Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: What does it mean for us that the "Stone was rolled away"?

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Have you ever set out on a journey not knowing what was in store? I remember when I was very young our family would catch a bus each year for our summer holiday. I had no idea where we were going or what it would be like when we got there. I suspect that some of the younger ones here today will find it hard to believe, but my family didn’t own a car – so, every year, it was onto the bus with loads of other families and off into the unknown – or at least that’s how it seemed to me at the time! I was never quite certain whether it was to be a week with my favourite great Aunt or, even better, two weeks in a caravan at the sea. I just had to wait and see.

Nearly 2000 years ago there were 3 ladies who also set out on a journey not really sure of what would greet them at the end. And they had good reason to be uncertain. In the past seven days their world had been turned completely upside down. A week before they had watched and probably joined in the tumultuous welcome given to Jesus as he had entered Jerusalem. “Hosanna!” the crowds had bellowed at the tops of their voices, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” But no sooner had the echoes of those shouts faded than they had witnessed his arrest and trial. I’m certain they would have screamed in anger and frustration as they heard the same crowd who had welcomed Jesus, now refuse to allow Pilate to release him from the death penalty. And finally, just two days before, they had wept at the sight of their beloved friend hanging on a Roman crucifixion cross. It is impossible to imagine the trauma they had suffered during those few short days.

But on that first Easter morning in the quiet of the early dawn they set off to the place where Jesus had been buried. They carried spices to anoint the body but, as they walked towards the cemetery, I’m certain that all sorts of thoughts would have been going through their minds. Would Jesus’ body really be there? If it was, would the guards let them in? But before all that, they probably asked themselves, how could they possibly roll away the gigantic rock which sealed up the entrance to the tomb? All in all they must have felt like just sitting down on the ground and bursting into tears.

Therefore imagine their utter dismay when they arrived. Not only were the big burly guards they dreaded nowhere to be seen, but the rock was rolled off to one side and the tomb was wide open. As they gingerly tiptoed into the darkness they were horrified to see that the body was no longer there on the ledge where it should have been. Their worst fears were coming true. Jesus had gone. Then they jumped back in horror as two men appeared out of nowhere dressed in gleaming white clothes. Who were they? Why were they here? Were they the ones who had taken their beloved Jesus away? Where had they taken him? Question after question after question racing through their minds…

Finally, with their hearts beating so fast they thought they would explode, they heard one of the men say the three most astounding words ever said and ever heard, “He is risen!” “He is risen!” Jesus was alive – risen from the dead.

It was true, everything he had ever told them, even that he would rise again from the grave, it was all true. “He is risen!”

A journey which had begun, clouded in fear and uncertainty, had ended in triumph and revelation in the open tomb.

As I thought about this story and imagined some of the thoughts and feelings that might have been going through the minds of the two Mary’s and Salome that morning it occurred to me how much this is a reflection of our lives as Christians. So often we are confronted by uncertainty – in fact, despite all the advances we make in the realms of science and technology, it often seems that this only serves to increase our doubts and fears.

Our doctors have learnt so much about disease and illness but this doesn’t lessen the dread of the word ‘Cancer’. Psychologists can explain the stages of grieving but can never take away the devastation of losing a loved one. Behavioural scientists can write book after book on the best way to bring up your children but they can never provide a guarantee against the wrong peer group or the possibility of drugs. And not even the Governor of the Reserve Bank can assure us that our salaries and pensions are going to be worth anything tomorrow.

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