Archive for the ‘Easter B’ Category

The Stone is Rolled Away!

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

“And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back-it was very large.” [Mark 16:3-4]

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INRODUCTION: Around the year 1930, a Communist leader named Nikolai Bukharin journeyed from Moscow to Kiev, Ukraine.  His mission was to address a huge assembly with the aim of advancing communism. His subject for the evening was atheism. For a solid hour he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity, hurling arguments and ridiculing the Christian faith. At last he was finished and viewed what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of men’s faith. “Are there any questions?” Bukharin demanded. A solitary man arose and asked permission to speak.  He mounted the platform and moved close to the Communist leader. The audience was breathlessly silent as the man surveyed them first to the right, then to the left. At last he shouted the ancient Orthodox greeting, “CHRIST IS RISEN!” The vast assembly arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of an avalanche, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”  

The tomb where Jesus was laid on “Good Friday” is now a completely different tomb… it requires a different type of watchman.  It does not need a cemetery caretaker or a company of Roman soldiers assign to protect the dead but an angel from the realms of light and life. The servant-angel appears first; then his Master will soon be seen. This is the signal that a new time has come; an era where heaven and earth are now joined, because Jesus Christ, our Savior, has risen!  CHRIST HAS RISEN!  The wall of separation has fallen; God has reconciled Himself to sinful men; the sacrifice of the Son has been accepted by the Father. This is the supreme Easter truth…CHRIST HAS RISEN!

I. St. Mark tells us that it was very early in the morning after the Sabbath was over, while it was still dark, when the women went out on an errand of love; they would finish anointing the body of their Lord.  The work of anointing His dead body was only hastily done on Friday late afternoon, and now it must be completed.  Some of them had witnessed Jesus death…they witnessed His passion for them, and now it was time for them to give to Him, even if in death, their own passion… their own service of love.  As they arrived at the tomb the sun had just risen, and they were faced with a problem, one that they had not thought of before they set out: Who would roll the great stone away from the entrance of the tomb?  (They did not know that there was a Roman guard assigned to protect the grave from tampering).  They probably blamed themselves for not having thought of the huge stone before.  “How could we have been so stupid?!  We should have insisted that Peter, John, or one of the other men come with us!”

The other gospel accounts tell us that before they arrived at the tomb, angels appeared with the power of heaven and hurled the stone from its groove and that it landed flat upon the ground.  We also learn from these other accounts that the Roman guard witnessed this and trembled with fear, latter running for their own lives.  As the women arrived, they discovered the stone resting in front of the tomb and they were afraid that grave robbers has disturbed the resting place and the body of their Lord!  Suddenly and angel appeared to them, sitting quite comfortably upon the stone, and he had a miraculous story to tell and an even greater mission: “Don’t be alarmed.  You’re looking for Jesus, right?  Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified and died, well He’s not here!  He has risen!  Go inside the tomb and see the place where they laid Him.”  And they did go inside; they noticed that the grave close were exactly as they would be if the body were still laying inside, but there was no body!  The angel continued, “Go tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee.  There you will see him, just like He told you.”  Now they remembered.  How could they be so ignorant?  After all, the Lord had told them about this so many times.  He said that He would rise from the dead, and indeed He has risen!

II. Why didn’t the women know that Christ would be resurrected?  Jesus continually explained that He would suffer, die, and be resurrected in many different ways to them.  Why was the resurrection a surprise?  Why did it take an angel with the power of heaven moving the stone away to get them to remember and believe?  Jesus must rise from the dead because His own Word promised that this would happen.  Jesus could not be contained by a tomb because He was the very Son of God.  True to His Word, on the third day He did rise from the dead, and with His glorified body He immediately left the sealed tomb in order to prove to our dying, sinful world that God did love us, and that through His passion, His very life, death, and resurrection He reconciled all sinful men to His Father.  Now through His love we can now experience the love of God. 

