This morning we want to consider the stone...the stone rolled in front of the tomb of Jesus upon his burial. We want to consider what the stone represented. As we begin, let’s sing a couple of choruses to bring our minds to a shared place, recognizing the holiness of this event, and the person of Jesus Christ.
The stone represented...
1. Finality of death - Mark 15:42-47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. (Matthew: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.)
After Jesus died they put His body in a tomb. But the tombs were different in those days than they are today. Today we put somebody in a coffin and put them in the ground and we cover them up with dirt. In those days they buried people in caves. They often would use it for many, many bodies. It was not just one burial; lots of people would be buried in the cave. So they’d find a cave and they’d build a trench in front of it and they’d put a giant millstone in front of the opening of the cave. Then when somebody died, they’d roll the stone wheel back, toss in another body and roll it back. A cave would often have many, many people who died in one burial ground.
Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man who had bought a cave for his own burial. It had never been used before. So they wrapped Jesus’ body in the burial clothing. They put Him in the tomb and they rolled the stone in front of it.
I want to recall an earlier event. It was also a very low point for two sisters, and for Jesus as well. It was the death of Jesus’ friend Lazarus, brother to Mary and Martha. The record is in John 11. Let’s read this account.
• Lazarus was “sick,” but Jesus said the sickness would not end in death (v.4). John 11:4When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
• Lazarus was “asleep,” but Jesus was going to wake him up (v.11) John 11:11After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” John 11:12His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
• Lazarus was “dead,” but Jesus was going to show his disciples something that would convince them He was sent from God (v.14) John 11:14So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,15and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
• The shocking claim: “I am the resurrection and the life!” (v.25) John 11:23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” John 11:24Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” John 11:25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:27“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
Skip to v.32… John 11:32When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Then she returns to the house to get her sister Mary (read from v. 32-45 “Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him” (v.45).
John 11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.
The raising of Lazarus from the dead was the climax and culmination of Jesus' miracles recorded in John's gospel! His followers now fully believed that he was the Messiah, the Son of God (John 20:31 "These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name!). All the miracles recorded in the Gospel of John were John's proof to his readers that "we beheld his glory, glory as of the 'only begotten of the Father,' full of grace and truth."
With this awesome miracle and proof well in mind, let's go back to the scene of the crucifixion. What would this miracle mean if Jesus himself was not raised from the dead? How could he be the Savior, the Messiah, if he could save others -- but not save himself? The taunters and mockers were right: “He saved others, let him save himself!”
Suppose that these women, these two Marys who followed Jesus, had been among those who witnessed the raising of Lazarus - convinced he was the Messiah, the Son of God. And now they are witnesses to the rolling of the stone in front of the tomb of this very same Jesus. All their hopes had come crashing down. It really was too much to take in, too much to fathom. Everything prior had been a waste. How could they make sense of it? Either Jesus was not who he claimed to be, or someone had derailed the plan of God.
2. Opposition of all human forces - Make it as secure as you can - Matthew 27:62-66
The opponents of Jesus were worried about His claims that He would be raised from the dead. To stop the disciples from making it appear that this had happened, Pilate agreed to allow them to seal the tomb.
Devious plans of the Religious - Matthew 26:1-5; 14-16; 20-25; Matthew 27:1-10
The enemies of God, the power of mankind, the power of Satan all conspired against God and against His Holy One.
3. Triumph of the Gospel - Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12
Coming to prepare the body of Christ for permanent burial. Understand - they believed in the resurrection. Surely they believed this good man would be resurrection at some future day.
The stone was rolled away - what is the significance of that?
1. Death has been defeated! 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 The dashed anticipation of the women and the disciples was replaced with a glorious hope that far superceded anything they had every imagined! And they did not yet realize the purpose in the cross - the sacrificial nature of the death of Christ. But his resurrection from the dead was his crowning miracle - ultimate proof that he was the Christ, the Son of God. If they had been 100% convinced before, now they were convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt. The great Stone of death was defeated.
2. The Enemies of God will not triumph! Acts 2:22-24 Sinful man cannot and will not triumph over God. The empty tomb is proof that there is always hope no matter how dark or bleak a situation might be. When we take this story to heart, when we are convinced of the truth of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can trust in God through the storms of life. Acts 2:36: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ!”