Summary: Like the women of old, we too journey to the graves of those we love. What do we say on the way and what do we find when we get there?"
“Journey to the Grave”
One of my favorite illustrations is about a pastor giving a children’s sermon on Easter Sunday morning. “Can anyone tell me what happened on Easter?” Silence. The pastor, persisting, asked again politely, “Now I know that someone here knows what happened on Easter a long, long time ago.” Again….silence. “Finally, visibly frustrated, the pastor asked more forcefully, “SOMEBODY PLEASE tell me about Easter Sunday!” Finally, little Johnny (never at a loss for words) tentatively raised his hand. “THEY KILLED JESUS!” “That’s right,” said the pastor, “And then what?” “They put him in the ground!” (Johnny spoke with more confidence). “RIGHT!” the proud pastor affirmed, “and then what?” “…and he was there for three days!” “And then what?” “and on Easter he comes out of the ground!” “Wonderful!” the pastor joyfully agreed. And then Johnny continued….”And if he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of bad weather……”
In the midst of bunnies and eggs, it’s easy to forget the real meaning of this holy day. My guess is that you are here today because you know the real story of Resurrection Day and you just want to hear it again…. You’ve come to the right place.
All four gospels speak of the tomb in which Jesus was laid as one owned by Joseph of Arimathea, who was secretly a disciple of Jesus. Unique to Mark’s gospel, however, is the surprise of Pilate when he discovers how quickly Jesus had died. If there is any doubt as to the reality of his death on the cross, the centurion affirms his death to Pilate and the body of Jesus is entrusted to Joseph for burial. Chapter 15 ends with both Marys witnessing the burial of Jesus in the tomb and the tomb’s owner rolling the stone against the entrance. Hear now God’s Word from Mark 16:1-8.
1When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"
4But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6"Don’t be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ’He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ "
8Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
The three women bringing spices to the grave as a sign of love and respect is much like taking flowers to a grave today. Important for our consideration today is that the resurrection story from Mark is the only account in which we are given insight into the conversation of the women on the way to the tomb. Evidently, in the midst of their intentional preparation to gather the spices and plan their sunrise visit to the grave, they realized en route that they had overlooked an important arrangement…..”Who will roll the stone away?” They had witnessed Joseph of Arimathea sealing the tomb, they knew that the stone would be blocking its entrance, but they had evidently forgotten to enlist the help of someone that morning.
Incidentally, the “rolling stone” tombs in Jesus day would have been sealed with a disc-shaped limestone rock. (word search on Google image with key word “Rolling stone tomb” will reveal great images for Power Point) I had always pictured a round boulder but, as you can see by this picture, the “frisbee-shaped” rock would have rolled along a “track” to open and close the tomb’s entrance.
As we know, the stone had already been rolled away and, as the women entered the tomb, their reaction was one of fear and bewilderment. Then, learning from a man dressed in white (whom other gospels identify as an angel fo the Lord) of Jesus’ resurrection, the women are then commanded to go and tell the disciples. Out of their fear and bewilderment, however, the women say nothing to anyone - - at least not immediately.
It is a glorious story - - one that has given comfort and hope and joy to all who believe. It is also a story for all who have, on occasion, journeyed to the grave of a loved one. For just as the Son of God could not escape earthly death, neither can we. And so, this Easter weekend, I invite you to walk with me the pathway that leads to the grave…