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Many of you know people who received the mentorship of their parents and entered the family profession. In my community, Ronnie learned how to be a farmer from his father Ed. Roy taught his son about cars, and Kevin grew up to be a mechanic just like his dad. Betty worked in healthcare, setting an example for her daughter Kim, who went into the same line of work. Just like Mike and Skip learned carpentry from their father Harold, Jesus learned carpentry from his stepfather Joseph. In our culture, when a child learns a trade from their parent, we say, “Awww, how nice!” But in Jesus’ day, it was expected. In fact, it unnerved some people that Jesus gave up His carpentry job for ministry. It upset them even more that He was learning the God-business from His Father, who was God, not Joseph.
In the fifth chapter of John’s Gospel, when Jesus gets in trouble for healing a man on the Sabbath, his response (verse 171) is, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” This makes his detractors seek to kill him, because Jesus has claimed that God was His Father, making Himself equal to God. Instead of trying to get away, Jesus explains how the God-business, and not carpentry, really is the family business. First, he explains how life comes from the Father to the Son, and from the Son to the believer. Then, he tells how he learns everything from the Father, and you can learn from Him.
In verse 21, Jesus says, “For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants.” Then in verses 24-26, He says:
“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son.”
You see, the God-business is all about giving life. God gave physical life to us all, breathing into Adam that very first breath. When the Word became flesh and God stepped into humanity, that life of Christ came from the Father. But instead of limited life, Jesus possessed eternal life. Eternal means unlimited—Jesus has enough to give to everybody. So, Jesus took up the family business of giving life to all who receive it. In verses 28-29, He says, “Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, and they will rise again.”
Of course, for anybody to take up the family business, they must first learn it. Just as Jesus learned carpentry from Joseph, He learned unlimited love from God the Father. He watched the Father work, from pre-creation, through eternity, and up to his present day. Jesus says in John 5:17, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” The work of God is love, and that work never stops, never rests, never takes a break. Love is what made the universe, and love is what binds it together. Love will continue to the end, and outlast all things. “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).” Jesus keeps talking about the love-business in verse 20, “For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works….” Jesus learns love from the Father, and Jesus transfers that love to other people. That’s how it works. But then something amazing happens. Jesus invites his sisters and brothers, you and me, into the family business. “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father (John 14:12).”
I don’t know about you, but it blows my mind to think that because Jesus is no longer physically present, He expects us to continue the work. How can we do this? By continuing to learn the trade. As Jesus was always watching the Father, doing everything He saw the Father doing, so we must always keep our eyes on Jesus, in a perpetual apprenticeship.
A friend of mine works with Round Table Pizza on the West Coast. One franchise, owned by Bob Larson, is run just like his father, Bill, ran it. Bob started working at his father’s pizzeria when he was twelve years old. He invested full time in the summers and part time during the school year. From his dad, he learned to enjoy even the menial aspects of the work. He learned his father’s secret recipe for dough and sauce. He learned to be a people-person, how to treat employees and customers right. He learned his father’s generosity, giving back to the local community.2 When you learn a business, it pays to learn from the best, and Bob Larson learned it all from his dad. Jesus learned the God-business from His dad, and now He passes it on to us.
To take up the God-business means to learn from Dad. We learn to be godly, to literally be like God. So, we watch the things that Jesus does, and do that. It means we refrain from doing the things that Jesus wouldn’t do. Being a Christian means (duh!) to be like Christ. It means to take up the love-business and plan never to retire from it.
1 All scriptures taken from the NLT.
2 http://roundtablepizzafranchise.com/blog/the-family-business-founders-son-still-lives-and-breathes-round-table-pizza/. January 12, 2017.