Blocking Stones

Easter Sunday Sermon by Pastor Doug Stratton — April 12, 2020

Matthew 28:1-10 

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

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. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Central Idea: When the stones in our lives are removed, we discover the power of the empty tomb and when we look in we learn that Jesus is going before us.

In December of 2003, ABC debuted a new fill-in series that lasted 10 seasons and 200 episodes called Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. The show featured a team of contractors and artists who would descend on a community and in one week take a house that was inadequate for a deserving family and transform it into a beautiful home that is built with just that family in mind. After sending the family away for a week, normally to a Disney property, after all it is ABC, the story of the deserving family would be told and the television audience would watch the remodel and rebuild take place. The work was frantic, and at the end of the week the family would be brought back into their old house. But before that happened, the host and the community and family would stand in the street behind the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition bus and thank the volunteers and crew for all their personal touches. Then Ty Pennington would lead the crowd in shouting, “Driver, Move that bus!” And the bus would pull away revealing to the family their new dwelling. It was built from the old, but everything was new. The family would ooh and aww and then Ty would say, “Go see your new house!” And the family would run in and with tears and joy explore their new home. 

“Move that Bus!” came to be synonymous with life changing surprises. As I thought about the stone in the Easter Story, this phrase came to mind. I  can almost hear God the Father standing in front of the stone with the audience of the angels of heaven and the soldiers of Rome and the women who had followed Jesus and then saying, “Gabriel, Move that Stone!” And the Angels sang in praise, and the soldiers collapse in fear and shock, and women were terrified but filled with joy. And then the Father said, “Come on, see the place where he was, because he is not here! He has risen just as he said.”

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were changed in that moment and became the very first witnesses to the Resurrection, women whose role seemed to be insignificant up to this point, are now the first to declare the greatest news ever. 

Move that Stone! Wonders and glory await!

But did you realize this is not the first time in scripture that stones have been removed to reveal God’s salvation? 

In the book of Daniel, when Daniel insisted on continuing to pray in defiance of the King’s order, he was thrown into a pit with lions. When he had been thrown in, a stone was placed over the mouth of the den and sealed with the King’s own ring. After a fitful night without sleep, the king returned to the den and called out: “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” 

Daniel replied: “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions.” The King that had the stone removed and brought Daniel out of the Lion pit. 

When the stone was removed, the salvation of God was revealed!

And then there is the account of Lazarus. He was a friend of Jesus. He got sick, and he died. For 3 days his body lay in a tomb sealed with a stone. When Jesus arrived he went to the tomb, seeing the grief of the mourners, he, too, wept. And then he said, “Remove the stone!” 

The objections were many, Lazarus was dead and his body had begun to stink of death. But Jesus insisted. And we read in John 11:41 “So they took away the stone.” And He shouted, “Lazarus, come forth!” And the crowd was amazed, Lazarus came from the grave.

Move that stone and see the wonders of God! 

We have talked about bringing the stones that get in the way of our experiencing resurrection living to the cross. But today, because of what Jesus did on the cross, the stones can be removed. (Begin clearing away the stones).

  • Stones of bitterness
  • Stones of apathy
  • Stones of selfishness
  • Stones we worship
  • Stones of remembrance
  • Stones of anxiety
  • Stones of anger
  • Stones of rejection
  • Stones of pride
  • Stones we cherish
  • Stones of silence

Though we have brought them to the cross, they have now been forgiven and removed as far as the east is from the west. Somehow, God has not only forgiven them, God has actually forgotten them.

And now God has given us a new stone. In Revelation 2, we read a letter written to the church in the city of Pergamum. It says, “Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches. I’ll give the sacred manna to every conqueror; I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name, your secret new name.”

It is a new stone with a new name. 

(having removed the stones, we reveal the new stone)

Today is the day to roll away the stones that have stood in our way and see the wonders of God’s amazing love, salvation and victory!