“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” (Mark 16:3)
After Jesus died on the cross, he was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and his tomb was sealed with a great stone. This was done by Pontius Pilate, at the urging of Jesus’ adversaries who thought that false claims would result from the disappearance of the body. But on the day of resurrection, when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb before sunrise, the stone had been taken away from the tomb. Jesus was raised from death, and the stone was moved away (John 20:1).
Sometimes on Good Friday, and at other times, we sing the spiritual, “Were you there when they crucified
my Lord?” (Hymn 172), which asks, “Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?”; “Were you there when they pierced him in the side?”; “Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?” There ‘s a concluding verse for that hymn that’s not in the hymnal: “Were you there when they rolled away the stone?” Suddenly this hymn for Holy Week becomes an Easter hymn.
Sometimes we may realize that our own emptiness has been sealed by a stone, which may be intangible but very real. The stone can be our fear, or concern for self-protection, or our unwillingness to give. The stone can be our holding on to what needs to be let go, or our reluctance to accept the gifts that we’ve been given. The stone can be an excess of caution that prevents us from embracing an unknown future. The stone can be guilt or disappointment, or a sense of inadequacy or shame. The stone can be the very fear of risking life that keeps us from living. The stone is our own deadness, the dry and brittle part of us that holds us back from life. Our lives will be frustrating if we remain trapped behind the stone of these discouragements.
But in Christ’s resurrection the stone is rolled away. He is risen! He is not confined by death, and we are not confined by the dead weights of our limitations. He is the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). In Christ we’re set free for new life, new hope, new glory. We share his victory over sin and death. We can breathe fresh air and see bright light, because Christ has rolled away the stone for us.
Look it Up
See Hymn 180, “He is risen,” which rejoices that “death is conquered, we are free, Christ has won the victory” (verse 1).
Think About It
What forms does “the stone” take in your life? What prevents you from sharing fully in Christ’s life and glory? How does this Easter make a difference for you?