April 17, 2022

The Rolled Away Stone

Passage: Matthew 28:1-10

During the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century, German pastor Paul Gerhardt and his family were forced to flee from their home. One night as they stayed in a small village inn, homeless and afraid, his wife broke down and cried in despair. To comfort her, Gerhardt reminded her of God’s promise never to forsake His children. Then, going out to the garden to be alone to pray, Gerhardt too broke down and wept. He felt he had come to his darkest hour. But it was
like God spoke to him in that garden. It was just after Easter and the garden reminded the pastor of another garden where there was a tomb in which Jesus was laid to rest. Gerhardt affirmed to himself that the stone at the entrance of the tomb was rolled away....and a number of people witnessed that death couldn't hold Jesus back. Gerhardt went back to the inn and told his wife that he felt God's presence so vividly. He told his wife it was completely like God
drove the darkness from him in the garden. Pastor Gerhardt and his wife were in no way different from Jesus' disciples after the crucifixion. They experienced the same darkness as Jesus' followers. What could have been worse for Peter, John, James, Andrew and the
others when their Teacher had been taken off the cross? He was dead like any other person and had to be buried. Can we say that their hopes were buried with Jesus in that tomb? In our passage from Matthew 28: 1-10 we see that it was still fairly dark when Mary Magdelene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. Matthew wrote, “...at dawn...” John in his recording of the events of the resurrection wrote, “...it was still dark...” We don't read in any
of the Gospels what the two Mary's talked about as they walked to the tomb. Perhaps they didn't talk at all; perhaps they were so occupied with their own thoughts of how terrible things were the last few days...of how those they never expected it from turned against Jesus...of how He was abandoned and tortured...of how He died. Yes, it couldn't be darker in the minds of those two women as they headed towards to tomb. But then the reality came into place
what Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 6: 14, “By His power God raised the Lord from the dead...” God's light broke through darkness and this conquering light in Jesus is what our celebration is about on Easter Sunday.

On this day of victory the first reality we affirm is – Jesus Is Alive! The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of Christianity. Again we listen to Paul as he says in 1 Corinthians 15: 17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”
Let's talk about this – if it wasn't true what we confess in the Apostles' Creed – “...on the third day He rose from the dead...” our faith is no different from Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, the
Bahai faith and the list goes on and on. Then we would have honoured a historical figure who once lived, but whose breath left him and he is no more. No, we can rejoice in the fact that
our Lord Jesus Christ is alive forever! Didn't He Himself give the apostle John this reality on the island Patmos in His Revelation? “I am the Living One. I was dead. But now look! I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys to death and hell.” Revelation 1: 18.
You see, what Jesus told John was that no lie about Him not been raised from the dead or things to cover that up would ever hold against the truth. Jesus appeared to so many people who witnessed the reality of the resurrection – the women, His disciples, the men on their way to Emmaus, Thomas and there were more than 500 brothers and sisters at the same time as we read in 1 Corinthians 15: 6. All schemes questioning the resurrection of our Lord will be
exposed, my friends. He is alive forever! A young man who was brought up in the Christian faith decided to turn his back on Christ and His church. His parents were devastated. He joined a humanist group and spoke openly against the cause of Christ. One Sunday morning when his parents walked to their car to go to church, the son followed them. They asked him what happened and he replied, “Pastor John agreed that I can give my testimony this morning.” When that time came in the service the young man said, “I rejected Jesus lately; I told people that He is dead. What a lie that was; He came to me last night in a dream. It was more than a dream; I had an encounter with the Lord. He is real and alive!”

The Rolled Away Stone affirms the wonderful reality – There Is New Life In Jesus. So many new things happened since Jesus' followers met Him after the resurrection. He appeared to the two Mary's and when they saw Him, they clasped His feet and worshipped Him. Yes, the horror of torture and the cross and death was over. There was
Jesus before them – He wasn't any more in a state of humiliation; He wasn't any more the One from Whom people turned away. No, He was desired by those Who saw Him, Because He did exactly as He said – He rebuilt the temple in three days. What emotions do you think had gone through those two women? Defeat and despair changed into victory and hope. The news itself made them to hurry to the disciples after the angel had told them the news.
But now after they had seen Jesus, they would have gone as fast as their legs could carry them. There was new life for those two devout followers of Jesus. There was new life for the disciples and the other followers of Jesus. He told the women, “Go and tell my brothers to
go to Galilee. There they will see me.” There was a new beginning in Galilee. The cross and the place of burial had to be left behind. There was a new beginning as Jesus was going to commission His disciples for what was to come. They were to go on new horizons beyond
any human imagination as they were going to make disciples of all people and baptize them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. How new they were became later clear as they witnessed before all people, including enemies, about the great deeds of God.

My dear brother and sister in Christ, how new has the resurrection of Jesus made you? Do you feel like going out of here and shout, “The Lord is risen; He is risen indeed?” Today we celebrate the symbol of our faith – The Resurrection. We praise God for raising His Son from
the dead. With all people in heaven and earth we rejoice. Our Saviour lives and we live with Him.
Rev. Willem H. van de Wall