Jesus Is A Rolling Stone
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.
The Weather Stone
The is a picture of something that sits at the head of trail of a California State Park. It’s called the Weather Stone. It claims to be the perfect weather forecaster. The sign next to it reads:
A dry stone means it is not raining
A wet stone means it’s raining
A shadow under the stone means the sun is shining
If the stone is swinging, it means there is a pretty strong wind
If the stone appears to be jumping up and down, it means there is an earthquake
If it is white on top…believe it or not…it’s snowing
I would say that this sign is probably just stating something that is obvious; so obvious that it it’s almost comical in some ways.
Read Passage – Matthew 28:1-15
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 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. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” 8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” 11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
The Day After
Most of us have experienced some type of deep loss in our life when a loved one has passed away. I think the day after those experiences are really hard. What to do? That’s where we are at when we read Matthew 28, the day after the crucifixion. We read in verse 1:
“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.” Vs. 1
Mary and Mary are dealing with a difficult loss after the death of Jesus and their way of dealing with it was to go visit the graveside. There are lingering effects from mourning and loss and there is no best way to handle it and all of us deal with it in different ways. Some people get away, some go back to work, some reflect, some visit the grave, etc. It must have been a long walk from their home to that graveside, not long distance but long as they were still reeling from the previous day. They must have had some conversations that were pretty tough. They must have felt the best way to deal with this loss would be to visit the grave, sit there for a while, talk, and just process everything. It could be they were bringing flowers or some type of memorial remembrance.
It’s not clear really why they were going, maybe to prepare the body or to just see things again but as they went there must have been some anticipation about the obstacles that would away them if they had hoped to go inside. It says in Matthew 27:59-60:
“Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb and went away.” Matthew 27:59-60
Here are some of the problems the women would have encountered:
• The rock was huge (and they could not count on the soldiers guarding it to help them)
• The rock was sealed by the government/law – really only a government official could unseal it.
• It was guarded
Interestingly enough, these are some of the same obstacles we face when we talk about the death of Jesus to others. It as a huge rock or obstacle in our life
Death is a huge obstacle, it’s unavoidable, we all die, and
The Difference “The Rock” Makes
So today, Easter 2014, I want to work through the idea of this huge rock that is in the story and how it has parallels to Jesus and his work in our life. One of the terms that we associate with Jesus is that he is “The Rock” and more specifically the rock of our salvation.
1. The Rock Has Been Moved
The first perspective that comes to me is that as the women approach the tomb, the rock has already been moved. It says in verse 2:
“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.” vs. 2
The great thing about this point: God has the rock moved. The women didn’t have to worry about how that was going to happen, it was already done for them. We spend a lot of time worrying and trying to figure out how things, sometimes big things that seem impossible to us, are going to get done. God had it handled. He had an angel do it. There is no barrier is too big for God.
Let me draw a parallel for you. We don’t have to worry about how we are going to make up for the things we’ve done wrong or the things that separate us from God. He has taken care of that. Many people spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get to heaven or how to atone for the things they have done wrong. We don’t need to. That was done for us just like the rock was moved for these women. Wouldn’t you have loved to see their faces when they show up and the rock s rolled over to the side? They must have been astonished.
2. The Rock As A Symbol of Victory
A second perspective of the rock is that it is a symbol of victory. This was a custom that God establishes through the Israelites in the Old Testament. There was a commemorative stone that is set up to remember God’s work, i.e. after crossing the Red Sea, a victory in battle, God giving land to Israel. See 1 Samuel 7:12 as an example:
“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” 1 Samuel 7:12
Memories of good things are important. I love having things around that help me remember the good times in my life. Think about how much we love this as people. Everywhere we go there are gift shops for us to by soveigneers of the places we’ve been or places we love.
Ex. Disneyland, Grand Canyon, etc.
In the Old testament one of the names given to this stone of remembers was “Ebenezar.” In a old church hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing on of the verses state “Here I raise my Ebenezar.” Many people get confused by that stanza but it really has some deep meaning to it. The custom God establishes about setting up stones to remember what has been done and to lead people to himself.
The parallel for this point is that Jesus becomes our victory stone, our Ebenezar. We can hold him high as we would a rock to symbolize the victory he had over death and sin. The guilt and regret of sin are gone and we have a free gift of forgiveness, salvation, and victory over the things that Satan throws our way.
3. The Rock Becomes the Foundation
A third perspective of the rock that was rolled away is it symbolizes foundation and more specifically, the foundation of our faith. We have a foundation on which our faith can be built and assured. Note Paul’s words from Acts 4:11:
“Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’” Acts 4:11
The rock men put in place does not contain as it should have, the Rock God puts in place will reign forever. But note, people will reject the rock. People rejected Jesus while he was alive on earth and they have the right to reject him as he is alive in heaven now.
People struggle to find a foundation for their lives; some build their foundation on their jobs, a relationship, their money, etc. The thing about building a foundation is that you need to build it on something that is solid and will last. If everything Christ said is true, and if the rock really was rolled away, and if it is true that Christ rose from the dead and that death is not final, then what better thing can you build on than something that will last forever? What are you building your life on? What is the foundation of your life?
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
As the angels sat on the rock and it became a place of rest, the parallel is drawn that Jesus becomes the rock upon which we can rest from all of life’s worries, struggles and hardships. The rock the angels sat on was an outward rest. The rest that Jesus offers is much deeper and much more calming, it is rest for your soul.
4. The Rock Is The Boundary Between Life and Death
And finally, the final perspective is that this huge rock became the boundary between life and det. In our story, the soldiers who were guarding the rock became like dead men when the angel moved it. It says they shook and became like dead men. Fear can paralyze you. Fear can stop you “dead” in your tracks (forgive the pun). These soldiers knew their life was in jeopardy because it was their job to protect this grave and make sure nothing happened. So they were not only seeing a miracle and the very hand of God working, they were unable to do what they were placed there to do and their lives could be taken from them for failing to do what they were charged to do.
On the other hand, the two women, Mary and Mary, we seeking life. The earthquake and rolling of the stone wasn’t bad news or disturbing to them, it was an opportunity for them to seek life, new life, and to see God’s Word come true. They weren’t paralyzed, they were curious and hopeful. I recently wrote a paper on Christian hope and let me share with you something about hope. Hope is not some pie in the sky thinking about something that you wish could come true but it seems impossible or improbably. No real hope is the idea that what you know to be true will happen. We are not told what hese women were thinking but it woudn’t be to far of a stretch to think that they might recall some of the things Jesus had said and promised and think that those things are actually happening right before their eyes.
Ex. Weddings – the anticipation of love that you know to be true but fulfilled at the ceremony.
The parallel here is that Jesus told us tht he was life, real life, eternal life, and by trusting him we too can have that life. That promise comes in John 5:24:
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24
This is a stumbling block for quite a few people. It seems to easy, to simple. We want something we can say we did or we accomplished when in reality, the real truth comes when we believe Christ’s words and put our trust in Him and in his work, not our own efforts.
The Rock: Our Pulpit
So where does that leave us? Really, right here on Easter morning. The last parallel is that the angels used the rock to proclaim the message, and that message comes in verses 5-6:
“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.’” vss.5-6
The angel makes the proclamation from on top of the rock. The Christian message is the same one that the angels proclaimed on that rock. Christ is not here, he is risen! It’s the proclamation is that death has no stronghold on us and that Christ isn’t here in person with us now, no, we believe he is risen, ascended to the right hand of God, and that real life, eternal life, is found in him.