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Why Did an Angel Roll away the Stone?

Matthew Henry

2021 31 Mar
Why Did an Angel Roll away the Stone?

The angels frequently attended our Lord Jesus: at His birth, in His temptation, in His agony. But upon the cross we find no angel attending him. When His Father forsook Him, the angels withdrew from Him, but now that He is resuming the glory he had before the foundation of the world, the angels of God worship him.

“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 angel came, rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. Our Lord Jesus could have rolled back the stone Himself by His own power, 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 discharge, obtained from heaven. He did not break prison, but an officer was sent on purpose to roll away the stone and open the prison door, which would never have been done if He had not made a full satisfaction.

But being delivered for our offenses, He was raised again for our justification. He died to pay our debt, and rose again to gain our acquittal. The stone of our sins was rolled to the door of the grave of our Lord Jesus (and we find the rolling of a great stone to signify the contracting of guilt - 1 Samuel 14:33), but to demonstrate that divine justice was satisfied, an angel was commissioned to roll back the stone. The angel did not raise Him from the dead, any more than those that took away the stone from Lazarus’s grave raised him, but by this he intimated the consent of Heaven to Christ's release, and the joy of Heaven in it.

The enemies of Christ had sealed the stone, since this was their hour, but all the powers of death and darkness are under the control of the God of light and life. An angel from heaven has power to break the seal and roll away the stone, though ever so great. Thus, the captives of the mighty are taken away.

The angel’s sitting upon the stone, after he had rolled it away, is very observable and shows a secure triumph over all the obstructions of Christ’s resurrection. There he sat, defying all the powers of hell to roll the stone to the grave again. The angel sat as a guard to the grave, having frightened away the enemies’ guard; he sat, expecting the women, and ready to give them an account of Jesus's resurrection.

Adapted from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible  (Luke 28).

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. 

Excerpt provided by Meg Bucher, The Significance of the Stone Rolled Away

photo credit:© Getty Images/jchizhe