The Stone Is Rolled Away
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Matthew 28:1-28:10 (NIV, NIRV, TNIV, KJV)
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"The Stone Is Rolled Away!"
It was dark as they arose that Sunday morning... The two got up and put on their garments grabbed their spices and headed out on the dirt road that lead out of the city.
As they headed out on the road and as the sun began to rise the path was lined with many dark shadows... but no shadow or darkness could compare with the darkness that hovered over their soul.
As they walked up the path towards the tomb... thoughts and sights of the last week -- ripped through their minds like violent tornados..
They had been there when Jesus rode in on the colt before thousands shouting his praises, what an incredible moment that was. But unfortunately their minds and the events of last week didn’t stop their.
Try as they might they couldn’t stopped those other thoughts, those terrible scenes from playing out again and again in their minds.
They saw Jesus tied to a post a Roman scourge filled with broken pieces of pottery, glass and bones ripping across His back. As they recalled the purple robe -- the beatings, the cruel mocking and the crown of thorns, the tears began to flow again.
They had seen it all -- they had seen Jesus, their teacher, their friend, their Lord they had witnessed everything that Jesus went through...
And these 2 women, these two Mary’s (Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of James) were there at the cross...
They saw Jesus hanging there on that rough cross of wood... they saw His body struggle and wince with pain with every breathe that he took...
They were there when Jesus cried out, "ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI -- MY GOD MY GOD WHY HAS THOUGH FORSAKEN ME" -- and they saw his head fall as he cried, "IT IS FINISHED."
They where there when Jesus died, and when he died they died to.. O’ they were still alive physically but their hopes and joy died on that cross with Jesus, on that dark friday nearly 2,000 years ago.. Their Lord was dead... And their hope was gone.
So what are they doing up so early on this sunday morning? Why aren’t they lying in bed wallowing in their misery... What was it that drove them from their beds before dawn, and put them on this dark up hill climb.
The thing that drove them, was their love for and devotion to Jesus -- someone had to prepare the body for burial and no one else had volunteered; Peter didn’t, James didn’t, neither did John -- So it was up to these 2 faithful followers, 2 women who had never left the side of Jesus, who were with Him until the end -- it was up to them to do it, and they did..
The task they were going to preform was a somber task, a difficult task... They would be the ones, who would wipe the blood from the brow, from the legs, from the sides, They would be the ones, to clean the blood from the body of Jesus... they would be the ones, to remove the blood that had matted in his beard, They would be the last ones, to touch his face and close His eyes.
And as they were nearing the tomb -- suddenly a problem -- something they hadn’t thought of until now, entered their minds and they said to each other,
"MARY WHO IS GOING TO REMOVE THE STONE -- HOW CAN WE GET INSIDE TO JESUS IF THE STONE IS IN THE WAY?"
"AND SUDDENLY THERE WAS A VIOLENT EARTHQUAKE, FOR AN ANGEL OF THE LORD CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN AND, GOING TO THE TOMB, ROLLED BACK THE STONE AND SAT ON IT. HIS APPEARANCE WAS LIKE LIGHTENING, AND HIS CLOTHES WERE WHITE AS SNOW. THE GUARDS WERE SO AFRAID OF HIM THAT THEY SHOOK LIKE DEAD MEN. THE ANGEL SAID TO THE WOMEN, "DO NOT BE AFRAID, FOR I KNOW THAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR JESUS, WHO IS CRUCIFIED. HE IS NOT HERE; HE HAS RISEN, JUST AS HE SAID. COME AND SEE THE PLACE WHERE HE LAY. THEN GO QUICKLY AND TELL HIS DISCIPLES AND PETER : `HE HAS RISEN FROM THE DEAD AND IS GOING AHEAD OF YOU INTO GALILEE. THERE YOU WILL SEE HIM’ NOW I HAVE TOLD YOU."
There is something I had never thought about before, that is until it was pointed out to me.... Maybe you have never ask yourself these questions either.... "WHY WAS THE STONED ROLLED AWAY?" AND "FOR WHO WAS THE STONED ROLLED AWAY FOR?"
Was it rolled away for Jesus? No, he was already gone. And besides the risen Son of God doesn’t need anyone to do anything for Him. So who was the stoned rolled away for...
It was rolled away for the women, so they could see that the tomb was empty....
And that’s what we want to talk about today, we want to talk about the empty tomb, and what it meant for them and what it means for us today.....
