It's Easter…Wait For the Stone to Roll

"But Dad, I need to wait for the stone to roll!" Meghan was five. Micah, nearing ten. Easter was on the way and we were having some family-bonding time. That meant, the poor kids got stuck sittin' on the sofa with dad, while he watched the last two hours of the film Jesus of Nazareth. Meghan's eyes were getting pretty heavy so I declared bedtime. Now she'd already sat through Palm Sunday, the teaching in the temple, the last supper, the prayers in the garden, the trial, and as much of the cross as she could take. But when I wanted to put her to bed, this was her reply, "But Dad, I need to wait for the stone to roll!"

Twenty years later I sat in the Crown Theater in Annapolis at the end of Gibson's movie, The Passion. It was only the second day of public showings. There were a few children there. (This is not a child's film. These kids sat through two hours much harder than Meghan and Micah long years ago.) Jesus has died, is buried. Fade to black. In the film, if not the story, there's a moment you're not exactly sure what's next. EXACTLY THEN, a boy about ten, three rows in front of me and to the left, whispers to his mother, as only a ten year old can in such moments. (I wasn't the only one who overheard!). "Now comes the good part!" After over two hours of unrequited brutality, sure enough, the picture returns for 15 to 18 seconds, the stone has been rolled away, and we see Jesus resurrected! Years ago, Meghan was right. Days ago, this young boy, too. "Wait for the stone to roll. Now comes the good part." IT'S EASTER, and God has raised up Jesus from the dead! Alleluia! So…

Here's our Easter plea. Don't leave. Don't put your kids to bed, 'til you see this Easter as God's victory over sin and Satan's power. It's just past the crack-of-dawn that Mary discovers the seal of the tomb is shattered. She bolts back to Peter and John who come-on-the-run to see. Oh, they can believe that Jesus is no longer there, alright. But they don't seem to get it that he's gotten up and gone. They seem to think his remains have been removed. Somehow the stone's been moved but not rolled away for them. Peter and John go home. Only Mary stays. This wonderful exchange takes place between Mary Magdalene and the Messiah. He calls her by name. Now she gets it. The stone is really rolled-back-all-the-way for her. And she cannot wait to go and tell what God has done in raising up Jesus.

Do you see the process here? She gets up with the sun on a new day. But she still believes in the crush of the cross. 'Still believes sin has power and Satan, authority. Suffering is still the order of the day. And somehow we are still separated from God. By the sheer cussedness inside us and the hissing all around us. Evil still tempts. Terror still tests. The thing is: Mary gets up on that first Easter like most of us do this Easter! But then Jesus rolls away the rock that's been holding her down-on-the-ground like a paperweight! If Jesus can get up from the knockout punch of old Pontius Pilate, why the power of the powers-that-be is broken! If the risen Jesus calls you by name, Satan suffers a senior moment and can remember our name no more. 'No sense bein' fearful anymore, because the Risen Christ is the very vision of perfect love, and according to the Word of God, "Perfect love casts out all fear!" Mary's on her way with a mission. To tell what she has heard and seen. Hey, on Easter this very thing happens to the best of us. But even better, it happens to the rest of us. "Jesus has appeared once and for all at the end of this age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself." (Heb 9: 26) And he has won the victory.

O, don't leave. Don't put your kids to bed, 'til you see this Easter as God's victory over death itself. Maybe the earliest Easter hymn the church ever sang was written by Paul, "Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?" (I Cor. 15: 54-55) It's way more than the roll of the kettledrums that stirs us when we sing, "Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my savior, he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord! Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o'er his foes; he arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever with his saints to reign." He wins the victory; we take the prize. Notice that phrase, with the saints to reign. The saints. Those that accept this Jesus, who determine to turn from their old life and walk from now on in his holy ways, who want to look and be like Jesus. You and I have a part in this. We have another song to sing, "O Lord, I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching' in!" Easter is a shared defeat of death. I like what my fellow pastor, George Williamson, reports. He was new to the church. One Sunday greeting his members, two of the oldest asked him, "Reverend, when were you saved?" expecting to hear of that personal moment when he first came to know Jesus. Instead, the poor pastor couldn't speak a word. At least, not before his 7 year old son looked up at the ladies and said, "About 2000 years ago." (New Horizons '01 as recalled) Both the women and the child were right. There is a subjective, personal, intimate moment when you and I throw off whatever keeps us from him. If you haven't claimed him yet, let this be your day. Your intimate, everlasting Easter! But the truth is that Jesus really did make "a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world," long, long ago. Know this and there is no death! Grace Filer can die in my arms with a smile on her unconscious face because she knows the arms into which she is passing. Blanche Brothers can leave this earth looking her daughter in the eye, aware as she hasn't been in hours, saying, "I'll be alright." Mrs. Green can caution me, her 27 year old pastor, "Don't try to preach Vernon into heaven at the funeral, Rev., Jesus is gonna take care of that all by himself." Moments like this are worth stayin' up for. Meg was right. Wait for the stone to roll! O, Easter alleluias!

Stay here; keep the kids up 'til you see this Easter gives us an advocate with God the Father. In this world. And the next. A Jesus who won't die forever is a Savior who won't give up on you any time at all. 'Feel alone? 'Think nobody knows? 'Know you're guilty, but too proud to admit it? 'Shake your head at the headlines and wonder if there's any way out of the messes we're in? 'Just wish, hope, pray, there's somebody who will put in a good word for good, and a good word for you? Well Easter is the day we learn that, "…if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the one to make it right with God over our sins, and not ours only, but also over the sins of the whole world." (I John 2: 1-2) My 88-year-old neighbor John Licht has an Easter lesson for us all. "Pastor Ken, I'll tell you why I feel so free. It took a long time comin'. But now I know that when I die, I will not go to God alone. Jesus will get up from his throne, come walkin' to the corner of Main Street and Golden Ave., take me by the hand and lead me to my Maker. And when God asks, 'John, what have you got to say for yourself,' and I shrink back, Jesus himself will speak for me and plead my case. In fact, he'll end up sayin', 'Why, Lord, I'd lay down my life for Brother John.' And I will say, 'You already have.' And God will say to me, 'Come, and I will give you rest.'" Friends, don't go to bed, leave the movie or move away from Easter 'til the stone rolls and you know in your heart Jesus is ready to speak for you today! It will change your life. And your eternity.

Please, don't leave or put your kids to bed, 'til you see this Easter as assurance there is a holy presence forever in your life. I think, I know, allot of us are allot like Mary Magdalene. When Jesus heals and helps us, it is a wonder to our lives. His teachings guide and inspire us. His suffering on the cross forgives us of our sin, especially when we realize he chose it in our behalf. His dying reduces us to tears. But all of this is not enough. No, we need that moment, that sweet spot in the garden all the fragrant flowers cannot substitute or reproduce. We need that moment when the stone rolls and the Lord speaks our name, and we see him as he is. ALIVE! IN OUR LIFE. IN OUR WORLD. PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR, OUR JUDGE AND OUR HOPE. OUR STRENGTH AND OUR REDEEMER!

As is often so, our kids are right. Now for the good part. Wait for the stone to roll! A blessed Easter to you all!

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