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Now, I knew the danger of naming today’s study, “Rolling Stones,” because many of you immediately thought of the English rock band by the same name with Mick Jagger and the crew. Or maybe you also thought about the monthly magazine from the 60’s whose focus was strictly upon the younger hippie generation with both music and political reporting.
Yet rarely do we think of these words as associated with the greatest event in all of history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the stone that was rolled away from his tomb proving to the whole world that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead and is alive.
And so, we come to our text today, and look at this event that has literally changed the history of the world.
“Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, ‘Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?’ But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away–for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples–and Peter–that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.’ So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16:1-8 NKJV)
It was on the first day of the week, the third day since Jesus’s death, the day we know as Sunday, that Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of Jesus, and Salome, mother of James and John, brought spices to the tomb where Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus laid the body of Jesus. They came to anoint Jesus’s body with additional spices.
But on the way they knew they would have a problem, because covering the tomb’s entrance was a large stone that was rolled into place, a stone so large and so firmly in place that it would take several strong men to move it.
But when they got there, they were surprised to say the least, not only was the stone rolled away, but there was a young man sitting within. He was one of two angels that were at the tomb. The angel said to them, Jesus was no longer there, but had risen from the dead. And then he told them to go and tell the disciples, especially Peter, that Jesus would meet them in Galilee.
And while there is so much to talk about in this story, what has always caught my attention, but little is it ever talked about, was the rolled away stone, which is what I’d like to address in our time together today.
And here is the crux of today’s teaching, and that is, like Jesus who walked out of that tomb, we in like manner want to walk out of our tombs of despair and depression and into the light of God’s faith, hope, and love. But our way is blocked by stones of loneliness, fear, doubt, guilt, and so much more.
Blocked exits are a big problem. Even our own laws prohibit exits from being block so that people can get out quickly if there is any danger. Even entrance doors need to be installed so that they open outward, otherwise, in emergencies, there would be a pile up at the door and people can get hurt and even die. And emergency exits must be always kept clear, and if not, building owners will suffer fines and even the possibility of closure.
And that is at the heart of what I’d like to talk about in the spiritual realm. You see, these exits have huge stones that need to be rolled away so we can enter into the light of everything God has and wants for our lives.
And so, when these women came to the tomb, they were worried that the stone that blocked the entrance would still be in place and stop them from the one final thing they wanted to do for the one they loved so much.
And this is one of major problems that most people face today, blocked entrances or exits. You see, we’re caught in these tombs that keep us from entering into the light of an abundant life in the Lord that Jesus came to give, which is what the resurrection of Jesus is all about.
And so, these stones cut us off from the light and keep us held in darkness. Now do you see why it is so important for these stones to be rolled away?
What are some of these stones, and what do they prevent us from entering into?
· Loneliness is one, and it is keeping us from the light of relationship, especially a relationship with Jesus Christ, our ultimate bridegroom.
· Addictions are another stone that keeps us from the light of the freedom that God provides through His Son, Jesus Christ.
· Lusts also are a stone that blocks our exit into the light of God’s true and pure love that He has for all who come into a relationship with Him through Jesus.
But not only are these stones, or we can also call them doors, blocking our exit from, but they are also blocking our entrance into God’s truth, joy, and hope. We want entrance into, but we can’t get in. This was what the women were worried about, that this stone would keep them out.
It is any wonder then why we need to talk about open doors, and blocked entrances and exits.
I therefore love what Jesus says to us today.
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9 NKJV)
And to the church in Philadelphia in the Book of Revelation, Jesus said, “I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” (Revelation 3:8 NKJV)
Jesus is the door, a door He Himself opened for us, that we can go in and out from to find rest and sustenance. And here’s the promise, no one can shut what Jesus has opened. And so, while there are many doors that the world and Satan have shut trying to keep us into our own tombs of despair and depression, our text and story reveal four major stones that need rolling away.
