When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so they could go and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?”
At this point in the Easter story, Jesus’ follower’s spirits had been crushed by the crucifixion. As Mary and her friends journeyed to the tomb where Jesus lay, they suddenly realized they had forgotten something: who would roll away the large stone used to seal the tomb?
Truth be told, we all have our own stones. We know the shape, we know the size, we know the weight, and we know the circumstance and situation of each one. Whether it be an unrepentant sin, a struggle, some sort of trial and tribulation, or even a future that we don’t want to face – we can’t budge them.
But the wondrous thing about the Gospel and the Easter story is that God can do for us what He did then: He can roll those stones away.
Looking up, they observe that the stone – which was very large – had been rolled away. When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; they were amazed and alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been resurrected! He is not here! See the place where they put Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there just as He told you.’”
So they went out and started running from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid.
As we continue in this account, an angel of the Lord had rolled the stone away. And while it was an angel that had rolled away the stone the sealed the tomb of Jesus, I’d like to share five stones that Jesus rolled away in His resurrection.
The first stone that Jesus rolled away was the stone of discouragement. As we read in our passage this morning, the disciples, along with Jesus’ family and friends, were overcome by His gruesome and excruciating death. But as Mary and those with her heard the angels words, Scripture tells us that they were overcome with fear, but also with joy and astonishment. Their broken spirit had been restored, and there was hope once again.
It’s so easy for us to feel overcome by anxiousness and fear, especially in the world that we live in today. But with our faith placed rightly in Jesus’ hands, we have nothing to be discouraged about. Just as Paul shared in his own testimony, we can learn to be content in joyful in whatever situation or circumstance we may find ourselves in.
In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews. Then Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”
Having said this, He showed them His hands and His side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
As we come to find in this passage, Jesus rolled away the stone of fear for the disciples. We see that they were gathered together in the upper room. The door was closed. They were in hiding. They were fearful that they would experience the same fate as their teacher, their Messiah.
Can you imagine the inner peace that they must have felt as Jesus appeared in the room and spoke to them? And what was the words He spoke? “Peace to you!”
Jesus wants us to experience the same thing. Not only are there moments in which we can be discouraged, but there are certainly moments when we doubt the power of God and become fearful. We tend to go along life in our own will power, when the truth is that it simply isn’t enough. We are weak and frail, whether we admit it or not. And we all stand before a holy and just God who can’t be in the presence of our sin.
But as Jesus died on the cross, our debt was paid. And as He rose from the grave, we share in His victory over sin and death. Death no longer has it’s sting. Death no longer has the victory. And we can be sure that we don’t have to fear our last breaths on this earth, as we now have the assurance of Heaven.
But one of the Twelve, Thomas (called “Twin”), was not with them when Jesus cam. So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!”
After eight days His disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace to you!”
Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer.”
Thomas responded to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
While the other disciples had this amazing encounter, Thomas still doubted that Jesus had truly risen from the grave. Thankfully, Jesus was about to roll away the stone of doubt as well.
Back in the early 80’s, Lee Strobel was serving as the lead investigative editor of the Chicago Tribune. His wife had been saved and was being transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ. Strobel, a strong atheist, was fearful that if this continued, he would eventually lose his wife. So, what does he do? Strobel set out on a two-year investigative journey to prove that Jesus wasn’t God.
After numerous travels and interviews with both scholars and historians, Strobel finally sat down with a notepad, drawing a line straight down the middle. On the left, he jotted down the supposed evidence that Jesus was nothing more than a mere man or, much less, that He even existed. On the right, he began to list proof after proof that not only was Jesus real, but that He truly was the Messiah. In that moment, the Holy Spirit overwhelmed him so much that he cried out, proclaiming Jesus as the One True God.
Strobel and Thomas both were unwilling to put their faith and hope without cold, hard truth. There are numerous experiences and circumstances that we have and will face, where we begin to ask ourselves, “God, are you really there?” But if we can only watch patiently and faithfully, God continues to prove Himself over and over.
When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”
“Yes Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.”
“Feed My lambs,” He told him.
A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.”
“Shepherd My sheep,” He told him.
He asked him a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.”
“Feed My sheep,” Jesus said. “I assure you: When you were young, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God. After saying this, He told him, “Follow Me!”
When we left Peter last week, he had just denied Jesus three times. Discouraged and defeated, he went back to his original trade: fishing. As he fished, he saw someone in the distance on the shore. Jesus was calling to him and told him to cast his nets on the other side of the boat. When Peter did, the catch was so great that they couldn’t pull it into the boat.
At this point, Peter realized just who it was at the shore. He jumped from the boat and swam to Jesus, who already had a fire and fish prepared. What we just read was the conversation that followed. Jesus repeatedly asked Peter if he loved Him. The wonderful thing about this conversation is that Jesus was working to restore Peter to the faith, giving him three chances to declare his faith in Christ, just as Peter had previously denied Him three times.
Peter felt defeated, but then Jesus used the same words as when He first called His disciples, “Follow Me!” These were words of reinstatement. Despite all his failures, Jesus restored Peter. Even in the midst of defeat – in those moments where we are at our lowest and dishonor the Lord – God wishes to remove and roll that stone away as well.
There’s one additional stone that Jesus rolls away for us, and it can be found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; afterward, at His coming, those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule an all authority and power. For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be abolished is death.
1 Corinthians 15:20-26
That last stone that is rolled away? It’s death. There’s a 1 in 7 chance that we’ll die of heart disease or cancer. That isn’t too promising, is it? But what are the chances that you are going to die? That’s a 1 in 1 chance, provided Christ hasn’t returned. It is appointed that all men shall die once, but the wonderful thing is that Christ has removed spiritual death so that we can take part in eternal life.
A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.
Because of the resurrection, we have the promise of eternal life. Because of the resurrection, we can stand justified before a holy God. Not because of anything we have done, but for all that has been done for us through Christ Jesus. Praise God that we put our faith in Jesus, who is still moving stones for us today.