The Stone That Changed the World

He Is Risen!

The Stone Is Rolled Back to Reveal the Good News. Early Sunday morning over two thousand years ago, on the day we mark as Easter, a stone was rolled back from the opening of a tomb, and the world was changed forever.  The rolling back of this stone would bring to light an event confirming that God had come down to earth to reveal himself to us in a most personal way. We would learn through this event that God loves us so much that he sent his beloved son to die a ghastly death, so that we might have life. In time, news of this event would sweep across the entire world. 

“And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.” Matthew 28:2

Why the Stone Was Moved. Was the stone rolled back so Jesus could leave through the entrance of the tomb?  Probably not, Jesus as resurrected could walk through walls and did not need the stone moved for his departure from the tomb. More likely, the stone was moved so those coming to the tomb could witness first hand that Jesus had in fact risen from the dead and was alive just as he had promised. Jesus had defeated death and was offering eternal life to those who chose to follow him.  The stone was very large and heavy, so could not have been easily moved.  It was common for such stones to be over a ton and require a lever device to move to secure the tomb.  In Mark, we read that the women first arriving at the tomb were concerned that they did not have the physical strength to move the stone.  The size of the stone and the fact that it was guarded by an elite group of Roman guards, among other facts, serves to authenticate the veracity of the resurrection.

“And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large.” Mark 16:3-4

The Roman Guard Perspective.  It is interesting that only the gospel account by Matthew includes a perspective from the Roman guards who watched over the tomb.  The other accounts contained in the gospels of Mark, Luke and John simply state that when the first women reached the tomb that morning the stone had been rolled away.  This suggests that Matthew had spoken to the Roman guards who kept watch over the tomb.  This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that Matthew’s gospel is the only account that includes the reaction of the Roman guards to the angel’s appearance and rolling back the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb – they shook with fear! These Roman guards were men of war who had seen horrendous things, so it would take some supernatural sight to fill them with fear. 

“And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.” Matthew 28:4

Fake News. Matthew’s account is important in that it disproves the theory that Jesus’ body was stolen.  The Roman guards were still in place and witnessed the movement of the stone by the angel, which unequivocally affirms that the body of Jesus was not stolen.  The Romans and Jewish leaders did not want news of the resurrection spreading and needed an alternative explanation for the missing body of Jesus – namely, that the disciples came in the night and stole the body. Matthew provides the account of how this false narrative started.  It seems “fake news” has been with humanity for a very long time. Roman guards would have been executed for failing to properly secure a prisoner or this tomb given the importance of the execution of Jesus to the Roman authorities and Jewish leaders. This bribe and assurance of protection was necessary to get the Roman guards to cooperate with this false conspiracy theory.

“Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. 12 When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.” Matthew 28:11-15

Women’s Reaction.  The four gospels contain varying accounts of exactly which women were first to the tomb but it is clear multiple women came to the tomb that morning. According to Mark, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Solome came to the tomb early that morning to bring spices to anoint his body. Mark goes on to record that upon leaving the empty tomb, these women came across the risen Jesus. What an honor it would have been to meet the resurrected Jesus face to face!  These women reacted the way you or I probably would, they fell to their knees and worshipped him.

“And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshipped Him.  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” Matthew 28: 9-10

Jesus Conveys the Heart of the Matter.  The first witnesses to the resurrection were confused, amazed and perplexed by this clearly unexplainable supernatural event.  Some were in a state of disbelief even though Jesus had been very clear in stating what would occur prior to his crucifixion.  When the risen Jesus spoke to Mary, he got to the heart of the matter. He told her to go tell his disciples that he was going to be with his father and your father in heaven.  In those few words, Jesus revealed an essential truth of his resurrection.  God is his father, and through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have the right to call God our father as well.  Through the sacrifice of Jesus and our faith in him, we have been adopted into the family of God, a loving father who will provide for our needs, guide us through life and prepare a place for us to be with him for all of eternity.

“Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni (which is to say Teacher).  Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.” John 20:14-18

Jesus is the Cornerstone.  This stone was moved from the opening of the tomb to bring light to the resurrection, but it is not the stone that changed the world.  Jesus is the cornerstone upon which God’s spiritual temple is being built, and his death and resurrection has changed the world.  Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and he is the one and only bridge God has provided for us to reach him.  We too are stones, in a figurative sense, that God is using to build his kingdom. What an honor it is to be used by God, as a stone alongside the cornerstone Jesus, to build God’s temple.

“You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say, “I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” 1 Peter 2:4-7

Prayer. As we contemplate God this Easter, my prayer and hope is that we see Jesus in a clearer light and thank him for what he has done for each of us through his sacrifice at the cross motivated by his gracious mercy and abundant love. Thank you, Jesus, for loving us so much that you would willingly lay down your life for us. We want you to be the cornerstone of our life.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

He is risen indeed! Have a blessed Easter.