24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.[d] 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
In 1992, as recorded in the devotional “Our Daily Bread” there was a bank in Binghamton, New York, had some flowers sent to a competitor who had recently expanded their business into a new building. There was a mix-up at the flower shop, and the card sent with the arrangement read, “with our deepest sympathy.” The florist who was greatly embarrassed, said he couldn’t imagine how this mix-up happened, and he apologized. It was halfway through the day before he sat up, and with a horrified look on his face, realizing that at some funeral somebody was opening a note that said, “Congratulations on your new location!”
When the women approached the tomb on Easter morning, it was because they were doing what people do. They were filled with the grief from Good Friday. We have people in our church who do what they have to do. We have people that when a death occurs, they show up. They help with the meals; they help decorate the fellowship hall and they create a space for the family to feel welcomed. We have people who come and clean up the church and spruce up the sanctuary and make sure there is no trash in the lawn. There are others who begin to make casseroles to take to homes of the families to make sure the visitors are fed and people have enough.
We see that when God is on the move, God cannot be contained. Just as people get busy when someone is in need, God too gets busy in our lives. The morning the women went to the tomb, they could not imagine what they were going to find. They went out of feeling love and grief to do what needed to be done. In that day people died and it was up to somebody to make the final preparations. It was not as clean, and sterile, and removed from the common sight as it is today. It was almost as if the final preparations were a part of the healing process as they dealt with grief.
As the women approached the tomb they were stuck in a world like the card: “with our deepest sympathy.” Those who opposed Jesus, both the Roman and religious authorities, had worked hard to stop him and silence his message. They also didn’t want anyone else getting any ideas and making a martyr out of him. Kill him, roll the stone in place and be done with the rebel uprising. Jesus had started a movement, a growing ministry with power and authority and this had to be stopped before it made the news channels and social media.
Yet they didn’t know that God was on the move. They didn’t know that after Jesus was dead that he would go to hell and throw the gates open for all eternity. They did not know that God would roll the stone away. They did not know that Jesus would be resurrected and that he would visit the women first and the disciples and then the multitude. They did not know that God was on the move and walk with the disciples on the road to Emmaus and that he would tell of God’s wonders and the disciples would not recognize him until the breaking of the bread and their eyes would be opened.
Death could not stop what God’s movement had begun from the moment of creation until all eternity. When the women arrived and they saw the stone had been rolled away they believed as we would that his body had been stolen. The powers that be had taken Jesus as one last cruel trick to be played on those who loved him. They expected to encounter a continuation of the message of grief and sympathy that had begun on Friday; instead they found Sunday’s message of congratulations and a Savior who would not be contained to one location.
Throughout his ministry Jesus encountered those who were broken, the sickness he healed, where he found hunger, he fed people, where he found sin and death, he brought forgiveness and resurrection. The question of the tomb is this: would he be strong enough to reverse even the brokenness of the world that inflicted him? The disciples had witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus and Jairus daughter, but no one has ever resurrected themselves! God is always in the business of stopping evil, bringing wholeness and defying death, and this was the ultimate time to prove that God is always on the move.
What a beautiful thing that even the tomb cannot stop Jesus. Just when evil thinks they’ve stopped him he’s on to a new location! The great mystery of what happened at the tomb when they arrived and found the stone rolled away is still present with us today. Why do people come and share when someone passes away? It’s because we love them. It’s because it is the right thing to do. It’s because we believe in the resurrection and one more time, we wait for God to move the stone away in our hearts and in our lives. When we recite the Apostle’s Creed, which we are going to do in a little bit, we say I believe in the resurrection. (Youth at Rankin share their belief’s here).
On that first Easter morning we remember the story of that stone being rolled away the emptiness of the tomb and the Savior breaking the chains of death to move the followers of Jesus to a new reality in which death and crying are no more and a new heaven and earth are upon us. Today’s followers of the Savior have the same promises. Wherever you are feeling stuck or trapped, wherever your past has told you that you will never change, wherever you encounter a world that seems to be lost in grief and pain—you will find a moving Savior! Today is a day of congratulations for God’s people. For new locations and second chances. For new hopes and dreams. Death tried to stop Jesus and did not succeed; He is alive and moving in our world and in our lives today. Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!