I. FOR ONE THING THE EMPTY TOMB MEANS THAT JESUS IS ALIVE!!
The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of Christianity Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:7, "AND IF CHRIST HAS NOT BEEN RAISED, YOUR FAITH IS FUTILE AND YOU ARE STILL IN YOUR SINS..."
And since the resurrection is so essential it has been attacked from the very beginning by Christ’s enemies, we read in Matthew [28:11-15].
The attacks still continue to this day, but the burden of proof rests not on the believer but on the unbeliever to explain the empty tomb.
Many theories have been proposed over the years as to why the tomb is empty, all of which are weak and far fetched. And each one requires that the disciples be part of a cover up as they promoted and preached a lie.
Charles Colson, the former counsel of President Nixon, convicted conspirator in the watergate scandal, writes that the Watergate cover up convinced him that Jesus was raised from the dead. He said,
"THERE WERE ONLY 8 OR 10 OF US IN THE INNER CIRCLE AROUND THE PRESIDENT WHO REALLY KNEW WHAT WAS GOING ON." HE SAID, "ALL WE HAD TO DO WAS STONEWALL FOR A COUPLE OF MONTHS AND THE WATERGATE SCANDAL WOULD BE OVER. WE HAD ALL THE POWER AND PRESTIGE OF THE PRESIDENCY AT OUR FINGERTIPS. AND IF THE TRUTH BROKE THERE WOULD BE EMBARRASSMENT AND PERHAPS A PRISON SENTENCE. THERE WAS NO GRAVE DANGER. OUR LIVES WERE NOT THREATENED, BUT WE COULD NOT HOLD THE CONSPIRACY TOGETHER FOR MORE THAN 2 WEEKS. WE COULD NOT CONTAIN THE LIE. ONCE PROSECUTION WAS POSSIBLE THE NATURAL INSTINCTS OF SELF PRESERVATION WAS SO OVERWHELMING THAT THE CONSPIRATORS ONE BY ONE DESERTED THEIR LEADERS.
THEY CAVED IN AND THEY STOOD IN LINE AT THE PROSECUTORS OFFICE TO ESCAPE JAIL."
COLSON CONCLUDES, " I KNOW THAT THE DISCIPLES COULD NOT PERPETUATE A LIE LIKE THE RESURRECTION, BECAUSE IT WAS NOT JUST THEIR REPUTATIONS THAT WERE AT STAKE, THEIR LIVES WERE IN DANGER. THEY HAD NO CLOUT, THEY HAD NOTHING TO GAIN BY THE LIE AND YET EVERYONE OF THEM STOOD FAST IN THE CONVICTION THAT JESUS IS ALIVE. TAKE IT FROM ONE WHO SAW FIRST HAND HOW VULNERABLE A COVER UP IS: NOTHING LESS THAN A WITNESS AS AWESOME AS THE RESURRECTED CHRIST COULD HAVE CAUSED THOSE MEN TO MAINTAIN TO THEIR DYING WHISPERS THAT JESUS IS ALIVE AND HE IS LORD!" (AS EACH APOSTLE EXCEPT JOHN DIED A MARTYRS DEATH).
When people today consider the evidence:
The Christian Church
Worship from sat to sunday
The change in calendars
The eye witness testimonies of the
The inability of anyone in the first century to produce the body of Jesus, which would have quenched the fire of this movement...
The testimony of non christian writers in the first century....
When we consider the fact that the tomb is empty -- there is no other conclusion that an individual in the pursuit of truth can make, other than that Jesus Christ is Alive!
And Mary and Mary bent down and walked into the tomb, and they saw that it was empty (Jesus was not there)-- what do you think they were thinking at that moment? How do you think they felt? Did they just look in, or do you think they stayed awhile? did they stay awhile? Did they touch the linen that had been around Jesus? Did they shed tears of joy?
Matthew goes on to say, "SO THE WOMEN HURRIED AWAY FROM THE TOMB AFRAID, YET FILLED WITH JOY AND RAN TO TELL THE DISCIPLES.."
Once they found that the tomb was empty -- once they believed that Jesus had risen from the dead, these women were on a direct path that would ultimately led them to meet the risen Lord...
And as they were running down the road back to Jerusalem -- suddenly Jesus appeared to them -- and they fell down and clasped His feet (perhaps wanting to make sure he was real), and they worshipped Him....
