Bible Reading: Matthew 28
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 and sat on it.”
It was an enormous stone! According to Mark’s gospel, “it was extremely large” (Mark 16:4). In his book, Who Moved the Stone, Frank Morison called the stone at Jesus’ tomb “the one silent and infallible witness in the whole episode—and there are certain facts about this stone which call for very careful study and investigation.” He went on to say: “Let us consider first its size and probable character… no doubt the stone was large and consequently very heavy. This fact is asserted and implied by all the writers who refer to it. Mark says it was ‘exceeding great.’ Matthew speaks of it as a ‘great stone.’ Peter says, ‘for the stone was great.’ Additional testimony on this point is furnished by the reported anxiety of the women as to how they should move it (Mark 16:3). If the stone had not been of considerable weight the combined strength of three women should have been capable of moving it. We receive, therefore, a very definite impression that is was at least too weighty for the women to move unaided.” (Frank Morison, Who Moved the Stone?, London: Faber and Faber, 1967).
Some suggest that the stone weighed somewhere between 3000 and 4000 lbs and was of sufficient size and weight such that “twenty men could not roll away.” The stone was just one of the security measures Pilate had put in place. He sent a guard (16 soldiers) to secure the tomb, instructing them to “make it as secure as (they knew) how” (Matthew 27:65). Those Roman soldiers were proud and capable—they failed in a given task under penalty of death. The guard set a “seal on the stone.” A. T. Robertson commented that the method of sealing was “probably by a cord stretched across the stone and sealed at each end as in Daniel 6:17… The sealing was done in the presence of the Roman guards who were left in charge to protect the stamp of Roman authority and power.”
The soldiers, the seal, and the stone were set in place. They had done everything they could to make the grave secure—but how can you lock up the Creator in a cave? “It was impossible for Him to be held in (death’s) power” (Acts 2:24). The entire Roman army would not have been able to keep Jesus tomb bound. The Devil himself could have sealed the tomb with titanium bands and it would have done him no good. Mountain atop mountain would not have kept entombed He “who is the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).
The stone was rolled away not to let Jesus out (the Creator is not bound by such things), but to let the witnesses in. They came to the tomb and found “an angel of the Lord (who had) descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it” (Matthew 28:2). They entered the tomb and saw for themselves, “He has risen, just as He said” (Matthew 28:6). The Roman soldiers witnessed the security breach. They went to the leaders, who then bribed them to lie (Matthew 28:11-15).
He rose from the dead. He presented Himself alive to the apostles (and others) “by many convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8). They, having been commissioned by the Risen Lord, went forth boldly proclaiming His death and resurrection (Acts 2:23-24; 3:15; 4:10; 4:33; 5:30; 10:39-40; 13:39-40). Most of them suffered martyrdom for the gospel message that they faithfully and zealously preached.
There are many in our day who, in their effort to “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18), foolhardily believe that they can somehow shove Jesus back into the tomb. The problem is—He is the risen Lord! And He’s coming again! And no manipulation of man—no matter how clever or strong—can erase that truth. He lives inside the heart of the believer (2 Corinthians 13:5). The “surpassing greatness of His power” is at work in their lives (Ephesians 1:19). No grave will hold them either—when Christ comes for His own (1 Corinthians 15:22-23).
Because of an empty tomb and a Risen Lord, a living hope is availed in this dying world to those who believe.
Satan’s forces crumbled
Like a mighty wall
The stone that held Him
In was rolled aside
The Prince of Life in glory
Was lifted over all
Now earth and heaven echoes with the cry
He is Lord He is Lord
He is risen from the dead
And He is Lord
Ev’ry knee shall bow
Ev’ry tongue confess
That Jesus Christ is Lord