The Stone Is Rolled Away!

Sermon 1739 Mark 16.1-8 April 4, 2021

I suffer from male patterned blindness. No, you heard me right, male patterned blindness. I also suffer from that other male patterned thing, which obviously needs no confession. I also suffer from male patterned blindness. I only see what I expect to see. It strikes me when I look for something in the cooking utensil drawer or the spice cabinet. I assume the garlic salt we have has a green cover, like the last one. The new one with the red cover could fall out on my toes and I would keep looking for a green cover. Male patterned blindness. I could be looking for the can opener—we don’t have room on the countertop for yet another small appliance, so we still use the hand held can opener. I am looking for the green handle, but it is facing the opposite direction under spatulas and I don’t recognize the silver working end. Male patterned blindness.

But I do the male gender a disservice. Females can often be victims of this same malady. Consider the women at the tomb on that first Easter when they saw

The Stone Is Rolled Away.

1. Jesus has Risen! See the proof! (1-6)

2. Jesus has Risen! Proclaim the promise! (7-8)

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices so they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb (1-3)?’”

It is easy to know what the women expected to see, what they assumed would be the case. They assumed Jesus was dead. They were going to the tomb because they were going to finish the burial ceremony for the dead Jesus. Jesus had died Friday afternoon, around 3 pm. By the time Joseph, a powerful and influential Jewish leader, who was also secretly a follower of Jesus, got Roman permission to bury Jesus a lot of time had elapsed. At sunset, around 6 pm, the Sabbath would start. No work was permitted, not even a funeral. They had to hurry. They barely got the body of Jesus wrapped in linen and spices. They rolled the stone over the entrance to the borrowed tomb, probably the one Joseph had recently finished for his own future burial. The sun set. The Sabbath rest started.

But as soon as the sun rose again on Sunday morning, the women were on their way back to the tomb with more spices and oils to anoint Jesus’ body and finish the traditional burial rites. They assumed Jesus was dead. The only conversation they had on the way to the tomb was the stone. Who would roll it away for them? To seal the cave tombs the Jews would fashion a stone that set in a sloping track. Easy to seal the tomb. Just push the stone down the sloping track. Hard to unseal the tomb. You’d have to push the stone up the slope. Three women were not going to be able to do that. Who would?

Their assumptions were about to be crushed. Jesus is Risen! See the proof!

“But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. ‘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 (4-7).’”

They needn’t have worried about rolling away the stone. It was already rolled away. Although it was THE BIG TOPIC FOR DISCUSSION on the way to the tomb, they don’t give it a second thought now. Like sleepwalkers going down a hall, they obliviously enter the tomb. Male patterned blindness. They needn’t have worried about anointing the body of Jesus. Jesus wasn’t there. They see an angel, taking the physical shape of a young man dressed in white. That catches their attention. He is sitting on the burial slab where they had put the body of Jesus on Friday afternoon. The angel was sitting over to the right side of it, the burial slab that is, not the body. The body was not there. Although it was THE BIG JOB FOR THE DAY the women don’t seem to immediately recognize the body of Jesus is missing. Male patterned blindness. The angel has to state the obvious, because they don’t see it. Jesus is not here. Jesus has risen. See the place where they laid him.

We all have our bad days. Sometimes they turn into bad weeks. I think it is safe to say this last blue funk has turned into a bad year. “What’s wrong?” a friend or a spouse or a parent asks. Where do we begin? Don’t we have enough to do already? Never comfortable in the spotlight and extremely fearful of those terrible four words, “We have to talk,” we say, “Nothing.”

But something is wrong. Something is eating us alive. We don’t like to miss out. We don’t like to be left out. We don’t like to have to leave early. But there is something that threatens to force us into all of that. There is a stone rolled across the doorway to all our tomorrows and we don’t know how to roll it away. We sense it when we are young, so eager to grow up and be big enough to do this or that. We feel it when we are in our prime and are making plans on holding on to relations and stuff for the golden years ahead. We know it when we are old and leaving is more than hypothetical. You can’t greet the news of a friend’s death any more with a “but they were so young!”

Death is the issue. Death is the downer. Death is the problem. We are going to miss out on life because of it. We are going to have our days and celebrations ripped away from us. We will have to leave everything we have to someone else. We put it out of our mind. We refuse to see it, because, well, apart from male patterned blindness, it is easier to go through life without thinking too deeply about it all. We sort of think it is better going through life like a happy little bunny rabbit until that last fleeting moment when the coyote shows up. But we know we aren’t bunny rabbits. They don’t sin. God doesn’t expect them to be forces for moral good in this world. He only expect that of people, of us, and we’ve seen how that goes.

