Fear Not - The Stone Removed
By: James Foley
Text: Matthew 28:1-8
I’m going to preach a sermon which was first preached by an angel. And then, it’s been preached by almost every preacher who has ever preached since that time, including the great Charles Spurgeon.
Matthew 28: 2 will be our key verse, let’s read this key verse first. “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.”
Now, let’s go back and read the first eight verses
Let’s read also in I Corinthians 15:19-21 “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.”
That early morning, as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went toward the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus with sweet smelling scents and oils and ointments, as was customary in that day, there was a big problem they worried about. And that’s the theme of our message — the stone rolled away. They knew there was a big stone in the way. And these two women knew they would be unable to move the stone. And they were worried about it.
In Mark 16:3 it tells us about their worries relative to this problem where they said, “And they said among themselves, who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?” For it was a very great stone. Before they even got there, they were thinking and wondering about the stone. Who would roll it away? And they said among themselves on the way to the tomb, “Who shall roll us away the stone?”
But when you get right down to it, this is the question of all mankind. This very same question that they asked is the great question of all mankind through the ages, “Who shall roll us away the stone?”
In man’s path to eternal life there lies a huge stone. This stone is one which completely blocks the road and there’s no way man himself can remove the stone. But who can remove the barrier? That’s the question. Philosophy tried, and still tries, but has never succeeded in removing the stone from the door.
This stone of doubt, uncertainty and unbelief has stopped all progress for man on the path towards eternal life. The question still remained, “Who could remove the awful stone and bring life and immortality to light?” Philosophy can’t do it. Man can’t do it by any means. And yet, there is a terrible and urgent need for the stone to be removed. Generation after generation, millions were swallowed up by the grave. And yet, who could give any hope beyond the grave? There’s the stone; it’s in the way. Who could give any hope beyond the grave? Resurrection was whispered of, but men could not believe it.
But to these women, there were three difficulties:
(1)The stone was huge. They spoke of this as we saw in Mark 16:3
(2) Another great difficulty was that it was stamped with Caesar’s seal. It could not be moved under penalty of the law.
(3) And it was guarded to prevent it from being moved.
Mankind has always had these same three problems. Three serious difficulties in the way to life and immortality. First, death was a stone not to be moved by man’s power, as we’ve already said. Second, death was a penalty for offenses against God’s law. And third, the red seal of God’s vengeance was upon it. So, we can see that this is an almost exact parallel to the reality at the time of the sealing of the tomb. But still the question remains, “Who could roll the stone away?” And they found the answer! They found the answer when they saw that the tomb was empty. There is another life! Bodies will live again, because Jesus lives!
Isn’t it wonderful to think about it and to know that because He lives, we shall live forever? The believer’s grave is the doorway to immortality. Let’s think of the resurrection of Christ in two main divisions. First, think about it as the stone rolled away preaching to us. And then, in the second instance, let us hear the angel’s message from his pulpit of stone.
Remember, I told you in the beginning that this message was first preached by an angel. But first, let the stone preach to us. Let’s think about it and let the stone speak.
First, the stone was the door of the sepulchre. In other words, the door of death’s house was removed. We will enter death; no doubt about it. All of us, some day, will enter or pass through death.
But though we know death comes, we can rejoice because we shall not be shut in — the door has been removed, the stone rolled away.
Christ was committed to the grave as a hostage. The Scripture says He died for our sins. But, thank God, it also says He rose for our justification. Because of the resurrection, we have absolute proof of His full payment of the sin debt. In the empty tomb, we see sin put away. We see death destroyed. Just as these women came and saw the stone had been removed and the tomb was empty. Death has become the doorway to heaven.
Now, let us continue to let the stone preach to us. Consider the stone as a trophy of Christ’s victory. And this certainly is a fabulous trophy of victory. Evil men thought they had destroyed Jesus. They cackled in glee when He was sealed in the tomb. They thought they had eliminated this troublemaker. But the grave could not hold Him. His heel was bruised by the serpent. But on the resurrection morning, He crushed the old serpent’s head as scripture recorded he would in Gen. 3:15 “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
First Corinthians 15, beginning with verse 54, says: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Now, as we continue to look at the stone, let’s think of the stone as a foundation laid. This comes after we have thought, as we just did, about the stone as a trophy of Christ’s victory. Let us set this stone up in faith’s eye as a memorial to conquering man’s last enemy, death. That is the trophy Christ won! Remember the stone as a foundation laid. This is the stone on which our faith is built. The key stone of the Christian faith is the resurrection of Jesus, proven by the stone rolled away and the empty tomb. Without it, there would be no Christian faith.
