More from Mary

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was probably a widow. The Bible doesn’t tell us about that. There are some other details that we don’t read about, either.

What if it happened like this?

Centennial Chapel, Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Illinois

Centennial Chapel, Olivet Nazarene University, Bourbonnais, Illinois

Believe in the Gift

I

What to do with the beautiful gifts, Joseph thought as he drew his plane across the virgin wood, revealing raw whiteness beneath. Moonlight streamed in the open door, mixing with the steady candlelight. Children and animals were quiet at this hour. He could hear Mary singing softly to their firstborn son.
    
Such a good boy. Jesus smiled his contentment each day. Mary did, too. 

To think he had almost thrown everything away in hasty anger. He expressed his contentment in the new cabinet he was making. It would be a surprise for Mary, something useful for their home.

We must do something with the beautiful gifts, Mary thought as she stroked her son’s dark curls. After her hectic day as wife and mother, she was glad to rest. 

Sitting on a small wooden stool, she leaned against her son’s bed. His breathing, soft and regular, almost matched the steady rhythm of Joseph’s tools that she heard coming from his workroom. This was the time of day when she allowed herself to pause and consider the amazing events of the past few years.
    
Her joyful submission to God’s plan hadn’t always been easy. Carrying a baby before she was married, watching all the eyes upon her and hearing whispers when she went to draw water. 

Joseph had stayed with her, which was a continuing blessing. She knew the quiet criticism had been difficult for him. Now they had a new life here in Nazareth. 

Jesus was growing into such a fine boy, and Joseph took pride in being called his father. In Jesus’ eyes she sometimes saw glimpses of his communion with God. What a privilege to be with him in this way!
    
She rose and brushed her skirt. After blowing out the last candle, she sat in the moonlight and thought about the special treasures they had been given. She crossed the room and touched each wooden chest. Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh. Their value made her shiver slightly. 

Joseph’s hand was on her shoulder. She reached for it and meshed her fingers with his. 

II 
    
Mary put the last dish away and hung the damp cloth on a peg to dry. She allowed only a sigh to express her fatigue. Sitting down at the table, she took a minute to enjoy the quiet. Jesus was with her mother tonight. She needed some time to think. 

Their family trip to Jerusalem had shown Joseph and her another side of their son. They had found him talking with – actually teaching – the men in the temple. For a minute, she hadn’t even known him. Then she had reacted like a typical mother and scolded him for disappearing. Joseph had calmly reminded her that Jesus was doing something important, even if they didn’t fully understand.
    
Maybe it was true. She thought about the angel’s words on that long ago day. 

Rising from the table, she once again admired the beautiful cabinet Joseph had made for her. So many things had found a home in it. As she casually brushed her hand along the bottom shelf, Mary remembered the three wooden chests on the top shelf. Treasures, reminders of the beginning of a life which was now moving beyond her understanding. She sighed again, blew out the candle, and prepared for bed.

Joseph lay in the darkness. The events of the week whirred in his head. This boy had brought many challenges to them already, and he was only 12 years old. He heard Mary sigh and knew she was feeling overwhelmed, too. He knew God was with them as they helped carry out this plan. But some days were more difficult than others.
    
He thought about what he had given to his son. A home, security, protection. A strong religious upbringing. Was that what God wanted from him? 

As he rolled onto his side, he thought about the gifts others had given to Jesus. Especially the gold, frankincense, and myrrh. He had placed them on a high shelf, away from curious hands. Maybe he should get rid of them, take them to the temple as an offering. He would talk to Mary about that tomorrow.

III

Mary waved to her sister once more as she pulled the shawl around her shoulders. She heard the boys talking in Joseph’s workroom. Leaning into the door frame, she closed her eyes and wept. 

Joseph was gone. 

This day was the one she had dreaded most during their life together. He had been a good provider and, most of all, a strong father. Even though the boys were nearly grown now, she would still miss Joseph’s quiet faith and steadiness.
    
When the tears stopped, she crossed the room slowly. Everything looked new, different to her today. Gently touching treasured pieces Joseph had made, she stopped at the cabinet. Embarrassed by the dust on it, she found a cloth and began to clean it. 

As she dusted one of the wooden chests, she remembered when the men had brought the gifts to her. Treasures for her treasured son. She and Joseph had once talked about taking them to the temple, but then decided they really belonged to Jesus. Maybe she should sell them now. She and the boys might need the money. No, she wasn’t going to panic. God would provide for them. He always had.

