Perhaps it still may be hard to see Jesus’s life as like your own. Likewise, the culture of first-century Nazareth may seem almost incomprehensible. In his book Jesus of Nazareth the Scripture scholar Gerhard Lohfink reminds of us how strange Jesus would appear to us today:
He would—probably to our profound horror—look quite different from the way that we had imagined him. He would be neither the sovereign Christ of the Byzantine apses nor the fettered man of sorrows of Gothic art nor the Apollonian hero of the Renaissance. His Aramaic language would be comprehensible to only a few specialists. A lot of his gestures and postures would seem strange to us. We would sense he lived in a different civilization and a different culture.
Nonetheless, because of what we know of the human person and what we can know about the Hidden Life, we can begin to identify intersections with our own lives.
Many of us protest that we are just too ordinary to be holy. Our lives can feel far from the extraordinary life of Jesus of Nazareth. And so we sadly speak of our “just” lives. I’m just a student. I’m just a mom. I’m just a businessman. But for most of his life, Jesus was just a carpenter in a little nowhere town. Meier calls him “insufferably ordinary.” This is why his townspeople and family and friends were so shocked when he began his public ministry: “Is not this the carpenter?”
Jesus shows us the inestimable value of ordinary time. As the Jesuit theologian John Haughey commented, during Jesus’s time in Nazareth, God fashioned him into “the instrument most needed for the salvation of the world.” In Nazareth Jesus speaks to the meaning and worth of our ordinary lives.
Soon the tektōn who had been hidden in the small town would begin his public ministry, step onto the world stage and decisively change human history.
Excerpted from “Jesus: A Pilgrimage” by James Martin, S.J.