You know, that’s why Jesus died on the cross to begin with. He died to pay the penalty for all our sins. He died to take the coyote out of the picture for you and cotton-tailed me. And that’s why the tomb was empty. Jesus paid the full price for our sins. Jesus had accomplished his mission. He was raised to life again to show that God the Father had accepted that payment. You walk out of the store with something you haven’t paid for, you are going to go back into that store until the police come. You walk out of the store with something you paid in full for, you walk out of that store. Jesus walked out of the tomb. The bill had been paid in full.

The stone is rolled away. Jesus has Risen! See the proof!

The stone is rolled away. Jesus has Risen! Proclaim the promise! There’s a job to do.

“But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you (7).’”

Proclaim the promise! Jesus has Risen! This was not news for the women to keep to themselves. This was news to be delivered to the disciples and especially to Peter.

Now, let’s just stop a second. Why would Peter be singled out? Why should the disciples be the ones the women were to make a beeline for? Didn’t everyone need to know Jesus really was the Lord? Didn’t everyone need to know sins had been paid for and there now was life with God?

On the Thursday before Jesus was arrested, the disciples to a man had boasted they would never desert Jesus. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, just an hour and a half later, they all did desert Jesus. On the Thursday before Jesus was arrested, he warned Peter that the devil wanted to put Peter on strings and turn Peter into his puppet. “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” When Peter followed at a distance to see what would happen to Jesus, he entered the courtyard of the High Priest. That’s where they sentenced Jesus to death. A servant girl said Peter was one of the followers of Jesus. He denied it. Another asked if he hadn’t seen Peter in the Garden with Jesus earlier in the night. He denied it. The rooster crowed. A couple of fellows came up to Peter and said he surely had to be among the followers of Jesus, because he had that nasal Galilean twang in his voice. Peter cried down curses upon himself, swearing and showing he didn’t know who this Jesus of Someplace was. The rooster crowed the second time just as Jesus was being led through the porch at the end of the courtyard and his eyes met Peter’s eyes.

That’s why the disciples needed to know first. That’s why the women were supposed to make sure Peter was not left out. They needed to know the stone was rolled away. There was no more guilt. There was no more shame. There was nothing to regret or try to stick in the closet. Jesus has Risen! Proclaim the Promise! Sins forgiven. Shame removed. Life with God restored. A heaven waiting for them. And they would see Jesus again. Just go up to Galilee and meet him where he had told you earlier he would meet you.

“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid (8).” Male patterned blindness. Recovery takes a while. The women still don’t know what to make of it all. It is too much to process. We know from other accounts only when Jesus appears to them on the way back, only then will they finally believe. We know that the disciples won’t believe the women, thinking they were talking nonsense, that is, until Jesus appears to them in person, too. So we know the women did proclaim the promise of Jesus, though they would not be believed.

It goes without saying Jesus rose from the dead. None of this would have happened had Jesus not risen. But he did rise. Jesus came back to life again. Body and soul, together again, nevermore to die. It also goes without saying that it proves Jesus is the Son of God. No human being could raise themselves from the dead. The dead are powerless. It takes a mighty act of power to undo the hold of death. Jesus did exactly that, proving without a doubt he is God. And it also goes without saying that our sins are forgiven and there is no reason for us to have a chip on our shoulders when it comes to God. With Jesus alive again, there is nothing standing between us and our Father in heaven.

The stone is rolled away. Jesus has risen! Proclaim the promise!

The message of Jesus come back to life is not just for us, though it certainly is for us. The stone of death is rolled away for us. No, life won’t be a bed of roses, not quite yet, anyway. Don’t throw those masks away quite yet. As our faith didn’t protect us from that guy who sideswiped our car, or that emergency surgery or the tax audit, we won’t tempt God by insisting on which earthly peril he does or does not keep away from us. The Bible does say we must go through many troubles in this life, this veil of tears. But death will not hold us. We will get through the valley of the shadow of death. On the mountain of the Lord a heaven waits us. It’s a place where there is no word for “goodbye” in the dictionary.

The message of Jesus come back to life is also for others. So many think this life is the only life there is. So many are immobilized by their fear of death that they deny it or ignore it. But what can you do when you don’t have any answers? Once you get used to not seeing things in front of your face, well. Help them overcome that blindness. Help them see the answer God has provided us all. The stone is rolled away. The old assumptions are just plain wrong. Everything is on the table now. Whole new tomorrows have opened up.

The Stone Is Rolled Away.

1. Jesus has Risen! See the proof!

2. Jesus has Risen! Proclaim the promise!

Outside the fields of Bethlehem angel choirs heralded Jesus’ birth. They spoke the good news. The shepherds caught on and spread that message far and wide. There were no angel choirs at the Easter tomb heralding Jesus’ resurrection. One angel was enough to bring the good news. He is risen! One angel was enough to proclaim the promise and give the command. “Go and tell.” The women obeyed and the human race has not stopped singing Jesus’ praises to this day. Who wouldn’t? A huge stone has been rolled away from the hearts of each of us. Jesus has risen!

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