"Rock Out" – Mark 16:1-8
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Every three years the church gathers on Easter Sunday to hear the resurrection story from the gospel of Mark. As you listened to this text today, did you notice anything that’s different from the story you’ve heard on other Easter celebrations? I’ll give you a hint…the difference has to do with Jesus…
...In today’s story, he’s nowhere to be found!
Today is a day dedicated to celebrating the Lord Jesus, risen from the dead…but he never even makes an appearance in the story!
It would be like going to your first Colts game only to find out Andrew Luck announced his retirement earlier that morning.
It would be like setting up a romantic evening to propose to your girlfriend, but she cancels to hang out with an old friend who unexpectedly returned to town.
It would be like going to the new Avengers movie and finding out they replaced the Incredible Hulk with Gumby.
So, we’re all set to celebrate Jesus risen from the dead but all we have is the empty tomb.
Seems to me that the main subject in Mark’s story isn’t Jesus, but rather, the heavy stone covering the tomb. That’s right, today I’m going to preach about a big rock.
Imagine with me now, to a day 2,000 years ago, as the three women are walking to Jesus’ tomb early that morning, carrying the spices that will be used to anoint his corpse. A few steps into their journey one of them says, “Wait, what are we doing? We’re not going to be able to move the stone to get in there to anoint Jesus’ body!”
They stop in the middle of the road. One of them suggests they turn around and go home. There’s a voice of agreement from another; but the third woman wants to charge ahead with their mission. It’s one against two; but the minority voice wins out. “No, we’re going to do this,” she says. “I don’t know how, but we’ll worry about that when we get there.”
Through their whole journey, the question of how they are going to get on the other side of this heavy stone is all they can think about. It’s contentious. No one is in agreement. There is no clear-cut foolproof solution. Without easy answers ahead of them, they start to distrust one another. One of the women who originally wanted to give up and go home mutters under her breath, “I told you this was a bad idea. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
As they begin to see the outline of the cave in the distance, the women decided their best option to to wait outside the tomb until someone comes by to roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb.
They arrive. They look up. They notice that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.
“How are we going to get on the other side of this heavy stone?”
On the road, it seems like the most important question in the world.
But it ends up being a red herring, an imaginary problem, something that needlessly fed their fears.
The stone had already been rolled away.
What good news is there in a gospel story about resurrection that fails to locate or describe the risen body of Jesus? The good news is that the obstacles that we think are so important, so monumental, so immovable…have already been taken care of for us.
The heavy stones in our lives–the barriers separating us from the new life, hope, and love we so desperately want to experience–have already been moved aside. That’s what God does. God is in the rock-moving, obstacle-clearing, barrier-busting business.
So, what’s the heavy stone in your life? What is the important, monumental, and seemingly-immovable obstacle that is preventing you from experiencing new life, hope, and love?
It’s my fear that too many of us are frustrated and kicking pebbles down paths that we assume will end in nothing but a tomb: broken relationships, feelings of inadequacy, fear of failure, questions we are ashamed to ask, mistakes we are ashamed to admit, ideas we are ashamed to profess. We distrust our fellow travelers on the way. We mutter “I told you so” under our breath. We think about quitting and going home. We spend our time worrying about how we will ever move the heavy stone. But the thing about immovable obstacles is that they are immovable...for us.
Even if the women on the road would have run full speed toward the tomb, confident in their power, faith, and problem-solving, they never would have been able to move that stone away.
So it’s a good thing God already took care of it.
It’s the same story for any barrier that we think is important, monumental, and immovable – from perverted politics to debilitating depression, from keeping up with the Joneses to dead-end jobs. Our mission is not to move heavy stones in order to anoint the dead. Our mission is to live in a way that honors the fact that the stones are already rolled away; new life, hope, and love have been unleashed; and God is among the living.
So much of what is so terribly wrong in our world is a result of our bickering and blindness as we fret about the big challenges that we assume are around the bend. Which is why we need to remember the women who journeyed to the tomb. They stop in the middle of the road. One of them suggests they turn around and go home. There’s a voice of agreement from another; but the third woman wants to charge ahead with their mission. It’s one against two; but the minority voice wins out. “No, we’re going to do this,” she says. “I don’t know how, but we’ll worry about that when we get there.”
Indeed, let’s charge ahead with our mission to live with hope, to forgive our enemies, to serve all in need, to be light in the darkness, and to love one another as Christ loves us, because that is what God unleashed on the world the day God rolled away the heavy stone.