An ancient Jewish boy's education included learning his father's skilled trade and Jesus was no exception, learning building skills from his earthly father, Joseph. This is often translated as "carpenter." Carpenter crafts teach kids to work with their hands as Jesus' did to gain a sense of the architectural features which Jesus referenced in his illustrations.
In Luke 6:48-49, Jesus draws on his knowledge of construction in relating the story of the wise and foolish builders to emphasize the importance of a solid foundation in building both houses and a strong spiritual base. Children explore this concept with a storm surge simulation craft. Using salt dough or craft dough, mold a coastline around the outside edges of a foam plate, sloping down into the plate as a basin. Cover the dough with sand and gravel in different areas and place a large flat rock in one coastal area. Construct small houses using sugar cubes, twigs, craft sticks, dough or other materials. Press some into the sand, some into the gravel area and some on the rocky cliff. Fill the basin of the plate with water and turn a hair dryer on it to simulate a storm surge. Note which houses were flooded or washed away and which were safe. Discuss how Jesus' architectural analogy relates to building a personal foundation of faith.
Jesus refers to himself as the chief cornerstone in Mark 12:10 as he quotes from Psalms 118 as a fulfillment of prophecy. The cornerstone, or quoin, as it is known in the field of architecture, is the first stone laid at one corner of a building by which the rest of the building is measured, kept straight and level. It also serves as an important load-bearing fixture, without which the entire building would collapse. Cornerstones were often decorated or inscribed. Children make their own cornerstones around which to construct a sugar cube house. Give each child a plain wooden cube larger than a sugar cube. Let them decorate their cornerstones with markers and then use sugar cubes as bricks to build a house. The wooden cornerstone in one corner helps line everything up. Use white frosting as the mortar and decorate the house with hard candies.
Jesus demonstrates knowledge of how a builder goes about his business, estimating costs and checking resource availability before starting a project such as the tower mentioned in Luke 14:28. Based on your own available resources, children try their hand at many different tower building challenges. PBS Zoom Sci suggests trying to build a tower out of only straws and straight pins or sheets of newspaper. A marshmallow and toothpick tower is another option. Challenge the children to a friendly competition to see which design holds the most pennies and avoids the ill fate of the tower of Siloam in Luke 13:4.
Like Father, Like Son
Considering Jesus' demonstrated knowledge of architecture, it is reasonable to conclude that he followed the family apprenticeship custom in his early years. Children can honor the life lessons they learn from their family just like Jesus learned his trade from Joseph. Glue stones on the surface edges of a plain picture frame. Use different sizes, shapes and colors to create an interesting design that fits together as a stonemason fits pieces together in construction. Fill in the gaps with sand. Insert a picture of the child's family playing or working together to remind her that families learn many things from one another.
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