The Stone is Rolled Away Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
The Stone is Rolled Away
It was dark as they arose that Sunday morning.
The two got up and put on their garments, grabbed their spices and headed out on the dirt road that leads out of the city.
As they headed out on the road, and as the sun began to rise, the path was lined with many dark shadows, but no shadow or darkness could compare with the darkness that hovered over their souls.
As they walked up the path towards the tomb, thoughts, and sights of the last week ripped through their minds like violent tornados.
They had been there when Jesus rode in on the coat, before thousands shouting his praises.
What an incredible moment that was.
But unfortunately, in their minds, the events of last week didn’t stop there.
Try as they might, they couldn’t stop those other thoughts, those terrible scenes from playing out again and again in their minds.
They saw Jesus tied to a post, and a Roman scourge filled with broken pieces of pottery, glass, and bones ripping across His back.
As they recalled the purple robe, the beatings, the cruel mocking and the crown of thorns, the tears began to flow again.
They had seen it all; they had seen Jesus, their teacher, their friend, their Lord; they had witnessed everything that Jesus went through.
And these two women, these two Mary’s (Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of James) were there at the cross.
They saw Jesus hanging there on that rough cross of wood.
They saw His body struggle and wince with pain with every breath that he took.
They were there when Jesus cried out, "ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI, MY GOD MY GOD WHY HAS THOU FORSAKEN ME," and they saw his head fall as he cried; "IT IS FINISHED."
They were there when Jesus died, and when he died they died too.
Oh, they were still alive physically, but their hopes and joy died on that cross with Jesus, on that dark Friday, nearly 2,100 years ago.
Their Lord was dead, and their hope was gone.
So what are they doing up so early on this Sunday morning?
Why aren’t they lying in bed, wallowing in their misery?
What was it that drove them from their beds before dawn, and put them on this dark uphill climb?
The thing that drove them was their love and devotion to Jesus.
Someone had to prepare the body for burial and no one else had volunteered; Peter didn’t, James didn’t, neither did John.
So it was up to these two faithful followers; two women who had never left the side of Jesus, who were with Him until the end.
It was up to them to do it, and they did.
The task they were going to perform was a somber task, a difficult task.
They would be the ones, who would wipe the blood from the brow, from the legs, from the sides.
They would be the ones, to clean the blood from the body of Jesus.
They would be the ones, to remove the blood that had matted in his beard.
They would be the last ones, to touch his face and closed His eyes.
And as they were nearing the tomb, suddenly there was a problem, something they hadn’t thought of until now, entered their minds and they said to each other, "MARY, WHO IS GOING TO REMOVE THE STONE? HOW CAN WE GET INSIDE TO JESUS IF THE STONE IS IN THE WAY?"
"AND SUDDENLY THERE WAS A VIOLENT EARTHQUAKE, FOR AN ANGEL OF THE LORD CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN, AND GOING TO THE TOMB, ROLLED BACK THE STONE AND SAT ON IT. HIS APPEARANCE WAS LIKE LIGHTENING, AND HIS CLOTHES WERE WHITE AS SNOW. THE GUARDS WERE SO AFRAID OF HIM THAT THEY SHOOK LIKE DEAD MEN. THE ANGEL SAID TO THE WOMEN, "DO NOT BE AFRAID, FOR I KNOW THAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR JESUS, WHO IS CRUCIFIED. HE IS NOT HERE; HE HAS RISEN, JUST AS HE SAID. COME AND SEE THE PLACE WHERE HE LAY. THEN GO QUICKLY AND TELL HIS DISCIPLES, AND PETER: `HE HAS RISEN FROM THE DEAD AND IS GOING AHEAD OF YOU INTO GALILEE. THERE YOU WILL SEE HIM.’ NOW I HAVE TOLD YOU."
There is something I had never thought about before, that is until it was pointed out to me.
Maybe you have never asked yourself these questions either.
"WHY WAS THE STONED ROLLED AWAY?" AND "FOR WHOM WAS THE STONED ROLLED AWAY FOR?"
Was it rolled away for Jesus?
No, he was already gone.
And besides, the risen Son of God doesn’t need anyone to do anything for Him.
So who was the stone rolled away for?
It was rolled away for the women, so they could see that the tomb was empty.
And that’s what we want to talk about today; we want to talk about the empty tomb, and what it meant for them and what it means for us today.
FOR ONE THING, THE EMPTY TOMB MEANS THAT JESUS IS ALIVE!!
