God Rolls Away Stones

(Luke 24:1-12)

What a morning. Christ is risen! He is risen in deed!

Consider this story. Two friends were walking along the beach. During some point along the journey the friends had an argument, and one friend punched the other one in the face. The one who got punched was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand, "Today my best friend punched me in the face." They kept walking along the beach until they got so hot they decided to take a dip in the water to cool off from their walk.

The friend who had been punched was all of a sudden caught by the tide and started to drown, but the friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone: "Today my best friend saved my life." The friend who had punched and then saved his best friend asked, "After I punched and hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now, you write on a stone. Why?"

The other friend replied: "When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we ought to engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it."

This past week on April 2nd, the Amish community who suffered a tragic loss of life at the hand of a gunman six months ago, demonstrated their faith and understanding of forgiveness in a very real way.

Back on October 2nd ten Amish children were shot, of those shot five were killed, and although the community was stricken with grief their witness to their faith as followers of the risen Christ shined through their darkness as they reached out to the gunman's family with forgiveness and grace.

This week the same Amish community experienced a new birth as they opened their new school, the old one having been torn down after the killings. The new school was built with love gifts received from all around the world. This past Monday the school was opened and was christened "New Hope." As for the money not needed to rebuild the school, the Amish plan to give it to those who have greater need.

The Amish have demonstrated for us in a profound way what it means to be a follower of Christ: "When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we ought to engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it."

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. As they arrived at the tomb where Jesus was laid they found the stone had been rolled away. And when they entered, they didn't find the body of Jesus. He was no longer there; all that was left were the strips of linens that had covered his body. The tomb was empty! Without a doubt, this discovery stands as the greatest in all of human history, a moment in time when the world was changed forever.

However, the great tragedy of our world is that most people are either not aware that Jesus was raised from the dead or don't believe He has risen. Even to this day people debate this miraculous event wanting to explain it with science and reason, rather than simply receiving the resurrection as a matter of faith and as a gift of God's amazing grace.

As the women of our scripture experienced the "empty tomb themselves", every person has to discover the empty tomb for him or herself. The empty tomb of the risen Lord Jesus needs to become a personal and experiential discovery, a discovery of faith, a discovery of the heart. And when we discover the gift of the empty tomb the reality of what God has done for us, through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, becomes all the more awesome and real.

In verse 12 of chapter 24, we hear Peter's experience and response to the empty tomb as being the same as that of the women in verse 4. He wondered in bewilderment, what was going on, what had happened?

Now the folded linen cloth left in the tomb had great meaning, and actually was a statement to the fact that the tomb had been vacated. The point that the linen cloths were not simply piled on the floor like dirty laundry is significant.

I've read that in the time of Jesus, if a carpenter was invited over to someone's home to perform some work, the work would usually be done while the residents were away from the house. Upon completion of the work, the carpenter would take a towel or large piece of linen and wash and dry himself. Afterwards he would fold the linen and neatly place it on the wood project he had just completed.

When the residents of the home returned, they would see the folded linen, and realize the message the carpenter was leaving for them: "I have completed the work assigned to me, the project is finished."

Jesus, before exhaling His last breath, uttered the words that will resound for all eternity, "It is finished." If these words stood along side a tomb that still contained the body of Jesus, they would simply be just words spoken by a dying man on a cross. But the stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty.

The redemptive work of Jesus, the Carpenter's project, was in process throughout the passion of Christ. The empty tomb was God's answer and confirmation as to both the acceptability and the sufficiency of that work. The linen in the tomb makes the statement, "it's all done and my work is finished", and Jesus now awaits our response of belief or disbelief.

You see the great stone was not rolled away for the benefit of Jesus; God could have raised Jesus from the dead without the stone being rolled away. But God rolled the stone away for the benefit of the witnesses to the resurrection.

Because of God's act in Jesus Christ the sins of our lives, which have been written in the sand of the tomb, have been erased by the winds of forgiveness, and the invitation for life eternal has been etched on the stone God rolled away.

As the story of the two friends mentions "good should be engraved on stone so that the wind doesn't erase the deed." Well it's the amazing grace of our God that has been etched on all our hearts, and now moves us to a new understanding and anew life in Christ.

Have you been to the empty tomb of our Lord lately? Have you truly accepted the resurrection of Jesus and received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Are you baffled in wonder and awe, or are you blessed in a living hope...."that as Jesus went, so shall Jesus come again?"

The season of resurrection celebration is upon us, where believers come to rejoice in the reality of a King who has been raised from the dead. And since we are called to walk in the same power that raised Christ from the tomb of stone, can we let any one day pass where we don't stand in reverence and awe for the grace that has been engraved upon the great stone that was rolled away, and now upon our hearts?

You see on the cross Jesus took all our sins upon himself. Our sins died with Jesus. And now the tomb is open, the tomb is empty, Jesus has been raised to new life just a those who receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior are raised to new life. So receive the risen Christ in your life, arise from the tomb that carries your disappointments, your despair, your frustrations, and your sins. God has rolled the stone away. The tomb is open; we are free to live in Christ, as Christ now lives in us! We no longer need be shackled by our heavy burdens, entombed by a load of guilt and shame. Because Jesus has been raised we are no longer the same. Alison Cotter writes the following "Just up the road from my home is a field with two horses in it. From a distance, each looks like every other horse. But if one stops the car, or is walking by, one will notice something quite amazing.

Looking into the eyes of one horse will disclose that he is blind. His owner has chosen not to have him put down, but has made a good home for him.

Listening, one will hear the sound of a bell. Looking around for the source of the sound, one will see that it comes from the smaller horse in the field. Attached to her bridle is a small bell. It lets her blind friend know where she is, so he can follow her.

As one stands and watches these two friends, one sees how she is always checking on him, and that he will listen for her bell and then slowly walk to where she is -- trusting that she will not lead him astray. Like the owners of these two horses, God does not throw us away just because we're not perfect or because we have problems or challenges. He watches over us and even brings others into our lives to help us when we are in need. Sometimes we are the blind horse being guided by God and those whom he places in our lives. Other times we are the guide horse, helping others see God."

Jesus is alive and lives to guide us down a path of abundant and eternal life. Jesus is alive and lives to use us to help serve and guide others. And because Jesus lives we can face tomorrow with a sure and certain hope. Because Jesus lives all fear is gone. Because we know Jesus holds the future, life is worth the living just because he lives!

The stone has been rolled away, the tomb is empty. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!


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