My brother Lazarus was one of Jesus’ best friends. They met at the Temple in Jerusalem when they were younger. Lazarus, my sister Martha and I lived with our parents in Bethany, a few miles from the Temple. Jesus, his mother, Joseph and brothers came every year for the feast of the Passover. For Jesus’ family it was a long and exhausting journey. They were joined by several families from Nazareth and other towns nearby.
Neither women nor girls were allowed into the Temple. The men and older boys went inside some of the rooms, but only a few were permitted to enter the rooms where the Rabbis were teaching. Mostly, my sister Martha and I prepared the fruits and vegetables for the men and made their lives comfortable as they learned about spiritual things and how to serve God. On the last day of the Passover feast, Lazarus came to me and pulled me away from the others.
“Mary, you should hear what Jesus is saying. He is asking the most wonderful questions. They even called him the Teacher of Teachers!”
I pumped him for more information. My curiosity was raging.
“Lazarus! Come help me pack up. We’ll be leaving tonight,” my father entreated.
I happened to know where Lazarus stored his extra set of clothes. I happened to get to his tent while he was busy helping our father pack. His clothes were loose on me. I had to tie my hair back and fashion a hood to cover it.
Getting past the men guarding the Temple doors was easy enough. I explored the various rooms and tried to blend in. Finally, I dashed behind a curtain in the room where Jesus was talking with the Rabbis. I strained to hear Jesus speak.
“How do I know these things? They are revelations to me.” Jesus said.
“You are asking things that Rabbis have never asked. You speak with authority and wisdom of a man with years of experience and you are yet a boy.”
I listened intently as Jesus continued to explain God’s ways and ask the Rabbis what they believed about how God works in their lives. Knowing that my family would be leaving soon, I managed to sneak out of the room. I rushed to Lazarus’ tent.
“So, you have stolen my clothes and posed as a boy. What is this about, my little sister?” Lazarus laughed.
“I’ll tell you later.” I threw off his clothes that I had worn over mine and rushed to our mother’s side.
“Just where have you been? We were packing up the food and where were you? Not here. You missed supper.”
“I’m not hungry, Mother. Do you think I could stay the night with Aunt Deborah? Just a few days. I could walk home from here.”
“It’s too dangerous.” Mother replied as Lazarus wandered up.
“Too dangerous? I was just coming to ask if I could stay here in Jerusalem a few extra days, too. I’ll walk Mary home.”
“Ask your father.” We did. He said yes. Martha protested when she was told that her help was needed caring for our younger siblings. Fortunately Deborah and her family graciously received us into their bustling household.
The next afternoon, when Lazarus went into town, I borrowed his clothes and wandered into the Temple. The rooms were less crowded, but there in the innermost room was the exact scene that I had encountered the day before, Jesus surrounded by Rabbis, now more of them than yesterday.
At the end of two hours, my head spinning with new ideas, I realized that it had grown dark outside. I darted out and hurried to Deborah’s.
Lazarus was waiting for me. “So, little sister. What are you up to and why are you wearing my clothes again?”
The next day, he hid his clothes. After a long day helping Aunt Deborah pick olives, Lazarus drifted up. “My friend Jesus said there has been a new boy visiting the Temple while he was listening to the Rabbis teach. Jesus said he hides behind curtains and just listens. I wonder who he could be?”
I shrugged my shoulders trying to look innocent. “Jesus’ family left two days ago. Why is he still here?”
“Probably staying with relatives like us. I didn’t ask.”
“He has never said anything about relatives from Jerusalem. Maybe you should ask.”
“Maybe I will.” Lazarus’ skin was flushed. He hurried away.
The next morning, Lazarus borrowed our uncle’s camel. Lazarus promised that he’d be back for me. He handed me a set of his clothes. “Go check on our friend tomorrow.”
It was dusk on the third day after Jesus’ family left for Nazareth. I did not expect to find Jesus in the Temple. But, there he was.
Joseph burst into the room. “Jesus! Where have you been? Your mother thought you were with me and I thought you were with the women. The crowd was so large we lost track of you. Didn’t you know we were leaving? It’s been three days! Your mother waits for you outside, we’ve been worried sick!”
Jesus must have felt embarrassed to be confronted by Joseph in front of the Rabbis. He said softly and with great confidence, “Please understand that I must follow my spiritual path and be about my Father’s business.”