I describe this next piece as ‘historical fiction’. I imagine John the disciple in his old age, probably writing a letter to a friend, ruminating about his life.
Yeah, I knew Mary.
I never was very comfortable around her. In fact,
almost everything about her made me feel uncomfortable. Her clothes,
her voice, her attitude. The way she would stare. She looked right
through you. She would sit and study Jesus for hours, even when he
wasn’t talking. She had too much money for a single woman and spent
it like a kid sometimes. That bottle of perfume for example. It must
have cost a year’s wages and she bought it on a whim. She had no
qualms showing it to people either. I could smell that stuff across
the room even with the bottle sealed shut. Then, a year later she
just breaks the bottle and dumps it out all over Jesus head. Let me
tell you one thing, I couldn’t figure out Jesus’ response for the
longest time. There she is sobbing like a baby at his feet, and then
she throws propriety to the wind altogether and lets her hair down,
right there in public, to dry off the tears. It was as if her old
occupation suddenly came roaring back to life right before our eyes.
Tiberius actually got up and left, but then Tiberius was an old
customer of hers. And Jesus just sat there, tears streaming down his
face, eyes closed, receiving her attention like it was a bushel of
golden drachmas. When she finally came to her senses, she looked
around like she had just woken from a dream. That was the only time I
ever saw Mary embarrassed, and Jesus was so obviously moved I
couldn’t even enjoy her predicament. I was so distracted by Jesus
being so touched I just forgot to notice Mary. That was a miracle
too, because Mary was beautiful. Mary was the most beautiful woman I
have ever known, and there she was on her knees with her hair down to
her waist and I hardly noticed. All I could see was the look on
Jesus’ face. There will never be anything quite so compelling as
the tears of the Christ.
After Mary got delivered and baptized, she was always hanging around, and I never got used to that. It didn’t seem proper after all, but Jesus didn’t care too much about what was proper to other folks. She was confident, almost like a man. She could shut you up with just a glance and embarrass anyone alive with a single compliment or rebuke. She was always saying profound things, and Jesus mostly seemed to approve. So often, she ended up sounding just like him when she talked. I just think she listened so intently to him that she never missed anything. She could almost speak his mind. More often than not, we would be having a discussion and Jesus would pause mid-sentence and Mary would just pick up where he left off. None of us guys could ever do that.
Mary had no social graces about physical contact. She would be talking to you and next thing you know she’s touching your shoulder or straightening your tunic or something. She once sat and held my hand for hours after my little daughter died and just listened to me cry. It seemed so natural at the time, but I couldn’t even look at her for weeks after that. She had no problem touching Jesus either. If she’d been away, even for just a few days, she’d run up and hug him like she’d been away for months. They were always holding hands and laughing, and usually about dumb stuff. Here he is, Jesus the Christ and he spends several hours a day just chatting about the weather and dumb stories and all those leper jokes they would tell each other. We would all try really hard not to laugh and then stupid Peter would make that snorting sound and we would all fall apart. It always seemed like the two of them were just finishing up when the rest of us would just get going.
Jesus was really hard on Mary. He was harder on Mary than any of the rest of us, and I don’t think one of us guys could have taken his intense correction like she did. It usually seemed to me like he picked up on the least important things too. He would allow the most socially compromising behavior to go by without a blink and then she would make some small comment about her father or her past or something and he would come unglued. You could tell it shook her right to the core, but she always took it like a soldier and it always made a difference in the way she lived. On the day Mary did that perfume thing, it was almost as if Jesus had been training her all along to be a certain kind of woman, and she finally passed the test. She somehow made it through Jesus’ gauntlet and I really think she must have passed by every one of the men in Jesus’ eyes. I know she passed all of us up in my eyes.
Yeah, I knew Mary, but as I sit here so many years later and think about it, I never really got what Jesus was trying to show us until he and Mary were gone. I knew her, but I didn’t know her well enough. I never really let her into my life, even though she loved me like a twin sister and probably would have died for me in a heartbeat. I hate to admit it, but I missed out on one of the greatest friendships on earth because I was afraid. I was afraid of what other people would think of me.
You know, every single day of those three years we were all together, all the way to the last supper, Jesus was better to Judas than I ever was to Mary.