The Mary Interviews
Is Jesus a wild child or a prodigy? At twelve years of age He accompanies His earth family to Jerusalem on a feast day pilgrimmage. Hundreds of thousands of humans clog the streets constructed for tens of thousands, maybe.
Jesus gets lost. Time to go home, the little caravan starts back to Nazareth. I think Mary and Joseph must at least see Him before the group starts to the house or they would not start. Certainly, they rush back immediately on discovering His absence.
Did someone snatch Him? Gracious sakes, they have been entrusted with the upbringing of the Son of God. How do you explain to His Biological Father that you misplaced His Son?
Besides all the eternal damnation aspects, they love the Boy, Mary and Joseph love Him. Joseph teaches Jesus carpentry and the law. He takes Jesus to the woodshop and the worship place. Mary nourishes Him. Jesus, as we will see, is a Mama’s Boy. He is close to Mom to the very end.
So, they run back to Jerusalem, apparently traveling at night to recover the lost ground. This is not safe or smart but what parent marks time while his/her child is missing?
Where would you look for your child in a crowded city full of holiday revelers? There is no video arcade, no water park, no mall on the outskirts or rave party, no cinema, no wi-fi spot?
Would you find your child at the Temple?
Evidently Mary and Joseph do not think to look there first, either. When they do think to go to the Temple, there is Jesus, precocious twelve year old in the middle of imminent scholars, asking questions sure to stun His interlocutors.
"Who is this kid?" you can imagine muttering from more than one of them.
When Joseph and Mary find Him, Mary is the one to speak. Forget the translation; you know what she said.
"Young man, what do you think you are doing? Your father and I have been worried sick."
The answer of Jesus to the Mary in the first of three Mary interviews is succint, as are all His words in relation to what He does with His earth family.
"Did you not know," He intones, "I would have to be looking into the Family business?"
Jesus is not the first or last near teenager to say to His parents, "Don’t you get it?"
You would think they would get it. How many other Virgin births do they know about in Palestine? For the two people in the world who honestly know Jesus is born without sexual contact on the part of His earth parents are these two people.
They should know by now Jesus burns a different kind of fuel.
How many angels have to tell you before you know? Elizabeth told them, Simeon blessed the child, Anna confirmed his blessing. How often do you have to hear before you know?
In truth, when wrapped in flesh and blood, humans quickly lose sight of the angelic message, the riches of astronomers, the worship of shepherds and anything else other than work, conformity, routine life.
So, is Jesus a wild child? Does He practice impertinence in this first Mary interview?
Or, being sinless and all, is it possible He just gently reminds Earth Mom and Earth Dad He is not going into carpentry? There will never be a woodshop listed as Joseph and Son, Jesus Christ, Proprieter, in the Nazareth yellow pages.
If His Earth Parents are fretful now, what will they be when He takes up the work of a traveling Rabbi? When He invites the scorn of His (their) neighbors? When He risks stoning? When He dines with tax collectors, lets women travel with His band and courts the disdain of the religious elite?
He will color so far outside the lines, Mary will decide He is insane. He will take a bigger step outside her family then when He announces those who do the will of God are His family, not people who would stay Him from His course.
In the first Mary interview, Jesus starts to get her ready.
"I know who I am, Mom," Jesus tells her. "It’s ok. I’ll be alright."
Mary, we are told, treasures all this up in her heart. She thinks about it all night and day. She just can’t ever stop being Mom.
Maybe this is what makes her blessed.
What would you tell your Mom about your life to calm her fears? Jesus does not tell Mary He plays well with others, or gets a good education or becomes a professional or marries a good Jewish girl.
He just says He knows who He is, who God is and who He, Jesus, is, in relation to God. This will have to suffice.
So, who are you in relation to God? Do you know what God wants for your life? What are you doing about it, then?
Much of the world lives on less than $3 a day and has no decent drinking water. What are you going to do about it?
More than fifty per cent of marriages in the US each year end in divorce, with ruinous consequences for children, the couples and the economy. What are you going to do about it?
The singles population in Texas is growing exponentially each year as more and more families become dispersed. What are you going to do about it?
Much of Brownwood thinks all the institutional churches are hypocritical and have no place for them. What are you going to do about it?
"Did you not know," He asked, "I would have to be about my Father’s work?"
Is this not as much accusation as information? Is He not asking just as straightly, "Don’t you know you have to be about My Father’s business?"
The great thing is, if we want to know His Father’s business, all we have to do is follow Him, first through the gospels, thence to the church and into the world.
We have to be about His Father’s business.
At Cana of Galilee, long ago, a wedding party is about to be spoiled. Guests in place, happy couple smiling, singles green with envy, bride apprehensive; all seems well. Lurking in the shadows, though, grins the blight of any host. He is short of wine.
