Secrets people take to the grave don’t often stay there.
Movies, reality television and soap operas make great use of secrets long buried coming back to life and rendering the living shocked, distressed or utterly amazed. The long-lost heir to the fortune who was thought dead crashes the family reunion. The man he knew as dad, it turns out, was not his biological father. The reason the family immigrated was to seek a new life… but the backstory involved fleeing from the law. Lo and behold the results from the DNA kit that got mailed off reveal an entirely unexpected family heritage. Grave secrets from one generation come back to life in the next no matter how silent the witnesses to them remained. How is that possible when the parties involved are dead and buried?
Secrets people take to the grave don’t necessarily stay there. They have a life of their own in family lore, and future generations and communities with a propensity to not mind their own business will surely inquire. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome fled the tomb in terror and the stranger nearby visiting a spouse’s grave got a glimpse of them and wondered what caused such a reaction. Even though they told “no one nothing” as the Greek in Mark wants to emphasize, there were people in town who wondered about the large stone adjacent to the tomb that it had previously covered.
Mary and Mary and Salome were in shock, and who could blame them? Don’t the dead stay dead? How many teenage boys in white robes have proclaimed the gospel to you at the graveside? As linguist George Lakoff, quoted in David John Seel. Jr.’s book, “The New Copernicans” notes: “People think in frames … . To be accepted, the truth must fit people’s frame. If facts do not fit the frame, the frame stays and facts bounce off.” If you are coming to anoint a dead body, news of a living person does not fit the frame. No wonder they were distressed, stupefied and agitated. No wonder they told “no one nothing.” Who would have believed them anyway?
And yet, we know the truth that didn’t fit their frame — or anyone else’s for that matter. Someone, at some point, said something, to someone else. Grave secrets have a way of coming back to life and when they do those who discover them often have to re-frame their whole entire lives because all they thought was true, well, wasn’t.
That’s what Easter does. It reframes absolutely everything when the grave secret comes out.
Maybe Mary and Mary and Salome talked amongst themselves, and the person at the next table over in the Galilean Starbucks overheard them. Mary leans in close to Salome and says, “What did that young man say? Did I hear it right? Jesus, our Jesus, the Jesus of Nazareth, the very one we saw brutally crucified, has been raised? Did he tell us we’d see him in Galilee? Is that what you heard, too?” And Salome nods solemnly, still afraid. And the grave secret starts to leak no less than the words of a White House insider to a Washington Post reporter.
It is hard to take a secret to the grave because we live in community and people talk and neighbors notice and privacy then as now is often an illusion. After every tragic headline the cameras go up and teachers, passersby and former classmates are asked, “Are you surprised? What did you notice about him or her or them?”
“Well, you know, he kept to himself mostly, but he was a little, I don’t know, sort of strange.”
“I saw people going in and out at odd hours.”
“I wondered why the curtains were always closed.”
“Once I saw the police in their driveway.”
“As soon as I heard it on the news I thought: It’s her. I just knew it.”
Secrets don’t stay secret very often even when the ones closest to them keep quiet. We don’t know what happened next with Mary and Mary and Salome in Mark’s Gospel, but we do know the secret they tried to keep did not remain in the grave. We know what that adolescent proclaimed: “Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, the one you are looking for, has been raised. You can look all you want in every corner of this tomb, but you won’t find him here. Go tell Peter and the disciples because Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee and he will meet you there, just like he told you.”
You came looking through the frame of death, ready to anoint a body, but the fact is, Jesus is alive and even if you can’t grasp it yet, the fact remains: He has been raised. Time to reframe and begin looking for Jesus among the living — not in the graveyard, but in Galilee.
There is a story told about Galileo. It is likely apocryphal, but nonetheless insightful. Forced to recant that the earth moves around the sun, the story goes that Galileo said, “And yet it moves.” In other words, people’s inability to see the truth does not make it any less truthful. Mary and Mary and Salome and perhaps you and I may be so stupefied, terrified and flummoxed at life where we expect death that we tell no one nothing, and yet, Jesus has still been raised and that truth will not be squelched.
They said nothing to anyone and yet, Jesus still lives. Thanks to be to God that the truth of resurrection that reframes everything is not dependent upon us. No matter what we say, or don’t say, this grave secret is no secret at all. This exposed grave secret, in fact, means we no longer need to be afraid of our own secrets, the things we want no one to know, the dead places, pre-dawn worries, shocking, distressing ideas, actions or attitudes can be buried, dead with Jesus because he has taken our sin to the grave with him. All the burdens and beliefs that have limited the frames of our imaginations and expectations are no match for the truth that Jesus Christ is risen. Death has lost its sting; the redemption of the world has been won and through our Risen Lord all things are possible.
We, with Mary and Mary and Salome, have heard the news. That teenage boy in white has said it plain: “Jesus of Nazareth, the one who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
Perhaps that good news is a truth than our current frame can handle. That’s OK. He still lives. Grave secrets don’t stay in the grave and when we are ready to hear them, well, they will reframe everything, and we will no longer be terrified. We will be free.
- Is it significant that the messenger in the tomb is a young man, a youth? Mark mentions a young man in chapter 14:51. Why does the writer of Mark specify the age of this person? Are there youth who are currently proclaiming God’s message to the world?
- Have you ever been stupefied or in shock because your expectations were completely turned upside down? Were you able to reframe your expectations?
- The women are concerned about how to roll away the stone at the grave, but they go to anoint Jesus’ body anyway. Can you think of examples of people of faith going to serve Jesus despite known obstacles? Have you ever done so? What happened to the “stones” in those instances?
- Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James and Salome are named in Mark 15:40. These women are stalwart and loyal. Can you think of other people in the Bible who demonstrate these characteristics? What about in your life?
- Mark ends with a cliffhanger. Readers are left to wonder what happens next. Does that bother you? Would you have added the longer, later ending if it were up to you?
- What is it that you are too terrified to say to others? Could it be that you need not be afraid?
Want to receive Looking into the Lectionary content in your inbox on Mondays? Click here to join our email list!