at the seashore running his hands along Peter's boat going, "This is good handiwork. You build this yourself?" :)

  5. Bill,
    I am certainly aware of the statistic that suggests men didn't live long in antiquity. However, that is a huge generality that I am not quite willing to hang my hat on yet.

    Your dates are interesting, though, my estimates may differ a little.

    When Jesus moved to Capernaum, I think He was on His own..the man of His own house. I wouldn't claim that He was the man of His mother's house back in Nazareth. I also would differ with you on His reasons for moving. I don't think His move had much to do with being kind to Mary. I do, however, think that it had a lot to do with His labor vocation and His ministry.

    Something to think about (which I've discussed in other posts in this series): Why go pick fishermen first? Why not more carpenters? Why not craftsmen/women? Why not peasants? Why fishermen? 1. Travel, 2. To undermine the Galilean fishing economy set up by the Roman govt. The 2nd move would have put Jesus on the map instantly (and it did!) and it certainly would have drawn a lot of religio-political attention to Him (and it did!). Notice in Mark's Gospel, this is emphasized particularly as Jesus first calls the fishermen (interrupting the economy) and then the toll collector at the fishing booth (again, an interruption of the economy). As for the traveling, well, that's self-explanatory.

    And it may sound crass but I do not, for one moment, consider it out of the question that Jesus may have had a hand in building boats! Thanks again, Bill, for you thoughts; I enjoy trading comments with you.

  6. I don't think the roof was torn apart. It was literally dug through. See J L Reed on Archaeology and the Galelean Jesus 2000. Wall of houses were generally constructed with pieces of black basalt held together with clay, and these were not strong enough to hold a second storey. It was possible to have a ladder to the roof and the four men would have carried him up on his mattress. Roofs were normally made from wooden beams, placed at intervals, covered with branches or reeds which were plastered with clay. This could be dug through (see Aramaic reconstruction in Casey's Solution to the Son of Man Problem) and the gaps between the beams would be wide enough to lower a mattress between. I think Jesus was astonished at their demonstration of faith and therefore convinced that the man would be healed and his sins forgiven by God. Although important and unimportant details (like laughing) are necessarily omitted in these transmitted traditions in the gospels I don't think Jesus would have experienced this as funny.

  7. oh hells bells - the typos: Galilean with an i, Walls with an s ... sorry!

  8. Steph,
    It can certainly be seen as not funny but I think it is just as plausible / possible that humor was intended here.

    As for the roof, yes, I understand how they were "generally" built. But "generally" does not mean always, of course. I do think the roof was dug through, as you say. I also think Jesus would have been surprised, esp. if it were His home, what had happened. Would He have gotten mad? No, He goes on to say "your sins are forgiven"...that's quite light-hearted humor if you ask me (He forgives them for destroying the roof). BTW, I'm not sure I agree w/Casey's SOM notion. Also, don't worry about the spellling :)

  9. I don't think you can complain much about his Aramaic reconstruction in this case. I still don't think Jesus would take the forgiving of sins by God lightly. Sure he was amazed at the extraordinary lengths they went to in order to ensure the patient got to Jesus but this was a true testimony of their absolute faith in his healing. It would have been cruel to laugh.

  10. Steph,
    I haven't actually looked at the actual Aramaic reconstruction in this case. I was simply commenting about the SOM theory of his. As for God taking the forgiving of sins lightly, well, that's not exactly what I'm trying to say. I'm suggesting that when Jesus says "Your sins are forgiven", He's referring to them tearing through the roof (He's forgiving them/him for that). That can be taken as a quick-witted, light-hearted comment made by Jesus. However, others in the crowd (eg the religious leaders) heard it with more serious ears; not to equate you w/them, but you're also hearing the more serious side of it too. Oh, interpretation, how fun it is.

  11. 'your sins are forgiven/undone/released' is addressed to one person - to the paralytic. Hearing this can begin the healing by lifting the psychological burden causing the paralysis. Casey refers to work by Morna Hooker and others on healing - you might find this section in Solution to the Son of Man helpful. I can't see any justification for interpreting humour in this healing. It all sounds a bit Burton Mackish.:-)

  12. steph,
    it looks like we're not going to see eye-to-eye on this but i would say, if i'm sounding a bit "mackish" you're certainly sounding very "crossanish" :)