The Memorial Stone
From ancient times, men have made monuments out of stone. Huge obelisks reach to the sky, memorializing man’s achievements. The pyramids tower above the desert sands, monuments and tombs of ancient pharaohs. Beautiful sculptures emerge from marble, and we admire the artist’s skill. But there has never been a more important or more beautiful memorial stone than what we read about in Matthew 28:2:
And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.
Every gospel account of the resurrection of Jesus says something about this stone that once blocked the door to the tomb of Jesus, was then rolled away, and actually became a place for an angel of the Lord to sit. Charles Spurgeon suggested at least five ways that this stone is important.
First and most importantly, the stone is a monument to an empty tomb. The stone was not moved so Jesus could escape the tomb. From passages such as John 20:26, we know after His resurrection Jesus had the ability to pass through solid walls. The stone was moved not so Jesus could get out, but so that the world could see in and so that it could be proved to the whole world that the tomb was empty. This stone rolled away still serves as a witness because the testimony of the empty tomb has never been refuted. It preaches a powerful sermon, telling the whole world that the God of the Christians is alive. He is the God of the living, not the dead.
Second, the stone is a trophy of Jesus’ victory over death. In Romans 5:12, the Bible explains to us exactly why death is certain for everyone: because everyone is subject to sin. We all inherit a sinful nature from our ancestor Adam, and we all sin ourselves, so we are under the power of death. But through His miraculous conception and virgin birth, Jesus was not born of Adam, nor did He ever sin Himself. The stone rolled away tells us all that Jesus was sinless, and being sinless, death had no power over Him. This being the case, Jesus died because He chose to not because He was the victim of circumstances. It was not a cross that killed Jesus, not an angry mob of Jews, or not a fearful Roman governor. Jesus died on the cross willingly, out of love for you and me.
Third, this stone rolled away is the foundation stone for the church. If we picture the church as a mighty fortress, then certainly this stone is the chief cornerstone. Why? Because if not for the resurrection, then Jesus was a fraud and we are without hope. If we build our faith on this foundation stone, then the very powers of hell cannot prevail against it. Death has no power over us, and we have power to overcome sin. The church can lay no other foundation!
Fourth, the stone rolled away is a place of rest. Matthew tells us that the angel sat on the stone! He was relaxed upon it. This could only happen after Jesus’ resurrection; can you imagine the angels resting while their Lord lay dead? How could anyone rest? But the angel now rested because the work of Jesus was finished. It was now proven that Jesus had done it all. They and we can rest because there was nothing to fear anymore from the powers of death and darkness. As the angel relaxed there, he practically dared the soldiers and the forces of evil to roll back the stone! You can find rest today on the stone of resurrection.
Finally, the stone set a boundary. In older times, stone marked the boundary of a property or a city. This stone that once covered the door to the tomb of Jesus was also a boundary marker. On one side of the stone were the cowering guards, and on the other side of the stone were the women who first saw the empty tomb. Even today, the truth of Jesus’ resurrection is a dividing line. If we embrace and surrender to the risen Jesus, we are on the side of these women, receiving comfort and joy from the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. But if we resist the risen Jesus, or deny the truth of His resurrection, we are on the side of the guards who tremble in fear as dead men.
A question is set before you: what will you do with the witness of this stone? If you heed its witness, you can find victory over death and sin, set an unshakable foundation for all faith, and establish a resting place in the risen Jesus. But if you set yourself on the wrong side of the stone, all there is for you is fear and trembling. Are you on the right side of this stone rolled away?