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The rumblings of the rolling stone

April 9, 2018 No Comment

by Glenn Schaeffer

Every year thousands of people climb a mountain in the Italian Alps passing by the Stations of the Cross to stand before an outdoor crucifix. One tourist noticed an indistinct trail that led beyond the cross. Fighting through a thicket, he discovered a shrine that symbolized the empty tomb of Jesus. The shrine was neglected and overgrown with brush. Visitors had gone so far as the cross, but stopped there.

The story of Jesus Christ as our Saviour does not stop with His death. As essential as Jesus’ crucifixion is for our salvation, we know Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is just as crucial for our salvation!

On Good Friday we hear disturbing sounds: the pounding of a hammer as spikes are embedded into our Lord’s hands and feet. We hear His agonizing cry: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

On Easter morning, we hear other sounds: sounds of life, joy, hope, and power! One of the Easter sounds we hear is that of the rumblings of a rolling stone. As the women journey to Jesus’ tomb, they realize the rock blocking the entrance to the tomb is impossible for them to move. “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:2). It is a rock that scarcely twenty men can roll!

As the women scurry over the ravines and through the valleys, they may feel the shaking of the ground and hear the rumblings of an earthquake as rocks split. Matthew tells us, “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.”

When they arrive at Jesus’ grave, the women find the stone rolled away! Jesus’ tomb is empty. They’re perplexed. “What might have happened to the body of our Lord? Have the soldiers taken Jesus away?” Two angels appear and ask them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you…that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.”

Retracing their steps, these women evangelists find the other disciples and they recite the news received from the angels, “Jesus is not dead! He is alive, just as He promised!”

The author of On Death and Dying, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, writes, “Man has conquered space, he has made great technological advances, but he cannot conquer death.” Despite the billions of dollars spent on medical care, graveyards are common meeting places as we bid farewell to those we love. Death is inevitable. The grave will be our resting place.

Many people refuse to believe that which they cannot understand. Stones of unbelief seal their heart.

But, listen. Do you hear the rumblings of the stone rolling away from the entrance of Jesus’ tomb? Do you hear the angel’s question, “Why do you search for living among the dead?” Do you hear the excited chatter of the women who saw the living Lord with their own eyes?

The rumblings of the rolling stone remind us: “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who fallen asleep…For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:20, 22).

The rumblings of the rolling stone assure us: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Cor. 15:54-56).

The rumblings of the rolling stone promise us: Therefore, “we believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him” (1 Thess. 4:14).

Jesus’ followers are encouraged, filled with hope, comforted in their grief, and given power to overcome all life’s trials by the reality of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Many people refuse to believe that which they cannot understand. Stones of unbelief seal their heart. But by the grace of God, the sound of the rumblings of the stones of unbelief being removed from unbelieving hearts can be heard everyday as the Holy Spirit brings skeptics—unbelievers—to faith in Christ through the witness of Jesus’ followers.

Such has happened to us! In our baptism or the witness of a Christian, the Lord has removed the stone of unbelief that once sealed our heart and by the grace of God, we believe! We believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. We believe that He will return to resurrect our lowly bodies from the dead. So, my dear friends, listen. Listen for the sound of the rumblings of the rolling stone.

Death is defeated. Jesus is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Rev. Dr. Glenn E. Schaeffer is president of Lutheran Church–Canada’s Alberta-British Columbia District

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