I grew up Catholic and am still recovering. I first remember hearing the story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus as a third-grader attending a Roman Catholic elementary school. My third-grade teacher? My cousin, the nun. Obviously, I kept my thoughts about this story a secret for many years. In high school I toyed with confiding my theory to the Christian Brothers and the Jesuits, but feared that it was a little too “out there” even for them.
I’m sure I’d heard the story of these siblings before, but I distinctly remember giving it some real serious thought in the third grade. It was 1974. A US President had nearly been impeached. Anything was possible. The idea that Jesus had friends, you know, outside of the Apostles was reassuring, somehow. Jesus and Lazarus, to my childlike mind, seemed to have a brotherly kind of relationship. Martha was a bit of a do-gooder, what with all the fetching and kissing up she seemed to be doing. That Mary was trouble, though. Yup. She was some kind of sinner. I liked to imagine Lazarus and Martha were in cahoots; they seemed up to a little matchmaking. If I had a sinning sister like Mary I would certainly be looking for the guy who could straighten her out. Jesus seems the obvious choice, doesn’t he? Mary must have been reluctant, though. Until the whole raising Lazarus from the dead thing. That would convince anyone, wouldn’t it? It would’ve sold me.
That Jesus saved Mary from herself did not exactly appeal to the feminist in me, even the 8-year-old feminist. Still, I always thought they were a good match. She was headed down the wrong path until she met the man who would wash away her sins. The fact that he was the son of God? Bonus! And Mary? Well, she ended up fitting right in, didn’t she? Not only did she become one of his disciples, she was the only one of them who was with him the whole time that he carried the cross. She and his mother. What the men who ultimately cast her out of the story were doing at this point is anybody’s guess.
I am not shocked to discover that there may actually be evidence to suggest that Jesus was, indeed, married to someone. Nor am I surprised that biblical scholars have long speculated that if Jesus was married, he was probably married to Mary Magdalene. No woman of Mary Magdalene’s social strata would have been following any man without benefit of clergy, regardless of the guy’s relationship with her family. Certainly not the granddaughter of Cleopatra (That’s right. Mary Magdalene was the granddaughter of Cleopatra). As for him? Of course he was married. What Jewish man living in that day and age, achieves the ripe old age of thirty-three without being married? I would guess not many. Not that he was much of a catch, particularly, as has been established, for her. He was probably just a handyman. Still, he could turn water into wine and multiply loaves and fishes. So, at least she knew she’d never starve. And, I’ll bet all that miracle-working would’ve kept a girl interested. Even one as worldly as Mary Magdalene.