Summary: An Easter Sunrise Sermon.
"It Was a Very Large Stone"
On a chilly Sunday morning in the fall of 1964, two white college students waited nervously on the edge of their college campus.
They were waiting for an African American student from another college across town.
They had all gone to a non-violence workshop, and from the meeting they had come away with a series of plans for blacks and whites to attend worship together in all-white congregations on Sunday morning.
So the two white kids waited for the black kid.
When he showed up they would all three attend worship in an all-white congregation, unannounced and probably unwelcome.
It was a youthful intention to confront the challenges of the civil rights movement head on.
For some reason, the African American student never showed up.
To be sure, the odds that he would have faced a much more difficult crowd were much higher.
But what is known about this incident is the almost shameful relief that the two white students felt as it became clear that they could attend worship that day without any risk.
We can only imagine the fear they might have felt if, just as they had left the campus, they had gotten a call that the young black student was waiting for them on the steps of the sanctuary where they had agreed to worship together.
The women on their way to anoint Jesus' dead body on Easter morning were engaging in an act of deep devotion.
It was also a last act of personal and religious loyalty.
It promised closure.
And it wasn't just closure on a personal relationship with Jesus; it was closure on a world-embracing dream!
They were making peace not only with the death of a person but with the death of God...
...with the death of Jesus' claim that He was God.
No doubt that they were grieving deeply and profoundly.
But at the same time they were making peace with the death of this dream.
Yet, when they went into the tomb and "saw a young man in a white robe" there was possibly another feeling at work within them.
We are told that they were "startled."
But he said to them, "Don't be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.
He has been raised.
He isn't here.
Look, here's the place where they laid him.
Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee.
You will see him there just as he told you."
"Just as he told you?"
"He has been raised?"
The women had watched Him die an agonizing death.
They had seen Joseph of Arimathea wrap Jesus' body in a linen cloth and lay Him in a tomb that had been carved out of a huge rock.
Joseph had rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.
Mark 15:47 clearly says, "Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was buried."
So they hadn't been going to Jesus' tomb when the Sabbath was over in order to witness Jesus' Resurrection.
They had no idea such a thing was even possible or thinkable.
They were going to complete Jesus' burial...to say their last goodbyes.
Instead, they got the shock of their lives!!!
Certainly, Mark has told us over and over again, that Jesus tried to teach the disciples that He would suffer, be killed, and rise again from the dead.
But they didn't understand.
They probably thought Jesus was talking in riddles.
But He wasn't.
He was speaking the truth.
And now the women have to face this truth.
And so we are told that "overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb.
They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid."
And what were they afraid of?
Well, let's see.
"They killed Jesus, what will they do to me when they find out He is still alive?"
"Do I have the courage to face the powers that be, having seen what they did to Jesus on that Cross?"
"How do I follow a Risen Lord?"
"What will discipleship and loyalty to Christ require of me?"
"What will people think?"
"I thought all this was over, but it is really just now about ready to begin!!!"
..."and I'm scared!!!"
Perhaps you can relate to some of these feelings.
In John's Gospel we are told that later that day...
...actually in the evening, the disciples were scared out of their minds!
They were shaking like scared puppies "behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities."
Jesus had escaped death, but how would they?
Then, just when the tension had gotten so thick that you could have cut it with a knife, we are told that "Jesus came and stood among them."