Who Will Roll Away the Stone?
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It’s hard to miss the love and devotion that the women had for their Lord. Early Sunday morning, after the Sabbath, they bring expensive spices to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. Some of these women had been with Jesus for years, and they cared deeply about this man who had healed their hurts and forgiven their sins. But he was dead. What could they do but give Him a proper burial? As they are on the way to the tomb, the thought occurred to them, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” Remember that the chief priests had insisted that the tomb be closed and sealed, so that the disciples could not come and steal the body. This was a large stone, and there was no way that three women could move this stone out of the way. In their grief they had forgotten.
It is very easy to forget that God is in control of our lives. This is especially true in the face of death and adversity. How many times had Jesus predicted that He would suffer, die for our sins, and rise again on the third day? How many times? The women knew the prophecies. They knew the story. But in their grief they could not dare to hope. I mean, it is a far-fetched prophecy, after all. And we do the same thing. Our grief, our fears, our sorrows keep us from believing what Jesus had prophesied. Jesus says that if you live and believe in Him, you will never die. Jesus says that His indestructible life is now yours in the waters of Holy Baptism. Jesus says that because He lives, you too will live. We would say with Paul, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” Who will roll the stone away from our hearts?
As the women looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away! And as they entered the tomb, they saw an angel. And they were afraid. He said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here.” Death came through one man, Adam, so many years ago. That death was a result of sin. That sin, that horrible unbelief in a giving, loving God, it was that sin which had to be paid with a price. But not just any price. The price was death. My brothers and sisters in Christ, that price his been paid. Death has been defeated! As St. Paul wrote: “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” If you look at the Christ of Good Friday, you see a man mocked, spat upon, with the sin of the whole world laid upon Him. He died for you. But what do you see this day? With the women we see the empty tomb. Christ has risen from the dead, and we rise with Him. That same Jesus who died is alive again. Who will roll the stone away from your heart to give you faith? The Holy Spirit has done so in Holy Baptism.
So what does this mean for you today? Why does this matter? Is it simply a great story that we repeat year after year after year? No; this is more than a story. This is a reality that goes far deeper than any fairy tale. The Father placed the weight of sin upon His Son’s shoulders. When you look at your life and at yourself, you see sin and the stain of wrongdoing at every turn. But God takes those sins, and He put them upon Jesus. And so it is this morning that we with the women look into the tomb. Is Jesus still there? Are my sins still bound to me like cords of death? Does my life continue as if nothing has happened! No! For the Jesus before you today is risen from the dead! The stone is rolled away; death has no power anymore. And because He is risen from the dead, that stone is rolled away; your sins are gone! You are free! No more guilt, no more fear of death. Your sins are no longer with you; they are left in the tomb. But Christ is not there. Death has no more dominion over Him or over you. Christ is not in the tomb; He is risen! He is here, now, present with you who gather here in His name, present in His body and blood. Death is swallowed up in victory: victory for you; victory for all those who have died in the faith. There is victory and rejoicing this day, for Satan’s kingdom is overthrown and the grave no longer holds us captive. Jesus lives, and you have a hope that is stronger than death. You have a Savior who died and rose again. You have a God who wipes away tears, who knows your suffering better than you know it yourselves, and who will not leave you in the grave, dead in your sins. He is risen, and in the waters of Holy Baptism, He will raise you with Him.
Jesus’ resurrection is the certain and sure hope of your own eternal life. You are free from the power of death. You have been washed in baptismal waters, and you have risen with Him to live forever! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.