Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 Tom Lowe
3-24-03

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 leads 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 souls.

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, in their minds, the events of last week didn’t stop there.

Try as they might, they couldn’t stop those other thoughts, those terrible scenes from playing out again and again in their minds.

They saw Jesus tied to a post, and 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 two 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 breath that he took.
 
They were there when Jesus cried out, "ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI, MY GOD MY GOD WHY HAS THOU 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. 

Oh they were still alive physically, but their hopes and joy died on that cross with Jesus, on that dark Friday, nearly 2,100 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 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 two faithful followers; two 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 perform 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 there was 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 asked yourself these questions either.

"WHY WAS THE STONED ROLLED AWAY?" AND "FOR WHOM 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 stone 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.

FOR ONE THING, THE EMPTY TOMB MEANS THAT JESUS IS ALIVE!!

The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of Christianity.

Paul wrote in 1 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.

It says in Matthew 28:11-15(Living), “As the women were on the way into the city, some of the Temple police who had been guarding the tomb went to the chief priests and told them what had happened.  A meeting of all the Jewish leaders was called, and it was decided to bribe the police to say they had all been asleep when Jesus' disciples came during the night and stole his body.  "If the governor hears about it," the Council promised, "we'll stand up for you and everything will be all right."  So the police accepted the bribe and said what they were told to. Their story spread widely among the Jews and is still believed by them to this very day.

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 must be part of a cover up, and that they promoted and preached a lie.

Consider the evidence for the resurrection:
1. The Christian Church changed the day for worship from Saturday to Sunday.
2. The calendar was changed by making the years prior to Christ’s birth a count down to that great event, and today every year dates from that most wonderful event.
3. Then there are the eye witness testimonies of the
resurrection.  More than five hundred saw Him after the resurrection.
4. And consider the inability of anyone in the first century to produce the body of Jesus, which would have quenched the fire of this movement.
5. There is 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 about at that moment?

How do you think they felt?

Did they just look in, or do you think they stayed 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 two 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!


Now consider this, 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 two Mary’s came running into town.

And when they came in screaming, crying, and laughing, and 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 women cried, “The tomb is empty! Jesus isn’t in the tomb! We 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 was 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 begins 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, NOT YET.

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, went inwithout hesitation ; 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 and 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 us in I Corinthians 15, that Jesus appeared to Peter and then to the twelve."

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. 

He said, "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, and 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 he fell to his knees, and 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 fisherman was kneeling before Jesus, and his large hands were holding on to Him.

AS HE weeps intensely, I picture Jesus with 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?

From eternal punishment for our sins.

Who needs this forgiveness, which 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 fishermen, who became a dynamic disciple. 

Let’s listen to Peter, who was given the privilege to preach the first great sermon of the New Testament, which brought three thousand to faith in Christ.

Peter told those in Jerusalem, and you can read about it in Acts chapter 2; he told those who were convicted of their sin and of their need of forgiveness, "REPENT AND BE IMMERSED EVERYONE OF YOU IN THE NAME OF JESUS, FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS AND YOU WILL RECEIVE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT."

If we want the forgiveness that Christ won, we need to humble ourselves before Him, and repent of our sins, and in faith receive Him as Savior.

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 too 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 us, and that He 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 on that first Easter Sunday, and who is also fully convinced of its power.

Let’s hear from the apostle John, another fisherman; let’s hear what he said to Christians in the 1st century.

“But if we are living in the light of God's presence, just as Christ does, then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from every sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth.  But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins.  If we claim we have not sinned, we are lying and calling God a liar, for he says we have sinned. (1 John 1:7-10 (Living)

When Christians need forgiveness and they will, because we will all sin again; He or she must confess their sin before God.

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

THE EMPTY TOMB MEANS JESUS IS ALIVE, and it means WHAT JESUS SAID IS TRUE!!

AND IT MEANS THAT THERE IS FORGIVENESS; IT MEANS GOD’S GRACE IS GREATER THAN OUR SIN.

The third point is, 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.

Once again, let’s let our fisherman, let’s let Peter teach us something: he said in 1 Peter 1:3(Living), “All honor to God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; for it is his boundless mercy that has given us the privilege of being born again so that we are now members of God's own family.  Now we live in the hope of eternal life because Christ rose again from the dead.
 
THIS VERSE TEACHES US ABOUT SOME OF THE BENEFITS THAT COME TO THOSE WHO ARE IN THE FAMILY OF GOD:
 
1. WE ARE 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. WE HAVE A LIVING HOPE.

THE HOPE OF THE NEW LIFE IS ABUNDANT LIVING; NOT LIKE THE HOPES OF THE OLD LIFE WHICH DISAPPOINT AND DIE.
 
Life is more pleasant when you have something to look forward to.

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; that’s 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, where there will be no more pain, suffering, heartache, death, and disease.
 
3. WE HAVE 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 AWAY. 

AND IT 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 THERE IS A REASON BEHIND THE TRIALS WE SUFFER. 

The reason is, "SO THAT OUR FAITH MAY BE PROVED GENUINE AND MAY RESULT IN PRAISE GLORY AND HONOR WHEN JESUS CHRIST IS REVEALED."

6. WE HAVE AN INEXPRESSIBLE JOY, A JOY THAT WORDS CAN’T DESCRIBE, BECAUSE OF JESUS.

7. AND THIS IS THE GREATEST BENEFIT OF ALL, 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 TWO MARYS, YOU WERE JUST GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS OF LIVING; DARK SHADOWS MARKED YOUR PATH, YOU HAD 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 ALIVE; A LIFE THAT FAR EXCEEDS THE EMPTY WAY, OF A LIFE THAT IS WITHOUT GOD.

CHRISTIANS AND NON CHRISTIANS, DON’T LET ANOTHER EASTER COME AND GO, WITHOUT LOOKING INTO THE TOMB, SEEING JESUS, BEHOLDING THE LAMB, FINDING FORGIVENESS AND TAKING HOLD OF THE NEW LIFE THAT JESUS HAS CALLED US TO LIVE.

CHRIST FOUGHT AND WON THE BATTLE TO GIVE YOU HOPE AND LIFE.

HE DIED FOR YOU.

Any questions or comments?

 There are 5 websites by this author:

http://harmonyofthegospels.yolasite.com (Life of Christ)

http://teachingsermonsforpastorsandlaymen.yolasite.com (sermons)

http://theepistlesofpaul.yolasite.com (Titus and Jude)

http://paulsepistletotheromans.yolasite.com (Romans)

http://theperiodofthejudges.yolasite.com (Judges)

Please review them and use them as the Lord leads you.

May God bless His precious word!!

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