One day, Jesus and St. Peter were walking through a village, when they came to a blacksmith shop.
Peter gave Jesus a nudge. “Lord, look at that.”
Jesus looked above the door and saw a sign saying, “Master of Masters.”
“Hmm,” said Jesus. “Let’s look into this.”
Inside, the blacksmith was at his forge, pounding on a horseshoe.
“I saw the sign over your door,” said Jesus. “What does it mean?”
“Can’t you read?” said the smith. “It means what it says. I’m the Master of Masters.”
“That’s quite a coincidence,” said Jesus. “That’s what people call me.”
“Then they’d better stop,” said the smith. “I’m the greatest blacksmith that ever lived. That makes me the Master of Masters.”
Just then, a man came in, saying, “Blacksmith, my horse is outside. Will you shoe it for me?”
“Certainly,” said the smith. “Come back for it in an hour.”
When the man had left, Jesus asked, “Mind if I try my hand at it?”
The smith looked him up and down. “I guess you can’t do so much harm that I can’t put it right.”
Now, usually, to shoe a horse, you pull the shoe off the horse’s hoof, heat the shoe in the fire, hammer it at the anvil to bend up the ends, then nail it back on the hoof. But that’s not what Jesus did.
He took hold of one of the horse’s legs and gave a little tug. Pop! The leg came right off. He carried it inside, stuck the hoof in the fire, then laid it on the anvil and bent up the shoe. Then he carried the leg back outside and—pop!—stuck it back on the horse.
“Never saw that trick before,” said the smith. “Mind if I try it?”
“Be my guest,” said Jesus.
The smith took hold of another leg and tugged and tugged. But all he got for his trouble was a kick from the horse.
“Watch me again,” said Jesus. He took hold of the leg—pop!—pulled it off, brought it inside to the fire, bent the shoe at the anvil, and stuck the leg back on the horse—pop! Then he went around and did the same with the other two legs.
“I have to admit, I’m impressed,” said the smith.
“That’s nothing,” said Jesus. “Watch this.”
A man with a hunchback was passing by. Jesus said, “Sir, let me relieve you of that burden.”
“Are you mocking me?” asked the man angrily.
“Not at all,” said Jesus. “Please come into the shop.”
Jesus brought the man inside, picked him up, and stuck his hump in the fire. Then he laid him on the anvil and picked up the blacksmith’s hammer. Whomp! whomp! whomp! He pounded that man’s back as straight as a ruler.
Jesus set him down. The man cried, “Hallelujah!”, jumped six feet in the air, and raced on down the street.
“Never saw that trick, either,” said the smith. “Mind if I try that one, too?”
“I wouldn’t, if I were you,” said Jesus. “It’s tougher than it looks.”
“I imagine you’re right,” said the smith. He went straight outside and took down his sign. And he never again called himself the Master of Masters.
About the Story
Though you won’t find it in the Bible, many folktales of Europe tell of the times when Jesus and St. Peter returned from Heaven to walk upon the earth.
My source for this retelling is “The Master-Smith,” in Popular Tales of the Norse, third edition, by Peter Asbjörnsen and Jörgen Moe, translated by George Webbe Dasent, David Douglas, Edinburgh, 1888 (reprinted as East o’ the Sun & West o’ the Moon, Dover, New York, 1970). Only the first portion of the story has been used here.
For further reading: “Jesus and St. Peter in Friuli” and “Jesus and St. Peter in Sicily,” in Italian Folktales, retold by Italo Calvino, translated by George Martin, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1980; and Jesus Tales, by Romulus Linney, North Point, San Francisco, 1980.