Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Sassy Take on an Old Story by Joan M. Baril

 The Sharpest Knife in the Drawer
By Joan M. Baril

She was fifteen years old and she was pregnant. What was she going to say to her parents? She’d have to tell them but how to pitch the message? And not only her parents. Once the elders of the village found out, there might be real trouble. Last year they dragged a woman caught in adultery to the village square and stoned her to death. Would she be next?

But Mary was by far the sharpest knife in the drawer. As her mother wailed and her father shouted, she drew herself up to her full four-foot height and said, “I did nothing. Nothing. God did it.”


“It was God. I swear. I was kneeling at prayer”—both parent rolled their eyes at this unlikely scenario—“when this angel appeared. Very tall, with golden wings, a shining face and he said I’d have a baby.

“No, it’s true. It’s true. I was so surprised. I said, ‘Hey! Hang on a minute,’ but he insisted it was God’s will. That’s right. And that the baby would be special, a rabbi. More than a rabbi—like a messiah maybe. Anyway,” she snapped her fingers, “I was pregnant. Just like that. And oh yes, he said I was like, special, that I’m a holy person. God chose me.” She pointed to herself. “I’m full of grace.”

Her parents sighed. They were not sure how far to go along with this one but to be on the safe side with the village elders, they quickly married Mary off to an old guy in the neighbourhood, a carpenter, named Joseph.

In the course of time, Mary had a baby boy and she threw herself into the task of teaching the child the scriptures. As soon as he was old enough, she sent him to the best  teachers and drilled him every day on his lessons. He grew up to be a smart little guy but mouthy. When they took him to the temple, he asked the rabbis many smart alex questions and also gave smart alex answers when they quizzed him.

It was at this point that Mary made her big mistake. She should have taken him aside and said, “Listen up, Son. Nobody likes a smart ass. Keep your big mouth shut for a change.”  If she had done this, it would have saved him a lot of grief later.

But even though he was super smart, he was a friendly, loving boy and soon everyone in the village looked up to him. He and his mother went everywhere together leaving his brothers and sisters at home with the old dad. Once they went to a wedding and, when the wine ran out, Jesus had the connections to get some in a hurry thereby saving the groom’s family a lot of embarrassment. This incident, and others, would be remembered and embroidered later.

When Jesus was in his twenties, he realized he had to make a decision about his future. Should he follow his father’s carpenter trade as tradition demanded? His heart wasn’t in it. The old man was a complete nonentity around the house but Jesus tried hard to show respect. On the other hand, he knew that before his birth, when the damned Romans forced his mom and dad to treck across country to Bethlehem for some kind of idiot census, his dad was so useless he couldn’t even get them a hotel room. His mom was in labour and his dad couldn’t finagle a half-decent place to give birth. The fact he was born in a stable was humiliating. He determined to leave the village where everyone knew the story, and set out on his own.

But to do what?
With the encouragement of his mother, he decided to try itinerant preaching. To his surprise, he was good at it. He soon had a dozen or so regular followers. The crowds grew. He told excellent stories. “The Prodigal Son” was the hands-down favourite although “The Good Samaritan” was also a crowd-pleaser.  On the other hand, the more discerning said the tale of “The Wise and Foolish Virgins” still needed work.

And he delivered great one liners. When a woman was about to be stoned for adultery he cried out, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.”  A memorable line, everyone agreed, by any standard. Moreover, it was obvious that the preacher was a loving, kindly fellow who cared for children and outcast groups. He urged his listeners to be nice to each other, help each other, and forgive each other. It was the message people had been waiting for. His following grew.

Back at home, Mary kept in touch through her other sons who often attended the meetings. She was proud of her eldest. She often wished her parents were still alive so she could say, “See. What did I tell you?” 

But her pride soon changed to worry. Jesus was attracting larger and larger crowds. The word, “multitudes,” was being used.  She knew huge gatherings did not find favour with the Romans. They were always suspicious, always on the look-out for incipient rebellion. When Jesus entered the capital city leading thousands of ecstatic followers all calling him their King, she feared the worst.

She was right. The Romans, never slow on the uptake, grabbed her son and put him to death.

Well, you can image how Mary felt. Her eldest son, a kind, sweet, loving boy, very talented, with a great career ahead of him, leader of a new movement and now he was dead and all his work was in ashes. His disciples ran about moaning and crying. The great dream was over.

But Mary was the sharpest knife in the drawer. For a few shekels, she had the stone in front of the tomb rolled back and the body removed. The next day, when she went with a couple of cronies to the grave, they saw the body was gone. She threw her hands to heaven.

“He has risen!” she cried.

The disciples were elated. “Yes, yes,” they said in an ecstasy of hope.

The news spread like wild fire.
“I think I saw a guy that looked like him down by the fishing boats,” a child said and the story flew around the community. Someone else, getting water early in the morning, swore Jesus walked up to the well and then, just as suddenly, disappeared. Over the next few weeks, he was seen here, seen there. The entire country was in a frenzy.

Mary decided it was time to call a halt. She told everyone that her son had risen into heaven. The disciples accepted the news with joy. They were anxious to get the organization on a stable footing. They wanted to follow their master’s command to journey to all corners of the world spreading the gospel and setting up satellite churches wherever they went.

Mary was able to put her feet up at last. From the next room she could hear Joseph’s saw grinding slowly back and forth. He was getting very old. She sighed, her heart heavy, still mourning her son. Now, she cast her mind back. It had been a long, long road. However, she did recognize one bright fact. As the mother of God, for so they referred to her now, she could not be left destitute. Soon the tithes started to roll in, to the great satisfaction of the Sharpest Knife in the Drawer.


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