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Sunday, April 4, 2021

Who Will Roll the Stone Away?

One thing I always like about these sunrise services is how they happen right at this pivotal time between the darkness of night and the dawning of a new day.  That was precisely at this time of day when the story of Jesus’ resurrection takes place.  The sounds you hear this morning, the chill on your skin from the cool morning air, the dew on the grass, the dim light growing steadily brighter—all these were part of the women’s experience as they walked toward the tomb.  One difference we cannot recreate is the overwhelming grief and numbness they must have felt.  Looking back, we know they were walking toward an empty tomb and a marvelous discovery.  They did not know and could not anticipate the glory that lie ahead.  They could only imagine a lifeless tomb blocked up by a cold, immovable stone.  Let’s hear the story again.

Mark 16:1-7
Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside.

When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”

Just Mundane Things
Something struck me as read this.  It’s how these women were just doing the mundane, ordinary things of life.  When life is awful, sometimes all you can do is just go through the motions and do the routines your accustomed to do.  For the women, this meant putting burial spices on the body of their Lord.  Because Jesus died on the afternoon just before the Sabbath and now work was allowed on the Sabbath, they had been rushed to place Jesus body in the tomb before sunset.  And all day on Saturday, the work of properly preparing Jesus’ body had been off limits.  So on Sunday, the ladies were finally able to come do their duty.

The burial customs of ancient Judeans may seem foreign to us.  But we have our own funeral customs.  I think of the things that normally happen when someone in our congregation dies.  Ladies from the bereavement committee are busy coming and going from the church, dropping off and delivering food for the family.  Flowers are being delivered to the church or the funeral home.  People are gathering to visit.  Many tears are being shed. 

Sometimes, when your lost in grief—like Jesus’ closest followers must have been—it’s just nice to have something to do, something to keep you occupied. 

Miracles are too much for us.  Earthly, human tasks are our forte.  Cooking, cleaning, praying, singing. Sending a card to a friend.  Delivering flowers.  Saying a kind word. 

But faith reminds us that while we are busy with our ordinary human things, our supernatural God is working ahead of us.  The women walked toward the tomb, wondering who would roll the stone away.  They arrived to find, God had already solved that problem ahead of them.  The stone was already rolled away.  Jesus was not there.  He was alive!  And God—anticipating their confusion—even left a messenger, as a courtesy, to tell the women why Jesus wasn’t there and to give them instructions so they wouldn’t be utterly confused.  (Even then, it was so overwhelming it took quite a bit of time for Christ’s followers to process it all.)

So as you deal with the overwhelming troubles of life—a whatever they are and whenever they come—let the story of these women encourage you.  Just keep doing what you know you need to do.  Miracles are not your forte.  You don’t have to understand how it will happen or when, but God will act with His supernatural power.  In fact, God is probably already at work ahead of you in ways you cannot know or understand—rolling away stones, commissioning angels, bringing healing, opening doors, resurrecting life.  So just keep doing what you know you need to do.  And trust the Lord is doing His thing.

And so now, Sunday has come.  This is the Lord’s Day! 
We call it “The Lord’s Day” because it is the day He rose from the grave. 
It is the Day He conquered Sin and Death.
From the Day Christ rose, A new High Holy Day was instituted into our week.
Formerly Saturday was the Sabbath—the holiest day of the week—a day for rest.
Now Sunday has become our Holiest Day—the Lord’s Day.  Every Sunday is Easter!
For Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!  

And through His resurrection, Jesus even changed funerals. 
What was formerly a only an occasion of grief and loss,
has now been forever infused with the fragrance of hope.
For at every Christian funeral since the women went to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty,
has the smell of resurrection all over it.  For we know that our loved ones who die in Christ are not really dead, but alive in Him.  We believe we will see them again,
just as the Disciples saw their Lord.

Listen, I will tell you a mystery!
We will not all die, but we will all be changed.
For this perishable body must put on imperishability,
and this mortal body must put on immortality.
Then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O Death, is your sing?”
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:51, 53, 54-55, 57)

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure.  (Psalm 16:9)
For Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!  

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