Mary and Jesus attend together. Undoubtedly they are in the home of relatives, times being as then as they were as to social arrangements. Jesus is there and Mary, Joseph is nowhere to be seen, indicating he is dead or incapacitated. Jesus is representative head of the household. In fact, Mary cannot go without Jesus. She has to have a male family member and she certainly walks behind Him all the way to the party.
The wine shortage will be a huge embarrassment to the host family. The party is ruined.
Mary points out the family embarrassment to her Son. There is a lot of party left but not enough drink.
Understand Mary is not asking Jesus to get everybody drunk. Dirty water, no matter the immunities one builds up, operates negatively on the system. Fermentation helps. The wine is not ninety proof but wine it is and wine it must be, scratch your head all you want.
Mary points out the family embarrassment with the clear implication Jesus should do something about it. There is no local liquor store. He will have to make some but that takes time, and grapes.
Or, He could just speak it into being.
Mary must know His abilities by now.
So, she points out the problem to her Son.
"Woman, what have I to do with you?" He jars her with His reply.
Is He just grumpy because He had to come to a family wedding?
Again, let’s take into account the sinless Son of God thing as we excuse His seemingly grouchy reply. No, with Jesus, you always have to look for the meaning behind the words.
Really, Mary, wine? He can feed thousands, heal the sick, clean up lepers, raise the dead and you want His first recorded miracle to be fermentation?
Well, there is the family connection and it is what is on her mind. Evidently, we can bring Him even the mundane stuff of everyday life. He can handle our little problems without getting off message.
No big surprise, I guess, if He counts dead birds and hairs on the head. If trivia does not derail Him, nothing does.
So, why the curt reply and what do we do about it?
He is telling Mary He will soon leave her house. This is time to break the news to her. He is, after all, going into His Father’s business.
His power is not about party tricks. He is not going to use His power for Himself, or for her. He is about to break with one family, without losing His responsibility to them, or His relationship. He is about to start His own family, those who know and do the will of God.
What might have happened if Mary asked for more than a little more wine?
Is there no one sick at the party? Is there no old man, a bit stooped at the waist, who could not be young again? Is there no one in private grief or painful hurt?
What if Mary just asks too little?
"Help me keep up appearances," she might be saying. Or, "Do the family thing." Or, "I feel so sorry for the host, for the groom, for the bride."
Mary seems to know Jesus can meet needs. Great, you know it too.
What do you ask Him for, then, since you know He meets needs?
His Father’s business is more than a party favor, other than appearance keeping, something beyond the routine.
Preventable diseases claim more lives each decade than all the recorded wars of humankind. Simple vaccinations could save millions. What do you ask God for today?
Two per cent of the world’s population now controls about 90% of the world’s wealth and not much seems to trickle down. What do you ask God for right now?
The second Mary interview ends with Jesus telling Mary He has bigger business than even she dreams.
On the Cross, beaten almost beyond recognition, naked as the first time Mary saw Him, Jesus looks down from the Cross. He sees Mary and next to her, an apostle of His band.
"Son," He says to the apostle, "behold your mother."
"Mother," He says to Mary, "behold your son."
What is this about? It is, of course, Jesus performing the last act of a good Jewish son, the titular head of the household. There is no social safety net. He has to provide for Mary. She needs a male to represent her in the culture.
"Son," see you mother. Mother, see your son."
Now, she is safe. She can process from place to place. She has a stature in the community again. Jesus covers the last nagging detail of His social, familial life.
Wait a minute.
Isn’t He coming back in three days? Doesn’t He know it? Hasn’t He been gone longer than that from her?
There must be something else behind His words.
Is it a stretch to say this is Jesus’s first purely religious public act? Is He not saying this is the logical progression of His Father’s work?
In fact, much of what Jesus does prior to the Cross contains both religious and social implications. His faith-walk through a bizarre, quasi-religious society bound by empirical power, tolerant only to the acceptable, puts Jesus in the role of Social Crusader.
Now, He is about to die. His death is a purely religious act. All of its implications, down to the least detail, are religious, not social. He makes a New Covenant in His body and in His blood.
Apparently, His Father’s business is religious, spiritual, inward, costly and not just social.
In His last Mary interview, Jesus tells us He is not coming back as He left, so someone else will have to take care of the other stuff. His actions are socially responsible. His death is purely religious.
Half of our town, more, will not worship God meaningfully in any way today. What are you going to do about it?
The per centage of the population claiming god other than God grows exponentially each year. What are you going to do about it?
We cannot follow Jesus apart from the religious implications of what He does. Jesus thinks it is more important to die to forgive sin than to live to feed hungry people. He does all the social stuff, yes, and so should we but we are not about His Father’s business if we do not proclaim deliverance to the captives.
The Mary interviews, as it turns out, all end up as one thing; the revelation of Jesus’s devotion to His mission.
If we follow Him, we will cure society of all its ills, one new brother or sister at a time.