The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of Christianity.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:7, "AND IF CHRIST HAS NOT BEEN RAISED, YOUR FAITH IS FUTILE AND YOU ARE STILL IN YOUR SINS..."
And since the resurrection is so essential, it has been attacked from the very beginning by Christ’s enemies.
It says in Matthew 28:11-15(Living), “As the women were on the way into the city, some of the Temple police who had been guarding the tomb went to the chief priests and told them what had happened. A meeting of all the Jewish leaders was called, and it was decided to bribe the police to say they had all been asleep when Jesus' disciples came during the night and stole his body. "If the governor hears about it," the Council promised, "we'll stand up for you and everything will be all right." So the police accepted the bribe and said what they were told to. Their story spread widely among the Jews and is still believed by them to this very day.
The attacks still continue to this day, but the burden of proof rests not on the believer, but on the unbeliever to explain the empty tomb.
Many theories have been proposed over the years as to why the tomb is empty; all of which are weak and far fetched.
And each one requires that the disciples must be part of a cover-up and that they promoted and preached a lie.
Consider the evidence for the resurrection:
1. The Christian Church changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday.
2. The calendar was changed by making the years prior to Christ’s birth a countdown to that great event, and today every year dates from that most wonderful event.
3. Then there are the eyewitness testimonies of the resurrection. More than five hundred saw Him after the resurrection.
4. And consider the inability of anyone in the first century to produce the body of Jesus, which would have quenched the fire of this movement.
5. There is the testimony of non-Christian writers in the first century.
When we consider the fact that the tomb is empty, there is no other conclusion that an individual in the pursuit of truth can make, other than that Jesus Christ is Alive!
And Mary and Mary bent down and walked into the tomb, and they saw that it was empty (Jesus was not there).
What do you think they were thinking about at that moment?
How do you think they felt?
Did they just look in, or do you think they stayed awhile?
Did they touch the linen that had been around Jesus?
Did they shed tears of joy?
Matthew goes on to say, "SO THE WOMEN HURRIED AWAY FROM THE TOMB AFRAID, YET FILLED WITH JOY AND RAN TO TELL THE DISCIPLES."
Once they found that the tomb was empty, once they believed that Jesus had risen from the dead, these women were on a direct path that would ultimately lead them to meet the risen Lord.
And as they were running down the road back to Jerusalem, suddenly Jesus appeared to them, and they fell down and clasped His feet (perhaps wanting to make sure he was real), and they worshiped Him.
The love and devotion that these women showed to Jesus, while he hung on the cross, and as they rose early to tend to His body, was greatly rewarded.
Even when Jesus didn’t seem to be acting according to their plans, or wasn’t giving them what they wanted, these two women never wavered or faltered in their devotion to him.
And that kind of love and devotion will always be rewarded by Jesus.
And the women arose from worshipping the Lord and went into town to tell the others.
What started out as a terrible day, had suddenly been changed into a day filled with inexpressible joy (Meeting Jesus can do that).
The contrast between the journey to and from the tomb is overwhelming.
The steps they take now are full of hope, something they didn’t have when they had gotten up this morning.
So Mary and Mary hurried to tell the others the great news of hope.
Can you even imagine, what it would be like to be the first ones to ever tell the news that Jesus is Alive!
Now consider this, THE EMPTY TOMB MEANS THAT THERE IS FORGIVENESS.
And if anyone ever needed a dose of hope, if anyone ever needed to know that what Jesus said was true, it was a distraught, guilt-ridden, sun weary fishermen named Peter.
Peter was standing with John when the two Mary’s came running into town.
And when they came in screaming, crying, and laughing, and when Peter and John saw them in this frenzied state, they ran to them.
And they said, "Slow down, slow down, we can’t understand you.”
The women cried, “The tomb is empty! Jesus isn’t in the tomb! We saw Jesus on the road!"
And at that moment, Peter and John headed to the tomb at warp speed.
Peter was running as fast as he could; his heart was pounding, and his powerful legs were pumping his feet up and down the winding paths of the dusty roads leading to the tomb.
His friend John was running beside him.
Peter was in the lead, but then he begins to think to himself, "WHY AM I SO HAPPY, I DENIED HIM, I TALKED SO BIG AND TOUGH, BUT WHEN IT CAME TIME TO TAKE A STAND, I FELL. MAYBE JESUS DOESN’T WANT TO SEE ME; I HAVE NO RIGHT TO TAKE PART IN THIS CELEBRATION.”
PETER, THE ROCK, NOT YET.
His thoughts had slowed him down, and John was the first to make it to the tomb, but