But not only did my name mean 'bitter,' as if that's not hard enough to answer to, it also was one of the most common names.
'Mary! Did you finish your mending?'
Five dozen yes's or no's would echo down our ally. (laugh or smile, shaking head, remembering).
I learned to accept being common and answering to 'bitter' without becoming it. It was expected of a woman to accept her lot, and how could I be discontent when daily I knew the goodness of my God!
One of my greatest amazements was His goodness in betrothing me to Joseph. I didn't need to be reminded, though my mother often would, of all the men my father could have chosen for me. Instead he chose Joseph, and Joseph wanted me! Such a kind and generous heart; I knew I would learn to love him very soon, if my admiration of him wasn't mixed with love already.
"Then it happened. One minute I was daydreaming of Joseph, the children we'd have, a clean home with Joseph's shop around back, the children's bright eyes the first time they see the Temple, helping my children learn the Holy Scriptures, our Torah... when suddenly (drop to knees), the most incredible light shone from a being in the middle of my room. I hid my face. Was it God? Would I die?
"Then he said it. 'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.'
(To feet) Me! A common nobody found favor with El Elyon, God Most High! Would have His Son! Would have the Messiah that every female born of Jacob dreamed of having! But it would be me! I had only kiddingly wished for it. I would laugh with pleasure at the thought of being uncommon enough to bear the Messiah-- God's tool to deliver Israel.
Deliver Israel...(pause). That's the part I never understood; no Jew ever did. We expected a military hero, a king. The deliverance we experienced was unexpected. It was the reason Gabriel didn't change my name when he announced my son, Jesus, God's Son would be born. He called me Mary. (pause)
I've pondered many things while raising Jesus. Or was it me learning from Him? That's the humor of it all. He taught in our Temple when He was only twelve! But He was God; why shouldn't He! (pause as if remembering; smile or half laugh).
Then He did it. He delivered us.
He allowed those who hated Him to just kill Him. He'd walked out of a crowd-full of people trying to stone Him. Then, for just a handful of rulers, He submits to condemnation.
It was then I knew why I was called 'bitter.' I had never face bitterness like I did there at the feet of my son as He hung dying: not even when Joseph almost divorced me or the community shunned me as an adulteress or when we fled to Egypt to save Jesus' life or when Joseph died or Jesus left home. But here...(slight pause) I saw the hope of Israel dying a "needless" death. I had learned by then not to ask or interfere, but to wait on the Lord.
So I watched. As His heart broke and His lifeblood literally mixed with
water and poured from His side, I died. I suffered the bitterest my life
could have known. The Hope of Israel went out with the sun. It must have
been His Father's anger, I thought then, that shook the earth. (to God
as if praying now; earnestly and with agony) What could
a mere woman do, Adonai?! You know. I would have died in His place! Even as I thought it, however, I knew it wouldn't have been the same. Though what good it had done for Him to die, I couldn't know.
When the earthquake happened, many of Jesus' followers thought it was the end; we'd be swallowed up by the earth like Korah was in the desert. Some were even foolish enough to wail that God's prophecies were ruined; surely all Israel would die for it. Others ignored nature's chaos, and believed their trust in Jesus was misplaced.
We didn't know then that the Temple curtain had been torn. Torn from top to bottom. The entrance to the forbidden Holy of Holies was exposed. All the priests ran out covering their eyes lest they perish.
Three days of grieving. A sorrowful Sabbath. Then Mary of Magdela, Mary Clopas wife and Saloam found Jesus' tomb was empty. Mary of Magdela claimed Jesus had come to her...alive! As the weeks went by, we and five hundred others saw Jesus, touched Him, ate and talked with Him.
My son is alive! God's Son is alive. He is no more mine to guide and mother, but I am His now. He is and always has been greater than I. I can know His Father because of His blood sacrificed and perfect, acceptable as the complete atonement for my sin. Elohim, God has accepted Him as my sacrifice; my punishment was paid by my son. I am no longer 'bitter.' I am still common among men, yet loved by the Lord.
(look straight out into the audience) Have you met Him? (slight pause) Come. Let me introduce you to Jesus.
(c) Katy Pent, all rights reserved.
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