The love and devotion that these women showed to Jesus while he hung on the cross and as they arose early to tend to His body was greatly rewarded... Even when Jesus didn’t seem to be acting according to their plans or wasn’t giving them what they wanted, these 2 women never wavered or faltered in their devotion to him... And that kind of love and devotion will always be rewarded by Jesus....
And the women arose form worshipping the Lord, and went into town to tell the others... What started out as a terrible day, had suddenly been changed into a day filled with inexpressible joy (Meeting Jesus can do that)... The contrast between the journey to and from the tomb is overwhelming.... the steps they take now are full of hope, something they didn’t have when they had gotten up this morning.
So Mary and Mary hurried to tell the others the great news of hope.... Can you even imagine, what it would be like to be the first ones to ever tell the news that Jesus is Alive!
II. THE EMPTY TOMB MEANS THAT THERE IS FORGIVENESS
And if anyone ever needed a dose of hope, if anyone ever needed to know that what Jesus said was true, it was a distraught, guilt ridden, sun weary fishermen named Peter....
Peter was standing with John when the 2 Mary’s came running into town... And when they came in screaming, crying and laughing, when Peter and John saw them in this frenzied state they ran to them... And they said, "slow down, slow down -- we can’t understand you... the tomb is empty! Jesus isn’t in the tomb! you saw Jesus on the road!"
And at that moment Peter and John headed to the tomb at warp speed. Peter was running as fast as he could, his heart pounding and his powerful legs were pumping his feet up and down the winding paths of the dusty roads leading to the tomb.... His friend John was running beside him. Peter was in the lead, but then he begin to think to himself --
"WHY AM I SO HAPPY, I DENIED HIM, I TALKED SO BIG AND TOUGH, BUT WHEN IT CAME TIME TO TAKE A STAND, I FELL... MAYBE JESUS DOESN’T WANT TO SEE ME, I HAVE NO RIGHT TO TAKE PART IN THIS CELEBRATION... PETER THE ROCK, YEAH FAT CHANCE.."
His thoughts had slowed him down and John was the first to make it to the tomb, but John didn’t go in, he just stood at the entrance -- (perhaps afraid that when he went in Jesus would still be there).
Peter though, once he made it to the tomb, without hesitation went in, he had to go in, he had to see for himself. And when Peter walked inside, he saw the strips of linen and the burial clothes, that had been around Jesus’ head folded laying on the stone slab.
Peter’s heart was racing and tears of joy were flowing, "HE’S ALIVE! JESUS IS ALIVE!!!"
And somewhere, but we don’t know where, maybe on the shoreline overlooking the Jordan, But the important thing is not where it happened, but that it did happen.... Paul even makes a point of telling is in I Corinthians 15, that Jesus appeared to peter and then to the 12."
The Bible doesn’t give us any details -- of that meeting. It doesn’t tell us what Peter said... I for one don’t think Peter said much of anything...
I picture Peter alone, sitting with his head down... Peter like many of us, had set such high standards for himself, "EVEN THOUGH EVERYONE ELSE MAY LEAVE YOU JESUS, NOT ME -- I’LL NEVER DO THAT, YOU CAN COUNT ON ME..." Peter had set high standards for himself, standards that he could never have lived up to -- he was just a man.... And because he couldn’t forgive himself, he couldn’t believe that jesus could forgive him either... "Not after what I have done... I went too far... I don’t deserve your forgiveness Jesus. While you were being beaten, crucified I denied I ever knew you.... I was only thinking of myself and not you..."
And then Peter felt a hand on his shoulder-- and he looked at the hand and he saw that it had been pierced.... His heart stopped beating and as he turned to fall to his feet, He heard the voice of the one he loved more than life itself say , "PETER" If you have ever been so overcome with emotion that you can’t talk... the tears just won’t stop, and the sobbing chokes off all words, that’s how I picture this meeting of Jesus with Peter" The big strong fishermen -- kneeling before Jesus his large gussy holding on to Jesus AS HE weeps intensely.... And I picture Jesus his hand on Peter’s shoulder saying "IT’S ALL RIGHT PETER, IT’S ALRIGHT, I KNOW, I KNOW, IT’S ALRIGHT NOW, I FORGIVE YOU PETER, PETER I FORGIVE YOU.."
The empty tomb means there is forgiveness....
The empty tomb means that our sins can be washed away......
