Mary arose from the mat where she‘d been kneeling in prayer and loosed the scarf that covered her long dark hair. With graceful movements, she passed through the open door of the upper room and onto the roof of the house. The simple bed chamber had been built by her son Jesus after the death of her husband and Mary treasured its comfort and privacy. The furnishings were simple, but adequate.
A bit of the nomad dwelt in Mary, a throwback from the days when her people lived in tents. She loved the outdoors, especially the evening sky when she could behold the stars and count the diamonds twinkling in the night.
Now she crossed the cement floor to the wall at the edge where she could see out over the city and observe the morning activity. She stiffened suddenly and gasped in dismay. “Oh no, it’s my cousin Rachel and her husband. It’s been years since they moved away. What brings them back to Nazareth now?” A woman of great beauty, Rachel had attracted a wealthy husband but she’d always been the town gossip and delighted in being the first to bring bad news. Mary tried to compose herself now and not imagine the worst.
She took a deep breath, then hastened down the outer stairway and greeted her cousin with a kiss on both cheeks. “Rachel, my dear, how good to see you. Does Jacob have business here in Nazareth?”
“No, it’s you we‘ve come to see. I need to talk with you in private while Jacob finds lodging for the horses.”
“Of course, and you must be weary from your long journey. Let’s go sit in the courtyard and I’ll ask the maid to bring us some fruit and drink.”
They passed through the main room into the courtyard and seated themselves on mats before a low table. Then Rachel spoke earnestly, “Mary, I’ve been worried about you ever since I heard that Jesus had left you to go and preach in the wilderness. With all of your children gone, you must be a very lonely woman. It was heartless of him to leave you alone like that.”
Mary smiled to herself. So this is what it’s all about. Gently she reached out and touched Rachel’s hand. “Ah, but I am not really alone. My daughter Deborah lives in Nazareth. She visits me frequently with her children in tow. Those little ones are a great joy to me. And I have many friends as well.”
But Rachel wasn’t convinced. “You don’t have to pretend with me, Mary. I know that Jesus has broken your heart with his disgraceful behavior. Why he associates with people of the worst sort -- tax collectors and prostitutes. And he even declares himself to be a god! Some say he’s possessed by a demon Jacob believes he has lost his sanity. Perhaps he‘s right.” She shook her head sadly. “But you mustn’t remain here in Nazareth by yourself. Jacob and I have come to take you home with us. We‘ll shield you from the angry mobs who are sure to come after you. You‘ll be safe with us.”
Mary raised a hand in protest. “Oh, but there is really no reason to do so. And you are wrong about Jesus. He has a calling to preach good news to the poor, and to heal the sick and open the eyes of the blind.”
“You believe those rumors? Oh, you poor soul.”
“Really, Rachel, this is quite uncalled for.”
“Then perhaps I‘ll leave it to Jacob to persuade you. Where is that man? He’s taking his time with those horses. I’d better go and fetch him.” With that, she bustled out of the room, leaving Mary to gaze after her in frustration.
Mary sat for a few moments, deep in prayer. Then she remembered the words of Joseph years ago, after enduring a visit from her cousin. “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.”* Mary smiled then burst out laughing as she made a mental picture of Rachel wearing a gold ring in her nose.
*Proverbs 11:22 NIV
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