The two sisters of Lazarus in the New Testament play a bigger role in the overall story than they’re usually given credit for. You often have to piece it together from the four different Gospels.
- Mary anoints Jesus with costly oil.
- In one version, she’s identified as a harlot (prostitute).
- So what does that make her sister? And why are they single rather than married? (Take that as a clue.)
- Considering her aforesaid status, as well as the expectation that women not be present alone with unrelated males, see how much scandal that element adds to her going in to listen to the guys rather than help prepare dinner. (Yes, it’s still an affront to social customs, only more.)
- Martha gets slighted for feeling a responsibility for feeding their guests, but she does openly rebuke Jesus earlier for his failure to come to the aid of his (presumably close) friend or relative. That is, don’t see her as some shy feminine type.
- Mary can’t keep a secret. She blabs, and that’s why everybody and his cousin shows up on the streets of Jerusalem for Palm Sunday a few days later.
- By the way, don’t get this Mary confused with Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. No suggestion there, despite widespread assumptions. No, the Magdalene maybe had only mental problems, as far as Scripture reports, nothing of a salacious nature.
- Although Jesus revives Lazarus from the stinky dead, the religious authorities come back and kill the girls’ brother a second time. Is this some kind of bad joke?
- Bethel, where they live, has always had a rap as a disreputable neighborhood. FYI.
- The Hymn of Kasianna, in the Eastern Orthodox Passion Week services, is no doubt the most erotic piece of Christian liturgy ever. Look for it at the end of Tuesday evening’s or Wednesday morning’s service, the only time in the year it is chanted. It voices Mary’s deep gratitude for redemption and salvation despite everything.
Now, do these considerations add or detract from your estimation of these two saints?