The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
Why was the stone rolled away? Certainly the Son of God did not need to have the stone moved to open his escape route. The Gospel writers make it clear that he had already risen and had already departed from the tomb.
There are a number of answers to the question. Each is correct and significant.
The tomb was sealed with the seal of Caesar’s appointed governor. Breaking the seal was a capital offense. If the disciples had done it, there would have been more crucifixions. Roman guards were there to insure that the stone remained in place and the seal was unbroken. This is one testimony to the resurrection.
The women came to the tomb to complete the required customs of a first-century burial. The Sabbath had passed. They brought spices for the body. They would mourn in the area outside the tomb, where others would join them, either to mourn or to comfort the mourners. That was the custom. Instead, those who arrived found the stone rolled back. They did not face the dilemma of a sealed tomb. They found no body. They heard the testimony of the angels. The tomb was empty. The mourners became the first witnesses to the resurrection.
The door of the tomb was the door between life and death. It was also a symbolic barrier between God and his people. And the opening to the tomb was not the only barrier that was broken between the death of Jesus and resurrection morning.
Another door was broken too. As Jesus died, the curtain of the Holy Place was torn. For more than a thousand years there was a symbolic door that kept the people from approaching their God. Only the high priest could pass through that door into the Holy Presence, and he only did it once each year. The Holy of Holies was God’s sacred place. Until Jesus paid the price, the door was closed, not because God was harsh and unapproachable, but because our loving God protected his children from certain death if they came into his presence. The price had not yet been paid. Only the intercession of the high priest was permitted.
Then Jesus came. He lived. He died. He rose. The price was paid in full.
How is more than a thousand years of religious tradition, practice, and institution changed? How is the coming of the Messiah and the death of God’s own Son realized? How can finite humans understand the profound reality of the moment in their time?
God tore the curtain. God opened the gateway. The barrier was torn apart, not so God’s presence could leave the Holy Place, but so that we could enter in. (Hebrews 10:19)
That is the amazing beauty of the parallel events of Jesus’ day of death and his day of resurrection. The Temple curtain was ripped open and the stone was rolled back to give us an open door to approach the holy presence of our God.
Are you called to lead? Bring your children and students to the open door. God has opened it for you and for them. There is a large welcome sign to greet us. It is only when we accept the invitation to enter that we find the amazing blessing of a relationship with our God and Savior.
The stone is rolled away. The curtain is torn apart. But until we accept the invitation to enter, we will not experience the glory of his presence.
Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services