The Angel Sat on the Stone
Dr. Jim Denison
Murdo MacDonald was a prisoner of war in Germany and chaplain to American soldiers. After the war was over he told how he learned of the Normandy invasion. Early on D-Day, he was awakened and told that a Scotsman in the British prisoner-of-war camp wanted to see him. MacDonald ran to the barbed wire that separated the two camps. The Scot, who was in touch with the BBC by underground radio, had often given updates on the war to MacDonald in Gaelic, which the two men understood, but the German guards standing beside them did not.
On this early morning, the Scotsman spoke a brief sentence in Gaelic, just a few words which meant, “They have come.” MacDonald ran back to the American camp and spread the news: “They have come … they have come.” And everyone knew the Allies had landed at Normandy. The reaction was incredible. Men jumped and shouted, hugged each other, even rolled on the ground.
They were still captives, but now they were certain of their deliverance. All because of three words: “They have come.”
Today we’ll focus upon three words which offer us even greater hope, help, joy, victory: “He has risen.” Let’s see why they were spoken, and why they matter so much to our lives and our fears this hour.
From death to life
The angel said, “Come and see the place where he lay” (v. 6). Let’s come together to this place, this tomb, this hallowed cave in a holy rock. Why?
It is the tomb of the greatest man who ever lived. If we would venerate the tomb of John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King, Jr., surely we would want to honor and respect the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and Savior of the world.
It is the tomb of your best friend. If we would honor the tomb of our wife or husband, our child, our parent, our dear friend, surely we would want to honor and respect the tomb of the One who died to pay for our sins and give us eternal life.
It is a real place. We know that this tomb is real, even without the testimony of Scripture. Thallus the Samaritan in A.D. 52 described the darkness of Jesus’ crucifixion. Mara bar Serapion before A.D. 70 documented his death. Tacitus, the greatest of the ancient Roman historians, recorded that “Chrestus … suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.” And Flavius Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, documented Jesus’ death clearly.
And so the angels bid us come. They invite us to this holy place.
What kind of tomb is it?
It is a costly tomb. It cost Joseph of Arimathea and his family a great deal of money. It cost Jesus far more—his life on the cross. It cost his Father as much—the pain of watching his Son be tortured and executed.
It is a borrowed tomb. It was borrowed from Joseph, and appropriately, for the One who was laid there borrowed our sins and our death on the cross.
It was cut in a rock, so there could be no fraud here. No back door. No way out except past the stone and the guards and the glare of public scrutiny. And appropriately so. But this rock and its stone were but a pebble compared with the Rock of Ages which lay inside.
And so the women come to finish anointing the dead body of Jesus (Mark 16:1). But they are shocked at what they find, and we with them.
What do we see as we come?
We find that the rock is gone. There was a “violent” earthquake—a “mega” earthquake in the Greek. An angel of the Lord has come down from heaven, rolled aside this stone, and sat down on it.
He moved the stone, not so Christ could go out, but so we could come in. He is already gone from here. He was raised from death to life while the guards stood in futility outside, as the Roman government tried in vain to keep him in the tomb. He did not rise from the dead when the angel arrived—”he has risen, just as he said” (v. 6).
All the power of the world is powerless before him. Battle-hardened soldiers from the finest army the world has ever seen have fainted dead away. The ones assigned to guard the dead themselves appear dead while the dead one is alive!
His body is gone, with no natural explanation. The tomb is empty, the grave is left clutching the clothes which had enshrouded his dead corpse, because he is alive.
Whom do we meet as we come?
We meet the angel of the Lord, who bids us calm our fears: “Do not be afraid” (v. 5). Literally, “Stop being afraid.”
Then we see the Risen Lord himself! “Greetings,” he says. Literally, “Rejoice!” We can clasp his feet, for his resurrection is real. We can worship him, for in grace he receives our faith (v. 9).
“Do not be afraid,” he says, as the angel had. “Stop being afraid.” Be not afraid, ever again, for he is alive.
What do we do after we have come?
“Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee” (v. 10). How gracious of him—to call those who have forsaken him at the cross his “brothers.”
And Mark 16:7 adds these words: “Go tell his disciples and Peter.” Peter, who denied him three times, now invited specifically to come, so that he would know he was included in the grace and mercy of our Lord.
Tell them about the risen Christ: “there they will see me.” And through them, the world.
Come and see the place where he lay. We’re so glad they did. And so honored to join them.
Are you afraid of death?
Now, let’s see why this event is so relevant to our lives and our fears today. In every survey taken of the fears Americans feel, death is always at the top of the list. Our greatest fear is that we will die, or that those we love will die.