The empty tomb means that Jesus christ has won the battle over death sin and the grave..... that is what the gospel is the good news of the forgiveness of sin....
The lamb of God has come -
"He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed.." Is 53:5
Healed from what? The eternal punishment for our sins....
Who needs this forgiveness? that can only come about through the blood of Christ -- We all do! "FOR EACH OF US HAS SINNED AND FALLEN SHORT OF WHAT GOD EXPECTS OF US..."
How do we get this forgiveness?
Well let’s listen to the words of the distraught fisher men turned dynamic disciple, let’s listen to Peter, who was given the privilege of being the first to open the gates of heaven with the gospel keys of salvation.
Peter told those in Jerusalem as we read in Acts chapter 2, he tells those who were convicted of their sin and need of forgiveness,
"REPENT AND BE IMMERSED EVERYONE OF IN THE NAME OF JESUS, FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS AND YOU WILL RECEIVE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT..."
If we want (and we certainly need it), if we want the forgiveness that Christ won and that the empty tomb is a monument of, we need to humble ourselves before Him and in belief and repentance and be immersed into His name.
Have you done this?
Have you been to Jesus for His cleansing power? Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?
What about Christians? Do we ever need God’s forgiveness? Do we ever need to be reminded of Christ’s cleansing power? Do we ever fall short? Do we ever sin against God? Do we ever feel that we have gone to far and that Christ won’t forgive us this time? Do we like Peter need to know that we can get a second chance? Do we ever need to know that one, two, three even 7 x 70 failures doesn’t necessarily make us a flop? Do we ever need to know that He still loves and will forgive us.? But what do we do? How can we know for sure?
Well let’s listen to another person who saw that empty tomb that first Easter sunday, and who is also fully convinced of it’s power.
Let’s hear what the apostle John, another fisherman, let’s her what he said to Christians in the 1st century. [I John 1:7-9]
When the Christians needs forgiveness, and he will, because we will all sin again. He or she must confess his sin before God. And confess does not mean to simply list our sins or to be sorry for the consequences -- it doesn’t mean to tell God we are sorry and then attempt to justify our actions by blaming other people or circumstances for what we in our own hearts, choose to do.
The word confess means literally "to say the same thing." We are to agree with God and acknowledge to Him that what we did was sin...
We need to be sorry (and fearful) about sinning against a Holy God, A God who sent His son to die for us and not simply be sorry that we got caught or that things tuned out bad.
And when we humbly come before Him, confessing our sin in true repentance (And remember God can read our hearts so He knows if we mean it our not).... Then and only then is there forgiveness
FOR EVERY TIME FOR EVERY TIME WE LET HIM DOWN FOR EVERY TIME WE THINK WE’VE GONE BEYOND HIS GRACE, ONCE FOR ALL IN DIED IN OUR PLACE...
THE EMPTY TOMB MEANS JESUS IS ALIVE! WHAT JESUS SAID IS TRUE!!
AND IT MEANS THAT THERE IS FORGIVENESS -- IT MEANS GOD’S GRACE IS GREATER THEN OUR SIN, IT MEANS 3 STRIKES AND WE ARE NOT OUT -- THAT IS IF WE REALLY WANT TO STILL BE IN!
III. THE EMPTY TOMB ALSO MEANS THAT WE CAN HAVE A NEW LIFE
Jesus died to give us new life. When the apostles were in jail in Jerusalem --an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and told them, "GO STAND IN THE TEMPLE COURTS AND TELL THE PEOPLE THE FULL MESSAGE OF THIS NEW LIFE..."
What is this new life? Why is it new and what is it about?
I want to talk briefly about the benefits of this new life... and I am convinced that the reason we as Christians so many times are joyless in our lives is because -- we have not yet grasp the extreme benefits of this new life...
Once again let’s let our fishermen, let’s let Peter teach us something:
Turn to I Peter 1:3ff
1. BORN AGAIN -- NOT UNDER THE LAW (WHICH SAID YOU HAD TO DO SOMETHING TO BE SOMETHING) BUT UNDER GRACE WHICH SAYS YOU ARE SOMETHING -- WE ARE FREE FROM WHAT PETER DESCRIBES AS THE EMPTY WAY OF LIFE in which WE ONCE LIVED (A LIFE WHERE WE WERE LEFT EMPTY AND NEVER WERE REALLY GOOD ENOUGH)
2.A LIVING HOPE -- THE HOPE OF THE NEW LIFE IS LIVING -- NOT LIKE THE HOPES OF THIS LIFE WHICH DISAPPOINT AND DIE.
