This is Pastor Tim’s article which appeared in the Evening Leader on April 5, 2021
Well, here we are, the Monday after the best day of the year: Easter Sunday. Because of what we celebrated yesterday, we get the chance to use words like grace, forgiveness and eternity. These concepts do not exist apart from God and if not for the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the Lord, none of those words would have any real meaning to us here today.
So in light the celebration of Easter, I would like to use today’s article to talk about one small part of the Easter story. Three days after Jesus died on the cross, there was a group of women who went to His tomb to perform the Jewish embalmment process. Jesus was hastily buried on Friday afternoon because of the celebration of Passover. They were going out to complete the process, and were discussing what, to them, was a very pertinent question: who will move the stone?
Jesus’s body was placed in a new tomb and a large and very heavy stone was rolled in front of the mouth of the cave. This would have been standard procedure at that time. But when the women arrived, the stone was moved. This should not have happened because we are told the tomb was sealed. That means not only was the heavy stone in front of the tomb opening, but the tomb was locked shut with special locks. It would have taken several men to open the tomb, but when the women got there, the stone was laying off to the side. All four Gospels use the phrase “the stone had been rolled away.”
That is the way we are used to reading it, but what we don’t realize is this isn’t what was supposed to happen. In order to gain access to the tomb, the stone was sort of tipped forward to give some space to squeeze inside. The stone was not meant to slide open like a barn door; it was designed to tip away and allow someone to slip inside. To see the stone rolled away would be like coming home and finding your garage door laying in your front yard. It would have taken far more force than normal to make the stone roll given that it was not designed to do that. When you press the garage door opener button, and your garage door retracts, we say the door was opened. If a tornado rips your garage door off and flings it into the neighbor’s yard, technically the door is opened, but obviously not in the same way that the garage button opens the door.
This is true here too. When the women were discussing who would roll the stone away, they were wondering who would lean it forward so they could slip in. When they got there and found the stone rolled aside, that is a completely different thing. This is the difference between turning a door handle and kicking the door. Both of them open the door but the result is in no way related.
Why? Not only why was the stone broken free to the point it would need repairs to be set back up, but why was the tomb opened at all? Many of the resurrection appearances of Jesus are Him walking through walls into locked rooms. Doors seem to be optional to the resurrected Jesus, why was the stone kicked out of the way, and who kicked it?
The women at the tomb did not find Jesus when they first arrived. Instead, there was an angel. I think the angel kicked the stone out of the way not to let Jesus out, but to let the guards, then the women, and finally Peter and the Beloved Disciples in to see that something amazing and life-altering happened. In the Bible story, angels are always messengers, and that improperly rolled stone has been a resounding message from God to His people for thousands of years. Funeral homes and eulogies will never be the final word on us. That stone was rolled for the most impractical of reasons. To let Jesus out would have been practical, but it was unnecessary. The stone was rolled as a statement. Death, grave, decay, evil, Sin, despair, pride, and all of the pain that these things cause rolled the stone into place. God sent an angel to roll it back to let us see that nothing is over until God says it is over. The story of the Salvation of the world did not end in a tomb, it began there.