Summary: This is an Easter sermon that uses the stone at the tomb as a metaphor for the problems of life. It is topical and alliterated with Power Point available, just email me.
HE STILL MOVES STONES
Scott Bayles, pastor
First Christian Church, Rosiclare, IL
It was early that first Easter morning. What little grass grew in that arid climate was moist with the morning’s dew. The cool air of early spring breezed through the blossoming branches of nearby trees. The sun crept slowly over the mountains before spilling its light over the rolling desert hills of Palestine. The bright morning star could still be seen in the northern sky—a symbol of hope, a sign that something better loomed on the horizon. But for the small band of women making their way to the tomb of Jesus, hope was in short supply. Their spirits had been crushed by the same nails that pierced the hands and feet of Jesus. They were discouraged, disheartened and defeated. And what they wanted more than anything else was to see Jesus one last time, to honor him by anointing his body with spices and perfumes (the first century equivalent of laying flowers by his grave side).
But as they walked that long, lonely path to the tomb, it suddenly dawned on them. The Bible says they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:3 NIV). Two of these women, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, had seen where the body had been placed and knew that a huge stone had been rolled across the entrance to the tomb, so as they approached the gravesite they remembered the stone and realized that they couldn’t move it on their own. The stone itself probably weighed several hundred pounds and would have to be rolled uphill out of a rut in the ground in order to open the tomb. Even if all five women worked together, they wouldn’t have been able to budge it. As far as they were concerned, it was an insurmountable obstacle.
But you know what that’s like, don’t you? We all have our own stones. You know yours. You know its size, its shape and circumference. Your stone doesn’t cover the entrance of a tomb in Jerusalem; rather, your path is blocked by the boulders of unemployment, abandonment, abuse, or addiction. We face the insurmountable obstacles debt, divorce, drunkenness and depression. You have bills you can’t pay, grades you can’t make, people you can’t please, whiskey you can’t resist, pornography you can’t refuse, a career you can’t escape, a past you can’t shake, and a future you can’t face. And the reality is—by ourselves, we aren’t strong enough to roll those stones away. Come at from any angle you choose, use whatever tools you wish—you can’t budge it, you can’t get over it, you can’t go around it, you can’t move it, not even inch. But Jesus does for us, what He did for Mary, for Salome, for Peter, James and Thomas. Their lives were forever changed because He rolled the stone away. That stone represented the fears and failures of Jesus closest friends. And His resurrection personally and powerfully impacted the lives of those who knew Him and loved Him. It rolled away the stones that hindered their faith and their future. Other than the stone blocking the entrance to His own tomb, Jesus moved no less than five other stones that Easter morning. The first was the stone of discouragement.
• THE STONE OF DISCOURAGEMENT
Let’s go back to Mary and the other women at Jesus’ tomb. To say these women were discouraged is an understatement—they were devastated, heartbroken. They believed in Jesus. They put their faith in Him. All their hopes and their dreams rested in a man they believed was God in human flesh. But then He died. The ground beneath the Old Rugged Cross was tinged red with the blood of God. They weren’t the only ones feeling discouraged either. All of Jesus’ followers were disappointed and disillusioned. I think the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus, spoke for everyone when they said, “We had hoped that He was the one” (Luke 24:21 NIV).
Anytime you start talking about hope in the past tense, you know you’re in trouble. A soul without hope is like a body without food. Can you identify with these disciples? Have you ever had your hopes crushed right in front of you? We have all kinds of hopes and dreams—the hope that we might meet that perfect man or woman and get married or the hope that the marriage we have might be rekindled. Some of us hope desperately to have a child, while others hope that their adult children might finally turn their lives around. We hope to get out of debt or escape our stress. We long to be healed of some disease or disability, or we hope we won’t have to take a medication the rest of our lives. When those dreams go unfulfilled or our hopes are shattered, it’s discouraging, sometimes devastating.