Historical setting: Remembering the First Century, Jerusalem
Nic is probably getting impatient with my explanation of First Century Temple politics. But in order to hear a whole story it’s important to start where the story starts. So my friendship with Jesus has to begin with my father and with his friendship with Joseph. Besides, all we have to do right now is ride across these mountains and yammer our stories away.
“As I was saying, my father had an instinct for taking notice of the skills of a good teacher. He saw Joseph at work and recognized this man was gifted, not only in the craft of construction, but also with special skills for guiding his apprentices. Joseph brought empathy when working with others, not simply edicts of righteousness for the less-skilled workers assigned to help him. In fact it was Joseph who made Jesus into such an excellent …”
“…teacher?” Nic asks.
“…carpenter.” I answer.
“In those days King Herod planned major renovations to the Temple in Jerusalem. Joseph came down from Nazareth hoping to work on the project, but like everything else the Sadducees touched, work on the Temple was assigned according to politics. The Sadducees claimed that because the Holy of Holy’s could only be approached by Priests and Levites no other artisans were allowed to work on the Temple. Thus Joseph, a Pharisee, wasn’t ‘qualified’ to do the work – but — he could be a teacher of the necessary skill.
“My father really enjoyed making jest of the inability of priests and Levites to build anything, much less the Temple. His chatter was one snide bit of political sarcasm after another. He would say things like – ‘look at these mountain peaks? According to the rod and plumb line of the Temple priests these peaks are declared level!’ Of course truth is elsewhere. Any guests or family gathered at our table would be expected to share their political agreement in a good guffaw. Maybe a Pharisee doesn’t meet the priestly requirements for reconstructing the Holy of Holy’s but a Pharisee can be a fine teacher. So there was Joseph chosen to teach construction to the fumbling and useless Sadducees.
“Though Joseph had an uncle not far from us in Bethlehem that elder lived in a tiny room, sparse even for one man. So while the work was being done Joseph was a welcome guest at our villa. That was how my father and Joseph became good friends.”