Summary: The stone was rolled away for you. Are you curious? The stone speaks. It speaks to us of death, victory over death, and hope for the future through Christ. The stone was rolled away so we could encounter the risen Lord. He is risen! He is alive today. He
Opening illustration: Around the year 1930, a Communist leader named Nikolai Bukharin journeyed from Moscow to Kiev, Ukraine. His mission was to address a huge assembly with the aim of advancing communism. His subject for the evening was atheism. For a solid hour he aimed his heavy artillery at Christianity, hurling arguments and ridiculing the Christian faith. At last he was finished and viewed what seemed to be the smoldering ashes of men’s faith. “Are there any questions?” Bukharin demanded. A solitary man arose and asked permission to speak. He mounted the platform and moved close to the Communist leader. The audience was breathlessly silent as the man surveyed them first to the right, then to the left. At last he shouted the ancient Orthodox greeting, “CHRIST IS RISEN!” The vast assembly arose as one man and the response came crashing like the sound of an avalanche, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”
The tomb where Jesus was laid on “Good Friday” is now a completely different tomb … it requires a different type of watchman. It does not need a cemetery caretaker or a company of Roman soldiers assign to protect the dead but an angel from the realms of light and life. For Christ has risen indeed …
Let us turn to Matthew 28 in God’s Word and find out why was the stone rolled away?
Introduction: Do you think there was any significance to the fact that the stone enclosing the tomb of Jesus was rolled away? The stone didn’t need to be rolled away for Jesus to leave the tomb, and perhaps an empty tomb with the Roman seal still affixed to the closed stone would have been a more convincing proof of the resurrection vs. alternate theories. Was it to release Jesus? Well, of course not. Being God, Jesus could move freely from one place to another without being encumbered with worldly limitations. Let us assume the stone wasn’t rolled away, but Jesus began appearing to his disciples. Word would spread, and the Jewish leaders likely would have had the tomb inspected; if the stone was still closed and the seal still affixed, and they had the tomb opened and Jesus was not there, they would be hard pressed to claim the body was stolen, that he wasn’t really dead, etc. obviously God decided that the stone would be rolled away; I am just looking for any special significance to this. While the stone covering the entrance to the tomb was there for many reasons, we know its existence wasn’t to contain Christ.
Why was the stone rolled away?
1. Witness the testimony of the power of Christ (vs. 2-4)
Before we answer the question about the stone, let’s visit the importance of the guards on resurrection Sunday. They had been placed there as an integral part in God’s plan to communicate the resurrection. They were special soldiers, handpicked for being strong, skillful, alert and loyal to death. Their posting was made the day after Jesus’ burial as a last minute decision to ensure that these zealots who followed Jesus would not kidnap the body (Matthew 27: 63). Both the authorities and Disciples had something to prove here. The Pharisees wanted Jesus to rot in that tomb as a public demonstration that their motives were correct. The Disciples, proof that Jesus was in fact the risen Messiah.
As the guards awoke from their God induced slumber, they saw the empty tomb and the angel sent by God. Matthew 28: 4 records that they were ‘as dead men’ because they met a heavenly being. The impact was so significant an event that they froze. I’m sure these handpicked soldiers were in a situation that they had not encountered before. They certainly weren’t trained for it. So they quickly ran off to their commanders, and then to Pilate, to report on what had happened. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in their shoes. Their superiors would not have been happy, and although they would discipline them for failing in their duty, they couldn’t deny the truth of what had been relayed by these trained professionals. The authorities knew that they spoke the truth so they paid the guards for their silence, as we are told in Matthew 28. It was a brilliant, God inspired strategy to use professional, loyal soldiers to share the truth of the resurrection with those who denied Christ. Who better to challenge a skeptic than two of their own!
What we need is the resurrection power manifested by the stone rolled away. You see, the stone was rolled away because Jesus could not be held by death. He said about Himself, in John 11: 25, "I am the resurrection and the life." In other words, resurrection power centers in Jesus. And in Him we can tap into that resurrection power. Paul knew the vital importance of walking in that power and revealed it when he said, "I want to know Christ, and the power of His resurrection" (Philippians 3: 10). The power of His resurrection must become the power of our lives. It can only become so when we surrender to the one who rose again from the dead. And He calls to us today, Christian and non-Christian alike, not from the Cross, for He is not there. He calls to us, not from the grave, for He is not there. He calls to us from the right hand of the throne of Almighty God, from where, one day, He will come to set up His kingdom on this earth. He will come to judge all the living and the dead. They will all stand before Him, for He is the resurrected Lord. He calls to us, "Look at what I did for you. Come and follow me."