Without the resurrection, our faith is just a false and deceitful thing, like man’s religions all around us. But with the resurrection, ours is the true and living faith. 1 Corinthians 15:17 says this, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” So, without the resurrection, there is no salvation. Our faith is vain. But we know Christ lives, as the angel proclaimed in this message. The resurrection of Christ is better established than perhaps any other fact in history. Some things in history we have been told bear no resemblance to truth. Men often revise “history.” And yet the resurrection of Christ is completely established in history.
His resurrection absolutely proved the sufficiency of His atonement for sin. We can build our lives on the sure foundation of the risen Christ, the living stone. There’s no other foundation that matters. There is no other satisfactory basis for Christians. No foundation will stand the test except that of the living stone.
Death is swallowed up in victory, as we read in I Corinthians 15:54-55. “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
Now, in Matthew 28: 6 what did the angel say? “He is not here: for he is risen.”
Let the stone preach more. The stone was a boundary. Stones are often used as boundary markers. This stone was a boundary. There it lies with the angel sitting upon it. You say, “How are you getting a boundary out of that?” On one side, we see the guards frightened and like dead men. But on the other side, what do we see? We see trembling women to whom the angel speaks and says, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus.”
The stone became the boundary between the living and the dead, between seekers and haters, between friends and foes of Christ. To His enemies, it became a stone of stumbling, a rock of offense. But to God’s people it’s the head stone of the corner. It has become our victory in Christ, and our greatest delight.
We could use this illustration from the Old Testament. Remember the pillar of smoke and the pillar of fire between Israel and Egypt? And this pillar dividing between Israel and the pursuing Egyptians, how did it work?
On the side of the Egyptians, it was darkness and a hindrance. But on the side of the Israelites, it was the brightness of God and a light which helped them on their way to the Promised Land. In the same way this stone becomes a boundary.
The resurrection is a doctrine of fear and horror to unbelievers. You say, “Why?” Well, what would they like to believe? The wicked who refuse Christ would prefer to believe this life is all there is. Therefore, the resurrection is a doctrine of terror to them. If they continually reject Christ, they don’t want any resurrection. They’d rather it just be ended when this life ends.
But to those on the right side of the stone, the doctrine of the resurrection is a doctrine of joy and victory. We know that no matter what happens here, we shall achieve final and complete victory in Christ, when we have that perfect body, in that perfect land, on the other side of the stone.
The question is, “Do you trust fully in Christ today?” God’s angel speaks to you, “Fear not ye,” if you fully trust in Christ. But if you believe not, the message is, “Tremble with fear, for the resurrection is true and judgment comes to all men.” Hebrews 9:27 says,“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”
We’ve listened to the stone preach. Now let’s hear what the angel has to say, let’s listen to his message.
“Fear not ye.” The heart of the risen Savior’s gospel is in that little short message, isn’t it? “Fear not ye: for he is risen.” You who would be saved, seek Jesus. “Fear not ye.” That’s the message. That’s the spoken message of the angel. Though the earth quake, the earth be burned with fire, as it will be some day, though you see the angel come down, though you go to a tomb, yet, fear not, you cannot die. Believers have eternal life in Christ.
Nothing on Earth, in heaven or in hell can make the one who comes to Jesus in faith, trusting Him, to fear. The angel plainly said, “Fear not ye.” But what was the rest of his message? He said some more, didn’t he? “Fear not ye: for I know.” Our Father knows about our fears! Yes, our Father knows, as did the angel, our fears and problems. And the rest of his message — let’s read all of it together. “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.” That’s the heart of the message of the angel.
The world had crucified Jesus. But the believers were still clinging to Him in loving loyalty! They had come to anoint His body. He is not here, for He is risen. Sinner, right now, today, Jesus is living. Today He’s ready, willing and able to save all who come to Him in repentance and faith. Men need to go and look at the empty tomb through the eyes of faith. It is proof that He is living and can still save today and keep us saved when we receive Him.