The Stone of Fear and Weakness
When fear makes it entrance, strength makes an exit. Fear literally makes us weak in the faith, which is why I’ve included weakness as one of this stone’s names.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)
Being afraid and fearful makes us weak where we feel defeated, and the light of hope and joy quickly fades.
We are told that when Jesus entered Jerusalem on that which is known as Palm Sunday, the disciples were filled with joy and hope as the crowd hailed Jesus as their coming king. But seven days later, they were more like frightened children locking themselves behind closed doors.
And that is where Jesus found them after the resurrection, behind locked doors. Their courage failed. They had no joy. They had no hope. They were defeated and hopeless. The entrance, the doorway to joy and hope, not to mention their courage and strength, was blocked by the stone of fear and weakness.
But here’s where they missed it. The stone of fear and weakness had already been rolled away.
When Mary Magdalene told the disciples and that Jesus had risen from the dead, both Peter and John ran to the tomb, and while Peter investigated the tomb from the outside, John ran straight in. And they believed in what Mary said, but they didn’t remember when Jesus said that He must rise from the dead (John 20:1-10)
The reality of His resurrection didn’t take place until Jesus revealed Himself to them in the room where they were still hiding out and He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22)
What we might say is at that time their fear began to be transformed into faith. They moved from the darkness of fear into the light to faith, for you see, the gift of the Holy Spirit is tied with the resurrection. This is especially evident when 50 days later, at the Feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in power.
Ten days prior to this event, Jesus told his disciples at his ascension to remain in Jerusalem until they were filled with Holy Spirit power.
Jesus said, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49 NKJV)
And now look at this event.
“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:2-4 NKJV)
Now their fear was fully transformed into faith. The stone of fear and weakness was rolled away and now they entered the very streets in which they fled and locked themselves away from. Now they entered those same streets boldly proclaiming the gospel message, the good news of Jesus Christ and the resurrection.
And this is the good news that we can hold onto and enter into as the stone of fear and weakness is rolled away, and we can move out of the darkness and into the light of joy and hope.
The Stone of Doubt and Unbelief
There are those who are stuck in the darkness of doubt and unbelief and unable to enter the light of the faith that would see them into an eternity with God in heaven.
Now, many question why I hold doubt as such a negative, and that’s because doubt is considered valuable as it allows us not to make quick decisions but instead make decisions based upon rational thought. It was such honest doubt that we see in the Bereans who received what Paul said, “with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11 NKJV)
That’s honest doubt. But there is also the negative side to doubt, which is brought out in God’s word. It says that sin began with doubt, as Eve bought into Satan’s lie and doubted God. Satan cast such doubt when he said, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1 NKJV)
In the Gospel accounts, doubt is also thrown in a negative light. Like when Peter doubted Jesus’s ability to keep him from drowning. But then Jesus caught him by the hand He said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31 NKJV)
And the Apostle Paul calls doubt unbelief, and uses Abraham, but as a positive example saying, “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.” (Romans 4:20 NKJV)
And in our story, we see this same unbelief on the part of the disciples. When Mary came and told them she saw Jesus, it says, “And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.” (Mark 16:11).
But the classic example of doubting the resurrection, can be found in the disciple Thomas, or as he is more often known as, “Doubting Thomas.” Not being there the first time Jesus showed Himself to the disciples, Thomas declared that he wouldn’t believe unless he saw and touched the nail marks in Jesus’s hands, feet, and the spear thrust in His side (John 20:25).
Eight days later Jesus showed up again and told Thomas to touch His hands, feet, and side. And then Jesus said, “‘Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:27-28 NKJV)
Now, when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus, there truly is, in my humble opinion many who have what they consider to be honest doubt, but in truth, many have already made up their minds before knowing the truth or ever hearing the evidence for the resurrection. (We’ll look more at this in next week’s message)
But for now, what this means is that we need to be bold in our proclamation that Christ is truly risen, and that He has risen indeed. You see, there is no reality with more convincing evidence than the resurrection of Jesus, and the greatest of this evidence is our lives, and how they have changed, not by following the rules and regulations of religion, but through having the new and powerful relationship with Jesus Christ, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
The Stone of Guilt
If I would say one thing, it’s that most of us want to live in the light of God’s forgiveness, but the one thing that is blocking the way is this stone of guilt. And if we want God’s forgiveness, we must roll away the guilt.
