The Stone was Rolled Away
by Rev. Randy Brown
Happy Easter. Today’s Scripture comes from the Book of John, Chapter 20, verses 1–18.
“On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early while it was still dark. She saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb so she ran to summon Peter and to the other disciples, the ones Jesus loved and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put Him.’
“At first, Peter and the other disciples went out, heading for the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and got to the tomb first. Stooping down, he saw the linen cloth lying there, yet he did not go in. Then following him, Simon Peter came, also. He entered the tomb and saw the linen cloth lying there. The wrapping that had been on His head was folded up in a separate place by itself. The other disciples who had reached the tomb first then entered the tomb, saw and believed.
“They still did not understand the Scripture that He was to rise from the dead. Then, the disciples went home again, but Mary stood outside facing the tomb crying. While she was crying, she stopped to look into the tomb. She saw two angels in white were sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where Jesus’ body had been lying. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’
“‘Because they have taken away my Lord,’ she told them, ‘and I don’t know where they have put Him.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there though she did not know it was Jesus. ‘Woman,’ Jesus said to her, ‘why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ Supposing He was the gardener, she replied, ‘Sir, if you have removed Him, tell me where you have put Him and I will take Him away.’
“Jesus said, ‘Mary.’ Turning around, she said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ which means teacher. ‘Don’t cling to me,’ Jesus told her, ‘for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God, and your God.’
“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’ and she told them what He said to her.”
This is the word of God for the people of God
Thanks be to God.
Thank you, Elizabeth. We’re going to pray together. Would you be seated as we pray?
Lord, we come to celebrate the good news, the great news, the only news worth telling. Lord, come and rescue me from me. Hide me behind your cross. Let the words that are heard be your words and not mine, the one who is seeing you and not me. Help us be careful to listen to the quiet suffering of sandaled feet. Know that Jesus the Christ is in our midst. In his name and for His glory, I pray. Amen.
If I were to mention to you the name of Jimmy Carter, you would think of the President of the United States and you would be correct. But there’s another Jimmy Carter. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He works for WSMV Channel 4. He’s their movie critic. A couple of years ago, I was listening to him one morning, and he said something that I never will forget and it has prompted what I want to say this morning.
It was about this time of the year. Easter was approaching. And, he said to the audience and to those other employees there of Channel 4, who were sitting around listening to him talk about the movies, that were coming out for this particular holiday season. And he said, “There’s an action thriller coming out.” Then he said, “And, I don’t usually associate Easter with action thrillers.” And, I thought, man, you need to read the story.
We’re going to talk about that this morning because so often, we forget some of the action-packed events that happened in the life of the story of the Passion of the Christ. Sometimes, we reduce Easter to bonnets and bows and bunnies and baskets, and that’s not what it’s all about. Amen. We can do better than that. Amen? Okay.
The action-packed thriller begins that as Jesus is getting ready for His betrayal, He goes to the home of Simon the leper. Simon the leper is hosting some folks and they’re all around there. They’re like maybe what we would be, wanting to get Jesus’ attention, wanting to sit near Him so we could hear His every word, but we forgot and they forgot to do something that was appropriate and that was to anoint Him with oil.
And, so a harlot comes in and she anoints him, and Jesus brags on her. All the time, Judas is dealing with the authorities. See, all this is taking place; it’s an action-packed thriller. Then He comes to have the Passover meal with His disciples and they are heavy-hearted, He is heavy-hearted because in the midst of what He’s facing, in the midst of all that He’s going through, in the midst of making sure everything is exactly right, these knucklehead disciples are arguing among themselves, and they wanted to know who was the greatest.
They wanted to know who would have the seat of honor with Him at the Passover meal. See, they just don’t get it. They’re in the Upper room and not getting what He’s going through. Jesus tries one more time to get across to them. And when the supper is over He makes for them a new covenant; and the body is broken and the cup is poured. He leaves there and if you think it’s been action-packed up until now, just hold on.
He leaves there and He goes to the garden. At the garden, He spends time in prayer. What’s so action-packed about prayer? Well, prayer is hard work, especially when you’ve got this heavy weight on your shoulders and Jesus goes to the garden and there, He prays through the night. He takes some of his disciples with Him and all they can do is fall asleep. He’s praying and praying and praying. He’s dropping sweats, sweat of blood. Judas is still carrying out his plan and Judas sells him.
Then He’s taken to the high priest and He is spit on and slapped and beaten. Then in the midst of that, if that is not enough, He tells Simon Peter, the one who said he’d never betray Him, the one who walked on water with Him, He said, “Simon, you’re going to leave me. You’re going to betray me.” Simon says, “No way, Lord. I’m not going to do that. The others will fall away, but not me. I’m with you. I’m your man.” Then he denied.
After that, he’s taken to a trial in front of Pilate, and Pilate asked him a question, “What is truth? What is truth?” Then, Peter does deny and Judas hangs himself. Just when we don’t think anything else could happen, Pilate who he had stood before only a little bit ago, Pilate gets a message. The messenger comes in and hands him a piece of paper and says, “Your wife says;” you know you’re in trouble when that happens, right? “Your wife says, “Don’t have anything to do with the blood of this innocent man.” Action packed. There he is. He’s got the mob on one side and he’s got his wife on the other side and he’s torn with what to do. I told you it was action-packed.
