16:1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mark 16:1-8 (ESV)
“Who will roll away the stone for us?” You can picture the women, petite little things walking the alley ways of Jerusalem’s golden limestone basking in the red hues of the morning sun. You can see the apprehension on their faces as they head to the tomb of their beloved friend, their Lord and teacher, mourning his death. All they want to do is give him a proper burial. They are certain this was a job not to be trusted to men like Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimethea. But there is that stone, that heavy stone. It seals the tomb. Who will roll away the stone? They ask. What a question.
That stone, they couldn’t possibly know the weight of that question as they asked it. If they did they wouldn’t be on their way to dress Jesus for burial. Jesus would roll away that stone, and with it the stone that seals the death of us all. He walks out of that tomb and gives to us all, life and salvation. When he rolls away this stone, he takes our hearts of stone, sprinkles us with clean water and gives us a heart of flesh, puts his Spirit within us and gives us love as we begin to understand the love of God, the forgiveness of sins and the full weight of the meaning of his resurrection. His resurrection is our resurrection who have been buried with him into his death so that just as he has been raised to the glory of the Father we too might walk in the newness of life! Yes, even now given the newness of life here in time, because we now know for certain that that grave has no power over us. That’s what it means for us when Christ rolls away the stone, for us. Yes, it wasn’t just for a few scared women on Easter morning that Christ rolled away the stone, but he rolled it away for all of us that he could come to us with life.
With life he comes to us. It is this stone that he washes away with baptism, it is that he might give us life in his body and blood shed for you on the cross, it is stone that he shatters with his word, sent by an angel, “He has Risen he is not here.” Because we have all known that stone. That stone is the stone of death, a millstone for our necks, being cast into the sea under the crushing weight of the law, written in stone, permanent. Our whole lives, as once described by Heidegger, “beings toward death.” It looms over us all. The fear of death is so prevalent in our lives we scarcely comprehend it. We really don’t. And yet it is responsible for almost every action we take in life. Sometimes fleeing from it, sometimes taunting it. It inspires us to eat right and exercise, to wear a seat belt, to undergo the excruciating pain of chemo therapy. It also will inspire us to drink too much, abuse drugs, develop eating disorders or try to “live life to the fullest” and run with bulls in Spain or jump out of airplanes. Our whole life is one of trying to manage our fear of death, one way or another. And at the end of it all it is futile. I think this is why, when I go see people in the evening of life they tell me things like, “pastor, it all seems so meaningless now, everything I thought was so important when I was younger.” Those things we thought were important. I tell you that has to be the cruelest joke of all, the one death plays on life. What do you have to show for it now? He asks. The big house? I’m taking it from you. The political campaigns you worked on? I’m taking it from you. Now you die. It’s death. Death robs life of meaning. Death beats on life and leaves it at the side of the road bloodied, bruised and naked. Death laughs at life and says, what of it now?
A but, on this day Jesus turns the tables on death as if he was a temple merchant. On this day, Jesus walks out of the tomb, and shatters the millstone, cuts it loose from your neck. Today he has risen from the dead, the sure and certain promise that you will too. Your life, meaningless? No. Now it is death that is as meaningless as a good night’s sleep before you too will wake to the golden streets of Jerusalem basking in the light of Christ with reddish hues from the blood that has washed you clean and made you white as snow. And this he has done, that even now you would walk in the newness of life knowing that this life isn’t meaningless, Christ died for it, he rose from the dead for it, that everything you do, even the most mundane, things as simple as eating and drinking, these are done to the glory of God. Your work, your play, your marriage, Your childhood and parenthood, all this blessed by God who has raised you to the newness of life, who has shattered the stone and given you hearts of flesh. No, this life is not meaningless, this life is lived to the glory of God.