It looked like saturday morning TV tim art the Van Pelt household. Lucy and Linus were sitting in front of the television set when Lucy sid to Linus, "Go get me a glass of water."
Linus looked surprised, "Why should I do anything for you? You never do anything for me."
"On you 75th birthday," Lucy promised, "I’ll bake you a cake."
Linus got up, headed to the kitchen and said, "Life is more pleasant when you have something to look forward to."
Linus is right life is more pleasant with hope. Unbelievable as it might seem, it is possible to live 70 days without food. It is also possible to exist for nearly 10 days without water. And one can live up to 6 minutes without air. But there is one thing impossible to live without hope.
The empty tomb means that there is hope!
There is more to this life, than this life!
It the midst of life’s rain we know that the sun will shine again...
As christians, we know that we are headed to a better place, a perfect home... no more pain, suffering, heartache, death, disease,
AN INHERITANCE (HAVE YOU EVER DREAMED ABOUT SOME RICH LONG LOST RELATIVE DYING AND LEAVING YOU GREAT RICHES AS AN INHERITANCE)
WE ALREADY HAVE A RICH INHERITANCE ONE THAT:
WILL NEVER: PERISH/SPOIL OR FADE AND THAT IS KEPT IN HEAVEN FOR US.
4. WE ARE SHIELDED BY GOD’S POWER -- HE IS ON OUR SIDE...
5.IN THIS NEW LIFE WE CAN KNOW THAT THEIR IS A REASON BEHIND THE TRIALS WE SUFFER... "SO THAT OUR FAITH MAY BE PROVED GENUINE AND MAY RESULT IN PRAISE GLORY AND HONOR WHEN JESUS CHRIST IS REVEALED."
6.AN INEXPRESSIBLE JOY -- A JOY THAT WORDS CAN’T DESCRIBE....BECAUSE OF JESUS.
7.AND THE SALVATION OF OUR SOULS!!!!!!!!!!!
NEW BIRTH -- LIVING HOPE -- AN INHERITANCE -- SHIELDED BY GOD’S POWER -- REASON FOR TRIALS -- INEXPRESSIBLE AND GLORIOUS JOY -- AND THE SALVATION OF OUR SOULS....
This new life sounds pretty good doesn’t it? I mean who really wouldn’t want this?
MAYBE WHEN YOU GOT UP THIS MORNING, LIKE THE 2 MARYS YOU WERE JUST GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS OF LIVING... DARK SHADOWS MARKED YOUR PATH, LITTLE PASSION AND LESS HOPE.... YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO HOME THE SAME WAY --- THE STONE IS ROLLED AWAY...
THE TOMB IS STILL EMPTY, LOOK INSIDE, JESUS IS NOT THERE. JESUS IS ALIVE WHAT HE SAID IS TRUE... WE CAN HAVE ETERNAL LIFE, JOY , PEACE THAT PASSES UNDERSTANDING AND A LIVING HOPE THAT WILL NEVER FADE OR DIM.
DO YOU NEED HOPE TODAY? DO YOU NEED SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN? THEN LOOK INTO THE TOMB AND HEAD DOWN THE PATH THAT LEADS TO JESUS.
THE EMPTY TOMB ALSO MEANS THAT WE CAN HAVE FORGIVENESS FROM OUR SINS... WE GET A SECOND CHANCE IF WE WANT ONE... DO YOU NEED ONE? DO YOU WANT ONE? THEN HUMBLY FALL AT THE FEET OF THE GREAT FORGIVER.
AND THE EMPTY TOMB MEANS THAT A NEW LIFE IS AVAILABLE, A LIFE THAT IS TRULY LIFE -- A LIFE THAT FAR EXCEEDS THE EMPTY WAY, OF A LIFE THAT W/O GOD.
CHRISTIANS AND NON CHRISTIANS DON’T LET ANOTHER EASTER COME AND GO, W/O LOOKING INTO THE TOMB, SEEING JESUS, BEHOLDING THE LAMB, FINDING FORGIVENESS AND TAKING HOLD OF THE NEW LIFE THAT JESUS HAS CALLED US (YOU) TO LIVE...
CHRIST FOUGHT AND WON THE BATTLE TO GIVE YOU HOPE AND LIFE... HE DIED FOR U.....