IV

Today Mary was certain about God’s plan. Today she had seen her son perform a miracle. 

The wedding had been beautiful with many guests. She could still see Jesus sitting alone in the shade while the other guests ate and drank together. When she heard that their host had run out of wine, she went to share the news with him. 

As he saw her approaching, he smiled at her and held out his hand. Even though he didn’t respond to her request right away, she knew by the look in his eyes that he was going to do something. 

But she had never imagined that he would take the common water used for washing and turn it into the finest wine she and the other guests had ever tasted.
    
Now she understood what the angel had been telling her so many years ago. Her Jesus was truly the Son of God. If only Joseph could have been with her today. He would have been so proud. 

Before beginning the evening chores, she broke a piece of bread from this morning’s loaf and took a bite. From the corner of her eye, she saw the three wooden chests sitting on the table. Just yesterday she had offered them to Jesus. But he had told her he didn’t want them right now and asked her to save them. He had even told her she would know the right time to give them to him. 

She had always enjoyed their beauty. Keeping them for a while longer was fine with her.

V

How could God’s plan go so wrong, Mary wondered as she cleaned her small house once again. Leaning on the cabinet Joseph had made, she cried in frustration. 

Since the wedding at Cana, Jesus had been caught in a web of doubt, fear, and rejection. He lived in contradiction. Some followed him and refused to leave him alone. Others confronted him at every turn, questioning his every move, plotting against him. How much longer can this go on? She cried out to God in the dusky light of evening. 

Mary knew Jesus was the Son of God, but she didn’t understand why he chose to endure the conflict. God’s plan? She feared it more than ever.
    
She recognized John’s voice as he knocked on her door and hurried to greet him. The story he told her was unreal in its horror. Jesus’ words echoed in her mind and heart. Leave, die, go away. She had refused to listen. Now John was forcing her to listen.

Mary put down her dusting cloth and grabbed her shawl. Time for another journey to Jerusalem. At the last minute before walking out the door, she placed the three wooden chests in a large bag. Handing it to John, she shivered as she took his arm. Her donkey was waiting.

VI

Horror tinted the air that Friday afternoon. Mary refused to look up, even when the sky grew dark and Jesus’ words pierced the stillness. John moved her closer to the cross. What mother could survive this, she thought. Today her son’s body was being crucified. Her only comfort was knowing his spirit would never die.

Then John told her it was over. Numb, broken, tired, she followed his lead as they left the hill at Golgotha. She didn’t care what happened now. Her reason for living was gone.

VII

Walking up the stairs and into the quiet room with John, Mary crumpled on the bed. Nothing would comfort her. If only Joseph was here. She felt more alone than she had ever imagined she could feel. 

John lit the candle on the table and sat down in a chair. His weeping filled the small room. Isolated in their grief, they endured the long night. 
    
Mary woke from a brief, fitful sleep. Her eyes rested on the bag they had carried from Nazareth. She rose and looked inside it, remembering Jesus’ words that she would know the right time to give him the gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

Now he was gone. Had she missed the moment?
    
Finding a blanket, she covered John as he slept in the chair. What a good friend he is, she thought. Maybe they could help each other through this time.

VIII

Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene greeted Mary and John as they entered the room. Mary lit a candle. Taking places at the table in the center, they shared the events of the past few days in quiet voices. 

As the candle burned lower and lower, the friends grew quiet. There were too many pieces of this puzzle, and no one had the energy to put them together.
    
Just before dawn, Joanna knocked and entered. She invited Mary and Mary Magdalene to go with her to Jesus’ tomb. There was work to do to finish the burial process. 

As they were leaving, Mary remembered the bag. This must be the time Jesus had told her about. Urgency to share the gifts hurried her out the door and down the road. 

IX

In the quiet of a new morning, Mary stood with the other women in the garden. They looked at each other with disbelief, joy, confusion, fear mixed on their faces. It was all true! From the words of the angel to the words on the cross, Mary realized that the story of Jesus was wonderfully true! 

The tomb was empty. There was no need for gifts of gold, frankincense, or myrrh there.

What about the gifts? Their earthly value would be a deposit to help support the work of the disciples, now that Jesus was gone. And there was a lot of work to do. More than anyone even realized.

First, they had to go and tell the others the good news of Resurrection Day!