If I could, let me use Peter again as our example. Peter told Jesus that even if everyone else were to desert Him, that he, Peter, never would. Yet Jesus said to Peter, “I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” (Mark 14:30 NKJV)
And even though Peter followed Jesus that night at a distance, and even though he went into the courtyard of the high priest where Jesus was being tried, he denied Jesus three times, and when the rooster crowed that second time, it says that he left and wept.
But Jesus helped Peter roll this stone of guilt away and to enter into the forgiveness that Jesus offered when he met him at the Sea of Galilee. There, three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, which I believe Jesus did to counter the three times Peter denied Him the morning He was crucified. And to each of Jesus’s questions, Peter responded, “Lord, You know that I love You.” And it was here that Peter experienced, I believe, the fullness of Jesus’s forgiveness.
God’s forgiveness of our sin hinges upon the resurrection. You see, Jesus died for our sins, so that our sins can be forgiven, but if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then the cross would have been for nothing.
The Apostle Paul said, “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:17 NKJV)
If that stone had not been rolled away, if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then our faith means nothing, and we of all people are to be pitied, because we’ve believed in a lie. But like I said before, the evidence of His resurrection is overwhelming, which we’ll look at next week.
Now, in Revelation 1:5-6, it says, “And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” (Revelation 1:5-6 NKV)
And so, that which washes away the guilt of sin, is nothing less than the blood of Jesus. Now, this idea of a blood sacrifice is repulsive to most people today, which is one of the reasons they refuse to believe and come to church or listen to the gospel message. But the Bible makes is clear that forgiveness only comes through the blood.
In God’s law it states, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” (Leviticus 17:11 NKJV)
And this is then affirmed in the New Testament when the writer of Hebrews states, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22 NIV)
I love the old hymn, “What Can Wash Away My Sin.” The chorus says,
“What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
Jesus rolled away the stone of guilt through the blood He shed upon the cross, and that is what brings us into the light of His wonderful and amazing forgiveness for all those who believe.
And if I can add one more.
The Stone of Death
Jesus rolled away the stone of death bringing us into the light of life, but not just life, eternal life. And if He hadn’t, then we would be nothing more than the walking dead.
But this shouldn’t take the disciples by surprise, and when we follow the teachings of Jesus, neither should it take us by surprise, as Jesus predicted His own death. It is found in John’s Gospel the twelfth chapter.
“I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” (John 12:24 NKJV)
And so it was that Jesus died upon the cross, was buried, and rose from the dead on that third day, and from that death a great harvest has occurred.
“When You (the Lord God) make His (the Messiah’s) soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:10-11 NKJV)
This is what the resurrection of Jesus is all about, it is about new life. It rolls away the stone of death and give the light of eternal life to all who believe.
And so, if we are trapped by anything and cannot see the light of freedom and life provided by God, this is what Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is all about. It takes humanity out of the darkness of sin, and into the light of God’s hope, faith, forgiveness, and life.
This is the message of the church, this is the message of the gospel, this is the message of the resurrection, and this is the message that everyone needs to hear for their eternal life.
If I could, I’d like to end with the first stone we looked at, the stone of fear, because it is such a stone that we’ve allowed to shut us up when it comes to the good news. Let me use our text and reveal what I am saying.
“So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16:8 NKJV)
Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16 NKJV)
Next week we’re going to be looking at our greeting of one another during this time, a greeting that has to be resurrected, and then on Easter, or better, Resurrection Sunday, we’re going to be talking about the difference the resurrection makes.
And so, knowing that we’ve haven’t been given the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7), let’s get the word and the message out to as many as we can.
Invite someone to come Resurrection Sunday as we celebrate the single most important event in human history.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study