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THE STONE ROLLED AWAY

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Evening, May 9, 2004
at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great" (Mark 16:4).


On Sunday morning Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Salome came to Jesus' sepulchre to anoint His dead body, which had been buried there on Friday. As they approached the tomb they said to each other,

"Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" (Mark 16:3).

The tomb was a small room, carved out of solid rock in the side of a hill. A large, flat, round rock, like a huge wheel, covered the door. It is estimated that the stone that covered the door was about 1½ to 2 tons in weight. This huge, round, flat stone had been rolled in a groove over the entrance of the sepulchre, sealed with the stamp of Rome, with Roman soldiers guarding it. It is estimated that it would take 18 to 20 men to move this stone once it was in place.

Matthew tells us that the Romans

"…went, and made the sepulchre sure [secure], sealing the stone, and setting a watch" (Matthew 27:66).

Josh McDowell points out that "Various 'security precautions' were taken to make sure that when Jesus was dead He would remain dead and buried" (Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense, Thomas Nelson, 1993, p. 221). McDowell gives several precautions that were taken by the Roman and Jewish authorities to make sure Jesus "would remain dead and buried."

-  They killed Him by crucifixion. Nails were driven through His hands and feet. While Jesus was on the Cross, a Roman soldier drove a spear into His heart. Jesus was definitely dead when they took Him down from the Cross and put Him in the grave.

-  They put him in a tomb hewn out of solid rock, with an entrance about 5 feet high. A large stone, which weighed 1½ to 2 tons, was rolled over the entrance. Both Matthew and Mark tell us that the stone was very large.

-  They put a Roman guard force at the door of the tomb. Dr. A. T. Robertson, the famous Greek scholar, said that this was "a guard of Roman soldiers" (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Broadman Press, 1930, volume 1, p. 239). Josh McDowell says, "A Roman guard unit was a 4 to 16-man security force… 4 men were placed immediately in front of what they were to protect. The other twelve men were asleep in a semi-circle in front of them…To steal what these guards were protecting, thieves would have to walk over those who were asleep. Every four hours, another unit of 4 was awakened" (McDowell, ibid., p. 228).

-  They put a Roman seal on the stone that covered the mouth of the tomb. Dr. A. T. Robertson says that this seal was "a cord stretched across the stone and sealed at each end…The sealing was done in the presence of the Roman guard who were left in charge to protect this stamp of Roman authority and power. They did their best to prevent theft and resurrection…but they overreached themselves and provided additional witness to the fact of the empty tomb and the resurrection of Jesus" (Robertson, ibid.).

If the Roman seal was broken, the guards would be treated severely. They faced "automatic execution by crucifixion upside down" (McDowell, ibid., p. 231).

In spite of these precautions, Jesus rose from the dead. Look at Matthew 28:2-4. Let us stand and read these three verses aloud.

"And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men" (Matthew 28:2-4).

You may be seated.

This was the second earthquake that happened in connection with Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. The first earthquake occurred when Christ died on the Cross. It tore the veil in the Temple in two. This second earthquake was probably an aftershock of the first one. It is called "a great earthquake" in Matthew 28:2. This earthquake broke the Roman seal on the stone, and "the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it" (Matthew 28:2b).

When those women came to the tomb, the stone was rolled back.

"And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great" (Mark 16:4).

Christ had risen from the dead! The angel said to them,

"Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him" (Mark 16:6).

The stone was rolled away by the power of God. Christ had risen from the dead!

"And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great" (Mark 16:4).

The rolling away of that stone, and the resurrection of our Lord, show us several things.

I. First, the rolling away of the stone shows Christ's power over Rome and religion.

Turn to Matthew 27:62-66. Let us stand and read these five verses aloud.

"Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch" (Matthew 27:62-66).

You may be seated.

They made the tomb as secure as they could. They rolled a two-ton stone over the mouth of the grave. They put a Roman seal on the stone. They placed 16 Roman guards at the entrance. The Roman governor Pilate said, "Make it as sure as ye can" (Matthew 27:65). But they couldn't make it sure enough! They couldn't make it secure enough! God broke through. The earthquake came. The seal was broken. The stone was rolled back by the angel of the Lord. The Roman guards fell to the ground, so terrified that they were like "dead men" (Matthew 28:4). And Christ walked out of that tomb alive! He was triumphant over the power of Rome, and over the power of the religion of the Pharisees! Christ broke the power of politics. Christ broke the power of dead religion. Christ rose from the dead!

"And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great" (Mark 16:4).

II. Second, the rolling away of the stone shows Christ's power over death.

When Jesus' friend Lazarus died, they buried him in a tomb. Two days later Jesus came to the home of Lazarus, and Lazarus' sister said to Jesus,

"Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died"
      (John 11:21).

"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" 
      (John 11:25-26).

Then Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

In another place, Jesus said,

"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" (John 3:36).

Can we be sure that Jesus is able to give us everlasting life? Yes - because Jesus Himself rose from the dead!

Jesus gave His life on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins. But Jesus would not have died unless He willed it to be so. Jesus said,

"I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:17-18).

The stone was rolled away. Jesus rose from the dead. This proved beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus has power over death. If you trust Jesus, you will never die. Jesus said,

"Whosoever…believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:26).

What a wonderful promise! Christ has power over death - and so, He can give you everlasting life!

The powers of death have done their worst,
     But Christ their legions hath dispersed;
Let shouts of holy joy outburst. Alleluia!

The three sad days have quickly sped;
      He rises glorious from the dead:
All glory to our risen Head! Alleluia!
      ("The Strife Is O'er," translated by Francis Pott, 1832-1909).

Made like Him, like Him we rise,
      Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies.
      Alleluia!
("Christ the Lord is Risen Today" by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

"And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great" (Mark 16:4).

III. Third, the rolling away of the stone shows Christ's power to save.

Jesus Christ has the power to save you from sin and guilt. His Blood can wash your sins away. His resurrection can give you everlasting life.

"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Corinthians 15:22).

"Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ" (Ephesians 2:5).

"The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins"
      (Mark 2:10).

"Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25).

Will you come to Jesus? Will you trust Him? He has risen from the dead. He is alive right now, on the right hand of God in Heaven. Christ has the power to forgive your sins and give you eternal life. Come to Him! Believe on Him! Trust Him - and He will save you - now!

Crown Him the Lord of life,
     Who triumphed o'er the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife
     For those He came to save;
His glories now we sing
     Who died and rose on high,
Who died, eternal life to bring,
     And lives that death may die.
("Crown Him With Many Crowns"
     by Matthew Bridges, 1800-1894, and Godfrey Thring, 1823-1903).

"And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great" (Mark 16:4).

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 16:1-16.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"The Strife Is O'er" (translated by Francis Pott, 1832-1909).

THE OUTLINE OF

THE STONE ROLLED AWAY

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great" (Mark 16:4).

(Mark 16:3; Matthew 27:66; 28:2-4; Mark 16:6)

I.   The rolling away of the stone shows Christ's power over Rome
and religion, Matthew 27:62-66; 28:4.

II.  The rolling away of the stone shows Christ's power over death,
John 11:21, 25-26; 3:36; 10:17-18.

III. The rolling away of the stone shows Christ's power to save,
I Corinthians 15:22; Ephesians 2:5; Mark 2:10; Hebrews 7:25.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."