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The Stone Was Rolled Away

John 20:1-9 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

We come this morning as did those who came to the tomb early that first Resurrection morning. Two days earlier, they mourned the crucifixion of Jesus. But on this third day after the crucifixion, their mourning turned to bewilderment, then hope, and finally tremendous joy.

If we look at the events of that first resurrection morning from all four gospel writers, the writers record that the first thing the visitors to the tomb saw was that the huge stone covering the entrance had been rolled away.

What if it had not been rolled away? How would these people have felt? Well, they might have felt like Job after his family had been killed and all he owned had been destroyed. Job reacted like many people do.

Job 14:7-12 “At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant. But a man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more. As water disappears from the sea or a riverbed becomes parched and dry, so man lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, men will not awake or be roused from their sleep.

Is that all we have to look forward to? To lie down and rise no more? If it is, we could utter the words of Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

If that stone had not been rolled away, then those visitors to the tomb that morning would have been pretty miserable. There would be no hope. All that they believed would have been a lie.

But praise God, the stone was not in place. It was rolled away. But a question I ask today is “Why was the stone rolled away?” You might say the stone was rolled away because Jesus came out of the tomb. But I don’t think that’s the reason. After all, look what happened later that evening.

John 20:19-20 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Jesus came into a room where the doors were shut and locked. If He could do that, couldn’t he have come out of the tomb with the stone still in place?

Therefore, the stone was not rolled away for Him to come out. Whatever the nature of His resurrected body, He needed no door. No wall could keep Him out. And no stone could hold him in.

No, the stone was not rolled away for Him to come out. The stone was rolled away that morning so that the visitors to the tomb could go in. The open tomb was not the means of His exit, it was the means of their entrance. The women went in and saw that Jesus was not there. Peter and John went in and saw the same.

God rolled away the stone, not so Jesus could rise, but so we could know that Jesus is risen!

The open tomb makes it possible for us to go in, to see the discarded grave clothes, to see that He is not there! That’s why the stone was rolled away. An angel of the Lord came from Heaven and rolled the stone away so that we could look in and see that the tomb was empty.

The empty tomb is the greatest evidence of the resurrection of Jesus. Cynics and critics have tried to explain it away by saying the disciples stole the body during the night. But a Roman guard was there to make sure they didn’t try. That empty tomb stands as evidence to all that Jesus is not dead. He is risen! He’s alive! And He reigns in Heaven today!

What is the significance of an empty tomb and a risen Savior? Because of the resurrection, we, who have put our faith in Jesus Christ, have eternal life—eternal life now as a believer in Christ and eternal life in heaven in the presence of Almighty God forever and ever. The eternal life and the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is now abiding in us.

Listen to what a change that realization made in Job’s life. Here’s what he prophesized just a little while after he faced all the calamities in his life.

Job 19:25-26  I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

The resurrection caused those, who visited the tomb that morning, to go and tell the rest of world about it in spite of intense persecution and risk of their own lives. The resurrection made everything Jesus did and said suddenly make sense to the disciples. The resurrection proved that Jesus is the Son of God! They must have been in shock to realize they had just spent 3 years walking with Almighty God!

Now, because of the resurrection, they understood:

Jesus, the lowly carpenter of Nazareth, is also the mighty architect of the universe.

He, who began His ministry hungering, is the Bread of Life.

He, who ended His ministry thirsting, is the Water of Life.

Jesus hungered as a man, yet He fed the hungry as God.

He was weary, yet He is our rest.

He paid taxes, yet He is the King.

He was called a devil, but He casts out demons.

He prayed, yet He hears our prayers.

He wept, but He dries our tears.

He was sold for 30 pieces of silver, yet He redeems sinners with His Blood.

He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, yet He is the Good Shepherd.

He gave His life—and by dying, He destroyed death—the curse that came upon mankind because of the sin of man in the Garden of Eden!

Today is a day to celebrate! Today is a day of rejoicing! This morning we come here to celebrate the most glorious event in history, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. And because of that event, we can celebrate:

• our salvation.
• the forgiveness of our sin.
• victory over death.
• and the gift of eternal life.

Today is a day for worshipping our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!