Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices so they could embalm Him. Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb. They worried out loud to each other, ‘Who will roll back the stone from the tomb for us?’”
Mark 16: 1-3
The Message Bible
“Trust is the antidote to anxiety; it’s the resolution of worry and the destruction of fear.”
Today’s Study Text:
“After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth rolled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of light blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened they couldn’t move.”
Matthew 28: 1-4
The Message Bible
“Lest I Forget” Part 12
“Show Me the Empty Tomb”
“It is a great mistake to be looking at obstacles when we have such a God to look at.”
D. L. Moody
What “great” stone is apparently blocking my way on this resurrection morning?
Do I trust God enough to “roll back the stone,” no matter how big it appears to be?
“Why did the angel move the stone? For whom did he roll away the rock? For Jesus?...Did the stone have to be removed in order for Jesus to exit? Did God have to have help? Was the death conqueror so weak that He couldn’t push away a rock? Jesus was already out (of the tomb) when the stone was moved. Nowhere do the Gospels say that the angel moved the stone for Jesus. For whom, then, was the stone moved? Listen to what the angel says: ‘come and see the place where His body was.’ The stone was moved – not for Jesus – but for the women: not so Jesus could come out, but so the women could see in…the darkness is gone. The sun is up. The Son is out.”
He Still Moves Stones
“’Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher? For it was very great!’ (The women) could not with their united strength…and there was another difficulty much greater than this, a guard of soldiers set to keep the sepulcher…But their gracious love to Christ carried them to the sepulcher – anyway! By the time they came thither, both these difficulties were removed, both the stone which they knew of, and the guards which they knew not of. They saw that the stone was rolled away, which was the first thing that amazed them. They who are carried by a holy zeal, to seek Christ diligently, will find the difficulties that lie in their way strangely vanish, and themselves helped over them beyond their expectations.”
Having lived for fifteen years in a region of country noted for massive rocks, I love nothing more than to get up early in the morning and watch the slivers of sunlight pierce the darkness and hit the rocks that surround the valley where we live. It is this beautiful scenery that makes a day like Resurrection morning seem so real…so authentic…so hopeful.
As you celebrate the fact that Jesus arose from the dead…breaking forever the chains of death, I want to take you back to the time and place in history when Jesus walked the earth. As He gathered a faithful group of followers to His side, none proved more loyal than His own mother, His aunt Salome and a group of women who Dr. Luke tells us were “women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources,” (Luke 8: 1-3, N.R.S.V.). Just so I understood more clearly what it was that these women did for Jesus and His closest followers, I checked out several of the Greek words that expanded my perception for not only did these women share their possessions and money but I found that they also provided food, yes meals. And for all we know, these dear girls were in the upper room preparing the meal on the night of Jesus arrest. We certainly know they followed Jesus right up Golgotha’s rocky path and were at the cross, weeping for the Man they loved and served. So it is no wonder that they were most likely the last to leave His’ tomb on Friday night. But there’s no question at all that they were the first to arrive before sun up on Sunday morning at the garden tomb where Jesus was buried.
Here’s where the Biblical record is so very inspiring. You see, these women had stayed late enough on Friday to see a huge stone rolled in front of the opening of the tomb. That was the problem…the difficulty…the challenge they knew about. What they didn’t know was that a group of guards had also been stationed in front of the sepulcher. They had no idea that another problem had been added to the one they were aware of. However, God knew. And praise His name, God also knows what burden upon burden has been piled upon you, too. He knows about the challenges that keep you awake at night tossing and turning. But He also knows about challenges that you cannot even conceive will happen to you – and He’s already at work putting plans into action that will solve every difficulty you could face.
Several weeks ago, I received a book in the mail which was a reprint of words penned by Pastor J. H. Jowett in 1922. While written over 90 years ago, his message is meant for us today. He begins with the question: “Who shall roll us away the stone?” (Mark 16: 3). Here’s how Pastor Jowett writes about the discussion the women may have had: “How anxiously these women had grappled with the disturbing problem of their own weakness! They yearned to do the last love-service to the dear body of their Lord. “But who will roll us away the stone? We shall not be able to move it! And no one will be about at that early hour! It will be still dark and the gardener will not have come to his work! We may take our spices to the grave, but the stone barrier will mock our weakness, and we shall have to turn home again!’” This sounds like a very reasonable conversation to me. Pastor Jowett then points out that all the worrying and fretting melted away when the tomb came into view and the stone had been rolled away. As he observes: “The difficulty which they had foreseen never arrived…our Father had made ample provision. The angel had already received his commission, and at the appointed time he removed the stone.”
Wouldn’t you have loved to be in that garden watching the angel push the stone back – and he did it for those dedicated women who loved Jesus so much that nothing could keep them from braving the dark morning to get to Jesus’ burial place. Pastor Jowett continues by pointing out that so often, we are just like those faithful women as we are “inclined to worry all along the way. How shall we be able to climb the hill of difficulty? And with many other such fretful questions we worry our hearts. They are all needless burdens which we are fashioning for ourselves.” We must never forget, we too have an angel ministry waiting for the call of heaven to come and aid each of us. Sadly we sometimes “forget the angel, and whenever we leave the angel out of the reckoning we see insuperable barriers everywhere, and we are sore afraid. The angel is before us on the road, and when we come to the fearful place we shall find that his work is done” Pastor Jowett concludes.
On this Resurrection morning, are you worrying about that great stone in your path...the barrier that seems to be impeding your life right now? I want to remind you of the way our Father looks out for every one of His children. And He will not leave us to face the impossible task of rolling away the stone by ourselves. Help is on the way and at just the right moment…you’ll find the stone has been rolled away. And what’s more - the tomb is empty!
Roll Back the Stone
“When we are all despairing’
when the world is full of grief;
when you see no way ahead,
and hope has gone away:
Roll back the stone.
Although we fear change;
although we are not ready;
although we’d rather weep
and run away:
Roll back the stone.
Because we’re coming with the women;
because we hope where hope is vain;
because you call us from the grave
and show the way:
Roll back the stone.”
The Day of Resurrection
“The day of resurrection!
Earth, tell it out abroad;
The Passover of gladness,
The Passover of God.
From death to life eternal,
From this world to the sky,
Our Christ hath brought us over
With hymns of victory.
Our hearts be pure from evil,
That we may see aright
The Lord in rays eternal
Of resurrection light,
And, listening to His accents,
May hear, so calm and plain,
His own ‘All hail!’ and, hearing,
May raise the victor strain.
Now let the heavens be joyful,
Let earth her song begin,
Let the round world keep triumph
And all that is therein;
Invisible and visible,
Their notes let all things blend;
For Christ the Lord hath risen
Our Joy that hath no end.”
John of Damascus, 8th Century
Translated by John M. Neale
“Thought for Easter”
“O happy world today if we could know
The message of that morning long ago!
There is no dark despair that cannot be
Evicted from the heart’s Gethsemane;
For faith is always more than unbelief,
And vibrant courage triumphs over grief.”
Mary E. McCullough
“The Angel Rolled the Stone Away”
by King’s College Cambridge
(If for some reason the link doesn’t work, all you have to do is enter the song name and artist on your search engine and you’ll be able to get the musical number.)
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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