I have been thinking about the stone that was laid over the entrance to Jesus’ tomb. The Stone was not a door to be opened and closed and opened and closed. Once it was closed, it wasn’t meant to be moved again. It was big and heavy and it was meant to keep the wild animals and carrion birds out. It was to be final and permanent. In the verses leading up to the Easter gospel passage in John chapter 20, we are told that Joseph of Arimathea was given permission by Pilate to remove Jesus’ dead body. We are also told that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus prepared the body of Jesus for burial by wrapping it with spices and linen cloth and then they laid it in a tomb. Everything that was needed to be done for the proper burial of the dead had been done. It was over and the tomb would have been closed. Putting the stone in place meant it was final. Complete. Finished. The End.
I found myself drawn to this stone, because it made me think about the metaphorical stones in our lives. The metaphorical stones that are obstacles that seem to be blocking our way to becoming the person that God wants us to be, the person that we want to be. Obstacles which feel like an immovable rock, final and permanent. Sometimes those stone obstacles are placed in the way by others around us. Sometimes the words of others who fail to see the true value of just who we are can stop us in our tracks or take us off course. History is full of examples of people who faced rejection only to later prove to themselves and the world just how wrong those that had rejected them were. But more often the stone obstacles that block us from being what God wants us to be are on the inside. Let me list the seven deadly sins, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride. I am sure that each of us here could identify a stone or two in our lives with a root in that list. My own Lenten journey has helped me uncover a couple of these for myself. Yet, today, I have good news, Easter News, these stones are meant to be rolled away!
Our Easter Gospel story begins with John 20:1 with a grieving Mary arriving at the tomb, so early it was still dark outside, intending to morn at his grave, only to find that the stone had been unexpectedly rolled away. This discovery, that the stone had been rolled away, starts the series of events that has remade our understanding of who we are and how we relate with God. It is the first visual sign of the Resurrection of Christ. The rolling away of the stone is as necessary as the melting of the blanket of snow to reveal first shoots of the crocus and the daffodil. When the stone is moved, it reveals the rebirth of hope and the fulfilled promise of eternal life.
So, who rolled the stone away? I am sure that you wont be surprised that the answer to that question, that comes from my mouth, is that God rolled the stone away, only God could have, and what that means to us is that only with God’s help can we roll away the stones in our life.