At the Passover festival, they had a custom that every year, one person would be released from prison, and it was the people’s choice of who it would be. It had come down that year to Pilate’s decision of Jesus or Barabbas.
Now, Barabbas was a scoundrel. He was an insurrectionist. He caused riots. He was a murderer. He was guilty of all that they could pin on him. If it was able to be done, he did it. He was guilty. He’s sitting there and it’s the day before the crucifixion. It’s the day before the release of the prisoner. Sitting there in the jail cell, the door opens and the clanging of feet coming down that hallway and Barabbas knows, it’s my time. Where did I go wrong?
And, we have all the flashbacks of what Barabbas must have gone through. And then the jailer comes and he unlocks the door and everything in every fiber of Barabbas’ being shakes and trembles because this is it. “Barabbas,” he said, “get up.” He said, “I don’t want to.” “Barabbas, let’s take those chains off of you.” “No, please, please, please don’t do this.” “Barabbas, get up; you’re free to go.” Something happens for Barabbas at that point. He’d never experienced any kind of freedom at all.
The jailer said it again, “Barabbas, get up, you’re free to go. Jesus of Nazareth is going to die in your place.” What kind of trick is that? “That innocent man, he’s not going to die for me.” “Oh yes, yes he is.” The doors open, and the sun is shining and Barabbas walks out and is free. You talk about action-packed. Just think what was going on inside of him. And then all of a sudden, Jesus is handed over to the authorities, and He prays for his enemies. He’s mocked and He’s whipped and there’s a man that comes along. You talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Simon of Cyrene was such a man. Because Jesus had been beaten and whipped and tortured and then they placed the cross beam on his shoulders and he couldn’t do it anymore. And, so they got Simon of Cyrene to carry the crossbeam. They get Him to the place called The Skull … Golgotha, and they place a sign over His head, a crown on His head, spikes in His hands and feet, and a spear into His side. You talk about action …
Then all of a sudden, He’s hanging there between two guys and they deserve to be there, and there’s a conversation going on between the three of them. And one of them says, “Jesus, if you’re the son of man like they say you are, if you’re who you claim to be, then, save yourself and us.” What he really meant was us. And the other man said, “Don’t you get it? We are getting our just reward. We’re getting what we deserve, but Jesus remember me; remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
He said, “Today, today you will be with me in paradise.” You talk about action-packed; folks, read the story. Here it is. And, then he prayed for his accusers. Now, if you had been in the situation that Jesus was in, you would have probably prayed, too, right? You’d have said, “Father, get them!” That’s not what Jesus said. Jesus never said get them. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they’re doing.”
It’s mid afternoon. He cries out, “It is finished.” For three hours, the Earth is dark, and then they take Him down. They put Him in a borrowed tomb. They seal the tomb and it’s over.
I don’t know about you, but action movies wear me out. I’m ready to go home and take a nap and do something that doesn’t require me to think. But the story is not over; it’s not over. The action picks up again early on Sunday morning, the first day of the week. The action starts all over again. Mary decides to go to the tomb, and she doesn’t know who is going to roll away the stone. They get there and it’s obvious that in this action-packed movie, this action-packed thriller, they’ve missed something. Because, when they get there, the stone has been rolled away, and they know they’ve missed something. They don’t know what they missed, but they know they’ve missed something. “Where have you taken Him,” they ask a stranger. “Taken who? He’s not here.” “We know He’s not here. What did you do with Him?” “He’s alive. He’s alive. He’s alive.” Go and tell Peter. Oh, Jesus called his name. Go and tell Peter that I’m alive. How’s that for an action thriller?
The stone was rolled away. Now, we’ve been talking about stones, so let me share this with you. The stone was rolled away. I want to ask you a question. Why was the stone rolled away? So Jesus could get out? No. He could have come out with that stone never being moved. It would look like new plowed ground, but he could have done it.
The stone was rolled away not so Jesus could get out, the stone was rolled away so that Simon Peter could look in when he got there. And, the stone was rolled away so John could go in when he got there. And, the stone was rolled away so you and I could see for ourselves that He’s alive, He’s alive. He’s not here; He’s alive.
While it’s all sinking in and we re-read the thriller again, there’s some questions that are asked, “Why do you seek to living among the dead?” My favorite question is, “Why are you crying?” They asked Mary that question. It’s kind of a rude and insensitive question, isn’t it? She’s at the cemetery. She’s lost her loved one. “Why are you crying?” A strange question unless the person asking the question knows something that the other person does not know. And that’s exactly what happens here because He’s alive.
You see this action-packed thriller shows us that He’s alive. It shows us that we don’t always know the question or the right question and that we don’t always have the answer to the question and it shows us the stone is rolled away because God loves to surprise us. What a surprise that morning. It was rolled away because we need to be reminded that when life is at its worst, God is at His best. Amen.
Nothing could hold Him. The grave couldn’t hold Him and death couldn’t keep Him. And anything is possible. Anything is possible if a man can roll a stone away from a tomb. Not so Jesus could get out, but so we could experience and see the miracle of the resurrection.
Let’s try it one more time.
Christ has risen. Christ has risen indeed.
Now like you believe it.
Christ has risen. Christ has risen indeed.
Can I say it this way? That’s what The Book says.