Dear friends, the stone was not rolled away so that Jesus could leave the tomb; but rather it was rolled away so that the women and everyone else could see that He had been resurrected and was no longer confined by a grave!  The stone was rolled away because Jesus knew that the sinful flesh of His disciples still could not fathom the power of God that was His because He was God’s only begotten Son! 

The stone has been rolled away for us as well.  What are some stones that prevent us from seeing the resurrection power of God in our lives?  For some, perhaps it is a sinful life that you feel prevents God from loving you or accepting you.  “Do not be alarmed.  You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified for you!  See the place where they laid him.  He has risen!”  For others, perhaps it is time.  There is only so much time in a day and so many days in a week.  You work so hard, and you just can’t seem to find time to rest.  Sunday is the only day you can do that.  To this God’s Word reminds you of what Jesus said: “Come unto me you who are weary and I will give you rest!”  Friend, learn to rest in the Word of God and the company of others who have learned to do the same.  This morning, God is asking you to hear the words of the angel and let it be your truth, “Do not be alarmed.  You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified for you!  See the place where they laid him.  He has risen!”

Or perhaps, you are more like Peter.  Something in your past is making you feel like God no longer wants you as part of His family…part of His mission team.  If so, then remember the angel who told the women to go and tell His disciples even Peter that He still loves you and that you are still part of the team.  Dear friend, Peter denied Him three times, but it could have been 3,000 x 3,000 times and it would not have mattered in the least.  Jesus died for Peter and He died for you!  Return to your first love.  Return to Him who first loved you!  He still wants you in the family and He still wants you as part of His church!

ILLUS: The story is told about an organist named Carol. She was an outstanding musician, but she did something no organist should ever do.  She overslept on Easter morning and missed the sunrise service. She was so embarrassed. Of course, the minister and the church forgave her. They teased her about it a little, but it was done lovingly and in good fun. However, the next Easter, her phone rang at 5:00 in the morning. Jolted awake by the loud ringing, she scrambled to answer it.  It was the pastor, and he said, “Carol, it’s Easter morning! The Lord is risen! … And I suggest you do the same!” The message is clear: We too can be resurrected. If your spiritual life has lost its passion, and you don’t feel close to God like you once did, then God’s Word makes it clear to us this morning, Jesus Christ is sharing his resurrection with us right now. He rises, and so can we. We too can have new life.  We too can make a new start. We too can rise out of those tombs that try to imprison us!  

III. There is one last lesson to be learned in our time together this morning and it can be introduced with this question: Why were the women the first to learn of Jesus’ resurrection and why were they the first to see Him alive?  Another way to ask this is why weren’t the remaining 11 apostles the first to experience Jesus’ resurrection?  A learned Biblical scholar long ago offered five reasons.  He said: God chooses the weak; overwhelmed most by their sorrow, they should be first in Christ’s joy; the presence of the women at the tomb silenced the Jewish lie that the disciples stole the body; as death came by woman, so salvation and life should be announced by her; and finally God wanted to reward the woman’s active love. But why is our learned scholar ignoring the obvious? It was the women alone who went to the tomb on Sunday morning, the women, and none of the men, not even John. They weren’t detained by fear or grief.  They weren’t allowing their busy schedule to stop them from serving God.  They made time because God was worthy of their time.  They continued to love their Lord because He first loved them.  This is why they were honored by being made the messengers of the Gospel to the men. If the Eleven men had also gone out early that morning, the story would have been different, but the love of these women receives its fitting reward. 

CONCLUSION: Are there any men here this morning who might learn a thing or two from the experience of 11 other Christian brothers who lived more than 2000 year ago.  If so, let them mentor you.  Let them speak to you and teach you about how life changing a real relationship of service to Jesus Christ can be.  You can meet with them any time you like.  They are always waiting to teach and guide you.  There words and experiences inspired and guided by Jesus Himself have all been recorded for you in the New Testament.  Let God teach you through those who went before you.  Let this be the day that you live a life that celebrates the fact that the stone has been rolled away.  Let this be the day that you meet your risen Lord and say with sincerity and excitement: CHRIST HAS RISEN FOR ME!