THE ROLLED-AWAY STONE
Luke 24:1-8 CSB
1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. 5 So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. 6 “He is not here, but he has risen! Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” 8 And they remembered his words.
We have been tracing the doctrine of the resurrection in the Bible, beginning in the Old Testament. We saw that Job expected to die, and return to the dust. But Job also believed that his Redeemer lives, and would one day stand on the dust of his decomposed, disintegrated body, and raise him to life again.
We saw the prophet Isaiah tell his people that they would live again – that their dead bodies would rise.
We saw Jesus demonstrate that he had the power to do this by raising Lazarus from the dead. We saw a crowd gather around him after that event, and follow him to Jerusalem where they joined his triumphal entry with praise and palm branches. Jesus said that if they had not shouted his arrival, then the stones were ready to do so.
But then the unthinkable happened. Jesus himself died. He died openly on a cross, his death on public display to everyone. Is that the end of our doctrine of resurrection? It would be if the resurrection were a mere religious doctrine. The resurrection is an event.
Today we are going to listen to another stone – the one that was rolled away from Jesus’ empty tomb. What is the Easter message of that rolled-away stone?
Jesus definitely did die on the cross (1,7).
The first message of that rolled-away stone is that our Lord definitely did die. Note how Luke described who it was who had come looking for Jesus that first Easter Sunday.
• “There was a good and righteous man named Joseph, a member of the Sanhedrin, who had not agreed with their plan and action. He was from Arimathea, a Judean town, and was looking forward to the kingdom of God. He approached Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body. Taking it down, he wrapped it in fine linen and placed it in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever been placed. It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed along and observed the tomb and how his body was placed. Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment” (Luke 23:50-56).
Neither Joseph nor this group of women would have acted if Jesus was not dead. If he was only pretending to be dead, he would not need a tomb. If he was alive, Joseph would have been an idiot to ask for his body. If he was still alive, his body would not need any preparation spices.
And so we read:
• “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared.”
The women came expecting a body. They had a job to do. The body of Jesus needed to be prepared with dignity.
Christians declare openly and publicly that Jesus Christ died. We are not ashamed of this truth because Jesus taught us that “‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, (and) be crucified” (7).
His tomb is definitely empty (2-4a,7).
These women encountered a puzzle – something that perplexed them. They found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. They were not expecting that. They probably wondered who would roll the stone away for them so that they could perform their ministry to Jesus’ body.
• “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. … they were perplexed about this…”
At other points in the Bible, people who were cursed were killed, and heaps of stones were placed over their bodies. They stones were not to be removed as a proof of a permanent curse. God’s curse for sin had been put upon Jesus, and his death had paid the price. The rolled-away stone was proof that we have been forgiven because of the blood of Christ. Sin and its curse no longer have dominion over us.
Jesus had taught about his resurrection as well. He had taught that he would “rise on the third day” (7). This great event of the resurrection of our Savior was not hidden from these women or the disciples, but in their sorrow over Christ’s death, they seem to have forgotten it.
The stone was rolled away for us all to acknowledge his resurrection (4b-6a).
But God provided a terrifying visit by two angels to jump start the memories of these women.
• “suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. “He is not here, but he has risen!”
Luke mentions “two men” at points in his writings where God is getting the attention of his disciples. In his chapter 9, the two men are Moses and Elijah, and they appear talking with Jesus at his transfiguration. In his chapter 18, the two men are a self-righteous Pharisee and a humble tax collector. In this passage, and in Acts 1, the two men are angels declaring a significant event in the story of Jesus. In Acts 1 the event is the ascension. In this chapter, it is the resurrection.
The angels commanded that we remember what Jesus promised (6b-8).
Notice what the angels told the women to remember.
• “Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” And they remembered his words.”
The conversation that the angels referred to happened just eight days before that vision of transfiguration. It began by Jesus asking his disciples who they say he is. We remember that Peter confidently proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God.
But Luke tells us that after that Jesus began to warn them that he would “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22).
We have to remember everything that Jesus promised. This is necessary because God has a plan in which everything he promised is going to be fulfilled.
• He promised to send his Son, and he did.
• He promised Jesus would die on a cross, and he did.
• He promised Jesus would rise on the third day, and he did.
• He promised that Jesus would come again, and he will.
• He promised that Jesus would “raise us up on the last day” and he will.
• He promised that because he lives, we will live too, and we will.
At any point in time, God’s people are in danger of forgetting his words. But we cannot afford to do that. You and must remember what Jesus said. When we look at that rolled-away stone, and gaze into that empty tomb, we have to look beyond our traditions and remember the truth. The truth is what Jesus promised us.
At Easter, we have to look beyond the bunnies, and remember the Bible. The Bible tells us that this same Jesus who came out of the tomb will come back and open our tombs. He is the first-fruits of the harvest. His resurrection is just the beginning. Ours is next.
• “… a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come out… ” (John 5:28-29a).
We are going to hear his voice. We are going to hear that trumpet sound, and we are going to get up out of the ground. God promised it. God proved it. That settles it. Do you believe it?