“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb” (John 20:1).
It’s an important detail—it should be recalled every year—that the stone had been taken away—not because Jesus needed it rolled away—but we did.
As death no longer has dominion over Jesus, just so, neither do doors.
He no longer hides his divinity—as He did in His humiliation, all the times when He did not fully use His divine power.
So—He doesn’t need to use a door to be where He wants to be.
“On the evening of that [Easter] day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (John 20:19).
A stone across the tomb can’t hold Him in.
And a closed and locked door can’t keep Him out.
Just so—salvation doesn’t rely on the dead thing to choose Jesus.
It can’t. That door is dead and locked.
But here is the Lord of Life who stands among the disciples in spite of their fear—and to remove it.
And here is the Lord of Life who causes His Word to be preached among us—in spite of our sin and to remove it.
Neither the dead heart, the locked door, nor the rolled stone can bar His entry.
And so the stone that has been rolled away is not for Him but for us.
As proof. To us.
Proof of death’s destruction—for what else stood in His way?
Proof of the forgiveness of sins—for how else could He be raised than if there were no sin in Him?
Proof that when Jesus calls bread and wine His Body and Blood, He means it—for if He needs no doors, He certainly knows more than one way of being present at a time. He can be in Heaven and on Earth, and in bread and wine. He can descend into Hell and preach to the souls in prison. And He can be here, with us, now, for our good, according to His Word and divine power.
And the stone is rolled away as proof to us of the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting—for what else does it mean for those who are united to His death and resurrection than that they will be raised—and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness?
This is most certainly true.
Death no longer has dominion over Him.
Death—our enemy—is our enemy defeated.
There is no more terrible, unnatural, and agonizing thing than death—but the stone is rolled away so that we’ll see—that death is only temporary.
“For in [Christ Jesus] the whole fulness of [God] dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9).
That’s how and why we have this moment with Jesus and Mary who “stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him’” (John 20:11-13).
For she did not yet know that death had been defeated.
“Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary’” (John 20:14-16).
And she saw—and believed—and rejoiced not only that He was there—but what it meant that He was there.
This isn’t like when you’ve lost your keys and rejoice to find them.
Everyone of us has lost something and not really worried about it because we basically knew where it was, that it would turn up.
This isn’t that.
“As yet [Mary and the others] did not understand the Scripture, that [Jesus] must rise from the dead” (John 20:9).
Mary expected a dead body.
Mark says it this way: “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him” (Mark 16:1).
He means—they intended to anoint his dead body as they would’ve done before His burial, had it not been rushed and on a high feast day.
For Mary, the stone is rolled away to break her expectations regarding death. So that she would see and wonder and ask and hear that what she was not expecting is true—Jesus lives.
And for us, the stone is rolled away to show us another of God’s great reversals:
As the stone and Christ that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, so the stone the builders chose, to roll in front of death and tomb, God has rejected—so that we will see that death is our enemy destroyed.
And hell is emptied of its power.
That sins are forgiven—the sacrifice is applied to you, credited to your account.
That God is with us now—for our good—that we would taste and see that the Lord is good.
And that all those in Christ can hope with certainty and wait with faith that will not be put to shame for the resurrection of the body—reunion with Christ and all the faithful—and life everlasting.
Jesus didn’t need the stone rolled away.
So God moved it.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Easter Dawn Sermon, 2021
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt