The birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ solidifies the faith of Christ followers. Annually during the Lenten season and Easter celebration, the miraculous removal of the stone from Jesus’ tomb is re-told in sermons and celebrated in worship songs. Everything about Jesus seems impossible and miraculous, because it is. The man Jesus is, the feat He accomplished, and the place from which He currently reigns and how He got there—it’s all miraculous!
God is the God of miracles, yet He is also compassionate towards each of us. This detailed account of Christ’s resurrection reminds us of the power of God, and our place in His heart through Christ Jesus.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/doidam10
Where in Scripture Does "the Stone Was Rolled Away" Appear?
Though each include slightly different details, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all record the removal of the stone from tomb of Jesus:
“They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.” (Luke 24:2 NIV)
“But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.” (Mark 16:4 NIV)
“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.” (Matthew 28:2 NIV)
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw the stone had been removed from the entrance.” (John 20:1)
The women who discovered Jesus were the same women who cared for Him as He hung on the cross, and stood by as He was removed from it and placed in a tomb. They waited for the proper time to return to give His body a proper burial. It took the women a little bit to figure out what had happened, and where Jesus had gone.
Luke records the words of the angel sitting on the stone,
“He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24:6-7 NIV)
In a culture in which women were not highlighted, God chose to include them in most significant story of the Christian faith. “Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion an burial, there has been no indication in the Gospel that Jesus had any women followers,” the NIV Application Commentary explains, “Now they surface as the prime witnesses to the events that are the foundation of the Christian belief; that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised.” Their witness to the stone being rolled away reminds us we all play key roles in His Kingdom work.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/ByczeStudio
What Is the Meaning and Significance Behind the Stone?
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6 NIV)
The significance of the stone is that God alone could remove it. It signified the sin Jesus defeated, and the power of God over darkness and evil. The meaning of the stone being rolled, which weighed over a ton and guarded by soldiers, was God’s ability to remove it.
“When Jesus was dead and buried, with a big stone rolled against the tome, the Pharisees came to Pilate and asked for permission to seal the stone and guard the tomb,” Pastor John Piper explains, ‘Pilate said, ‘You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can’ (Matthew 27:65). So they did. They gave it their best shot — in vain.” Nothing stops the providence of God. He is mightier than any other power in the spiritual realm or on earth.
The stone itself was a symbol for the guilt of sin. 1 Samuel 14:33 provides further insight to the significance of the stone:
“Then someone said to Saul, ‘Look, the men are sinning against the LORD by eating meat that has blood in it. You have broken faith,’ he said. ‘Roll a large stone over here at once.’”
Broken faith, in the original Hebrew of the Old Testament, also means faithless, unfaithful, and treacherous (NIV Study Bible). Christ came to wipe away all guilt and shame associated with sin. Even the stones which seem too impossible to move, leave behind, and heal from. He defeated death, and removed the consequence for our sin, once and for all. Rebecca Barlow Jordan wrote, “There is only One who can roll away our stones and bring joy, new life, and freedom through Christ.”
Who Rolled the Stone Away?
“He is not here, but has risen.” (Luke 24:6 NIV)
An angel rolled the stone away from the tomb, and the women would have been witness to this.
Numerous Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled by the detailed events of Jesus’ death on the cross. God is sovereign over all. “Our Lord Jesus could have rolled back the stone Himself by His own power,” Matthew Henry explains in his commentary of the Bible, “but He chose to have it done by an angel to signify that having undertaken to make satisfaction for our sin, He did not break prison, but had a fair and legal discharger, obtained from heaven.” In God’s providential timing, the stone was removed.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Serhii Ivashchuk
The Significance of the Stone in Our Lives Today
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through I’m and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17 NIV)
Only through Christ do we experience the freedom, peace, forgiveness and grace of the stones of sin and strongholds in our lives being rolled away. “No matter what human research learns about the ‘what’ of the natural world, the ‘why’ is ultimately found only in God’s Son,” the NIV Quest Study Bible Notes explain, “Christ not only sustains the universe but also upholds the world in a spiritual sense: his work of redemption brings together sinful people and a holy God.”
God goes before us, preparing the way for us. He is with us, always, through the Holy Spirit dwelling in believers. God commands His army of angels (Psalm 91) concerning us.
The stone points to Jesus. With the Father at the beginning, all things made through Him, Jesus is the living Word of God. The entirety of the Old Testament Scriptures pointed to His arrival on earth and sacrifice on the cross to save us from our sins. The entirety of the world and everything in it points to Messiah, Christ Jesus. “Jesus is alive and utterly free to go and come whenever he pleases,” Pastor John Piper wrote, “All things were made through him and for him and he is absolutely supreme over all other powers.” He came to earth, lived a perfect earthly life, and willingly sacrificed it to bring glory to God the Father. We all exist to do the same—to bring glory and honor to God. In accordance with His will, the stone was rolled away.
He Is Not Here…
The season of Lent and the celebration of Easter Sunday stir a multitude of emotions in our hearts. As we remember the brutality our Savior endured, we buckle at the knees in the retelling of the women discovering the stone rolled away. He is not here, His is risen. And He will return, once again. Glory to God in the highest.
NIV Application Commentary. Copyright © 1996 by David E. Garland.
NIV Study Bible Notes, Fully Revised Edition. NIV Study Bible, Copyright © 1985, 1995, 2002, 2008, 2011 by Zondervan.
Photo Credit: © iStock/Getty Images Plus/carloscastilla
Originally published Wednesday, 31 March 2021.