[Based upon Chapters 11-18 in SISTERS OF LAZARUS; Beauty Unveiled.]

From “Beauty Unveiled” Chapter Eighteen *Intro to the story: Mary, Martha and Lazarus are at their Capernaum home, where the family spends the summers. They are hosting Jesus ben Joseph and several of his disciples. Mary has wandered into her mother’s flower garden and is pondering the changes that knowing Jesus has brought in her sister.

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Martha. Complimenting my appearance. Mary shook her head. From the day Simon had returned, Martha had changed. She still cared for the house and spent time preparing the meals, but she did not get angry if every dish was not perfect or if dust had settled on a table. She was gradually changing her wardrobe, selecting softer fabrics in beautiful hues, wearing jewelry, and even asking Mary’s advice on hair styles. The greatest change was the veils. Martha still wore veils, but not made from thick, opaque fabric. Her garments looked like the ‘tapestries of rich silk’ of the woman in King Solomon’s proverb. Martha had worked hard to be like that woman; and now she was. Mother would be pleased with Martha, Mary smiled sadly, but not with me. “Hello, Mary.” She looked up to see her brother walking across the path towards her. “Am I disturbing you?” “Oh, uh, no”’ She stood and busied herself with smoothing her garments. “Did Martha send you to look for me?” “No, no, no,” he said, patting the air with his hands. “Sit down. Abigail and her father and Ruth will be here soon and I wanted to cut some lilies for her.” He smiled. “They are her favorite flowers.” “What a kind thing to do,” Mary said. “Abigail is blessed to have you as her betrothed husband.” Lazarus grinned. “I am the one who is blessed. She will be the perfect wife.” “I am happy for you, Lazarus.” She paused. “From all appearances, Martha and Simon will not be long in following you and Abigail into marriage.” “I agree.” He shook his head. “Martha… a wife; who would have imagined it?” He smiled. “Mother and Father—may their memories be blessed—would have been pleased. One day I will be happy for you, when you become a wife.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Mary, is something wrong? You’ve been crying.” “No,” she shook her head and then paused. “Well, yes.” She took a slow breath. “I was just thinking about Mother.” “I know you still miss her,” he sat down next to her. “I do miss her,” she said. Lazarus said nothing and waited. “I was such a disappointment to her,” she said in a rush. “What?” he opened his eyes wide. “No. No. No. She loved you.” “I know she loved me,” Mary said. “But I was not the daughter she wanted. Martha was.” “Mary, Mother boasted to everyone of your beauty.” She blew out a breath. “What value is beauty?” “Mother was confident your beauty was all that was needed to attract a rich and powerful husband.” “That is what she told other people.  But she told me that a goat was a better cook than I.” Mary’s voice cracked, “She said that it was a good thing I was so beautiful, otherwise I would never find a husband.” Leaning her head on her brother’s shoulder, she dissolved into tears.

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Lazarus was shocked. He had never heard his younger sister—beautiful Mary—say these things. He didn’t know what to do. As he opened his mouth, another voice spoke. “Your mother was wrong.” Lazarus looked up to see Jesus standing near the planting of lilies. Dressed in a plain white tunic and black robe, he could have been a simple farmer or merchant; but the Teacher’s bearing—assured and wise yet without arrogance—could have rested upon the shoulders of a king. Jesus crossed to them as Mary lifted the lower edge of her head covering to wipe the tears from her eyes. “Mary bat Jacob,” he said, “look at me.” His voice was soft and kind. She hesitated and then lifted red-rimmed eyes to his. “Your mother was wrong,” he repeated. “Beauty of face or form—or skills—are not of value.” He swept out his hands, indicating the lush garden. “Look at these flowers. They are beautiful, but they will soon die and then where will their value be? “You, Mary bat Jacob, are worth so much more than these flowers. You have value because you are created by Yahweh and He loves you. “What is true beauty? It is written in the Holy Scriptures that Abraham’s wife Sarah was beautiful. She had a face and form that many men desired, but that was not what made her beautiful. Sarah was beautiful because she was gentle and kind. She was beautiful because she loved and obeyed Yahweh and used that love to serve others. “If you seek to love and obey Yahweh above everything else in your life,” Jesus took a step towards them, “if you love others as yourself, that will show in your actions and in your countenance. You will be beautiful; and that beauty will never fade.”

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“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not  eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”’ ‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” (Genesis 3:1-5) Beyond not truly understanding the God Who is Love and His Son, the next challenge mankind faces is that we believe lies. When Eve responded to the Devil/serpent’s oily suggestion—that God was withholding something wonderful—that poisonous lie pierced her heart. From the Fall, mankind has been wounded by the lies of the Devil. “I’m ugly,” “I’m stupid,” “I will never be able to do fill in the blank.” “I will always be poor.” “I will never overcome this sinful habit.” “I will never be healed from this illness.” Satan’s list of lies goes on; at one point or another, we have all believed the lie that God isn’t Who He said He is and that Jesus lied when He said, “how much more valuable you are than birds!”                                                                    (Luke 12:24) In John 10:10, Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;” The Devil/Enemy of our Soul/Thief has come to do whatever he can to destroy the belief in what God has promised us; to steal what God has given us; and to kill our God-given life. And he’s good at it; he’s had millennia to sharpen his lying tongue. There is another description of Satan that we often hear: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Many people misquote this scripture—I have no doubt that it is Satan who suggests that error—by switching the verb “like” with the verb “is.” Rather than remembering that the devil is like a lion, they believe he is a lion. But Satan is a pretender, he is a poser. He wants you to give into your woundedness and be afraid of him and his thieving/killing/destroying ways to the point that you forget what Jesus said after His description of the thief: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b) Jesus went on to say: “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) The truth we need to remember and believe is this: If God is Love—which He is—then we, as His children, are born out of Love by accepting the sacrifice of our Good Shepherd. If Jesus came that we might have life—which He did—then we need to hold the light of these truths up to the suggestions of Satan and see them for what they are: Lies. Pray with me? Father God, forgive me for listening to the lies of Satan and believing that You do not love me and that Your plans for me are to harm me. Help me, when Satan whispers his lies, to proclaim that You created me in Love, that my value is found in Your Love and in the blood of Jesus. Amen.