Let’s turn now to Matthew chapter 28. 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. And now it’s being preached by another angel — OOPS! — I got that mixed up a little bit at the last. Anyway, we want to preach one that was first preached by an angel.
Matthew 28, verse 2 will be our key verse and then, we’ll go back and read verses 1 through 8 — 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. “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 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. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.”
Let’s read also in I Corinthians chapter 15. First Corinthians 15, verses 19, 20 and 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. That was a big problem. 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?” It’s recorded for our benefit in Mark 16:3.
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 happiness, 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. He can never remove it himself. But who can remove the barrier? That’s the question. Who can remove the bar? Philosophy tried, and still tries, but has never succeeded in removing the stone from the door.
The stone of doubt, uncertainty and unbelief has stopped all progress for man on the path towards happiness. 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. How can it be removed. 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, 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 us think about it and let the stone speak. Habbakuk 2:11 says “the stone shall cry out, . . . and the beam shall answer it.” and other inanimate objects are spoken of as rejoicing, clapping their hands, skipping like lambs, etc., in the Bible. So, let us hear six messages from this stone.
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.
At the rapture we pass death in a twinkling. But that is death because it’s a change from this mortal body to that immortal body. But though we know death comes, we rejoice because we shall not be shut in — the door has been removed, the stone rolled away.
Our divine Sampson, like the one at Gaza, arose early in the morning, taking away the gates of Gaza, posts and all. Remember the story, how Sampson went early in the morning to the gates of Gaza, huge things with monstrous, big posts to support them. He took up the whole set of gates, including the gate posts and threw them away in the wilderness. Our divine Sampson has done the same. He’s taken out the gate of death, as Sampson took out the gates of Gaza, posts, bar and all. Christ removed the door locking men in death.
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, like crunching a snake’s head under your 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 of conquering man’s last enemy, death. That is the trophy Christ won! Remember the stone as a foundation laid. The stone on which our faith is built. The key stone of the Christian faith is the resurrection of Jesus. 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. First 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.
Another lesson from the stone is that rest is here provided. The fact that the stone is rolled away shows us rest is provided. You say, “Well, how do you get that from this little passage?” Well, the stone was rolled away. Christ arose. And then, what happened? The angel sat down on the stone. Matthew 11:28 through 30 tells us about this rest provided by Christ. “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls.” Rest is provided — the angel sat on the stone.
The angel rested upon the stone and so can you. You can rest on this living stone. The angel softly whispers, “Come hither and rest.” No possible safer rest for the soul than the fact that our Savior has risen from the dead. What greater rest could there be? What surer rest could be possible? What greater peace could there be in our heart, than to know that “He lives, He lives,” as we sing in the songs. Come, rest upon the stone, death has lost its terror, for Jesus has risen.
Death is swallowed up in victory, as we read to you earlier in I Corinthians 15:54 and 55. Now, from verse 6 of what we read in Matthew 28, what did the angel say? “He is not here: for he is risen.”
Let the stone preach more. The stone was a boundary appointed. Stones are often used as boundary markers. This stone was a boundary appointed. 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. Our victory in Christ, and our greatest delight. It certainly is a great boundary, is it not?
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, and at the end of it, finished. 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 today trust fully in Christ?” 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 9:22 says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
Now, I’ll go a little further, still allowing the stone to preach to us. This stone can be seen also as foreshadowing ruin. We could think of an illustration such as this: we might think of the works of the devil as a great and strong castle built of mighty stone. Following this illustration, let’s think of it this way; during His life on Earth, Christ sounded the alarm at the castle of the devil. The big, stone castle of Satan. The Savior dislodged a few stones here and there from the castle of the devil. The sick were healed. The dead were raised. The poor had the gospel preached to them.
But on the resurrection morning, the whole castle shook and trembled. Breaks appeared in the walls. One huge cornerstone on which the castle greatly depended was lifted out and hurled to the ground. Jesus ripped the great granite stone of death from its position as a token that every stone of Satan’s castle will follow. The stone rolled away gives us glorious hope. We have but to march on, like the host around Jericho. Sound the trumpet at God’s command, in the sure and certain knowledge that the walls of Satan’s castle will come tumbling down flat, as Jericho’s did, in God’s own time.
We’ve listened to the stone preach now. Let’s hear quickly what the angel has to say. First, the angel preached in symbol. He preached symbolically to us, but preached in symbols only to the keepers. No words were spoken to the keepers. All they saw out of it was symbolic. They saw only the symbols but they heard no words. His face was like lightning, his raiment white as snow. And no doubt, these keepers of the tomb saw this, but they didn’t get any real message from the angel.
The keepers quaked and trembled and became as dead men, as the Bible tells us. But, they did not believe as is shown later. If you read further, you’ll see that these same men went out and fixed up a lie with the chief priests about the resurrection of Christ! They did not believe. Though they quaked and trembled and became as dead men.
Men come to salvation, not by seeing the symbols, but they come to salvation by hearing the Word — not by some symbolic message, but they come by the hearing of the Word and drawing of the Spirit.
The angel preached in words. We said, first, he preached in symbol. That was to the rejecters, to the keepers of the tomb. But he also preached in words. And now, 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 or need 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, as the angel told the women. It is proof that He is living and can still save today and keep us saved, when we receive Him.