See Where They Laid Him

Resurrection of Our Lord
Mark 16:1-8
April 16, 2017
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO

When the Sabbath was over, Mary from Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices to go and anoint Jesus. On Sunday they were coming to the grave very early when the sun was up. “Who is going to roll away the stone for us from the door of the grave?” they asked one another; it was very large. But when they looked up, they saw the stone had been rolled back. As they went into the grave, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting at the right. And they were amazed. “Don’t be amazed,” he told them. “You’re looking for Jesus from Nazareth, Who was crucified. He has risen. He is not here. See the place where He was laid. But go and tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see Him, as He told you.’” They went out and hurried away from the grave, because they were trembling and bewildered. They were so frightened they didn’t tell anyone anything.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the name of + Jesus.

2.

The stone in front of the tomb of Jesus is a problem for the skeptic. Although Mark earlier reports that Joseph of Arimathea “took the body down, wrapped it in the linen, and laid it in a grave that had been cut in the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the grave,” we shouldn’t get the impression that poor Joseph was left to heave a giant stone over the tomb all by himself. Often, the Bible will use a figure of speech by saying that a person did something, when he actually caused it to be done. So Joseph made arrangements for, or oversaw the placing of this large stone in front of Jesus’ grave.

The women were witnesses to this impromptu burial, and wanted to come back and do it properly, but they were concerned about this stone. “Who is going to roll away the stone for us from the door of the grave?” they asked one another; it was very large. What’s more, they were probably unaware of the additional security measures put in place because of the fear that the disciples might try to fake a resurrection. Matthew records this in his Gospel:

The next day — the day after the day of preparation — the ruling priests and Pharisees met with Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember how that deceiver said while he was still alive, ‘On the third day I will rise.’ Now, order the grave to be made secure until the third day, or his disciples may come and steal him and tell the people, ‘He rose from the dead.’ Then the last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate told them; “go and make it as secure as you know how.” So they went and secured the grave by sealing the stone and setting the guard (Mt 27:62-66).

So it wasn’t just that the women were too dainty to handle a big rock—there was some serious security at the tomb of Jesus. Mark, with his characteristic brevity, doesn’t include all the details; it’s like he can’t wait to get to the point. But Matthew records how this monolithic obstacle became a none-issue. After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary from Magdala and the other Mary went to look at the grave. There was a great earthquake. An angel of the Lord came down from heaven, went and rolled the stone away, and sat on it. He was as bright as lightning, and his clothes were as white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him they shook and became like dead men (Mt 28:1-4).

But the remarkable thing is that Jesus is already gone by the time that all of this happens. The angel rolls back the stone on an empty grave. “See the place where they laid Him,” he says. The risen and glorified Jesus had no need of an emergency exit. He simply left. The stone was rolled back so that the women could go in and see that the place was empty. Not only was it empty, but it was arranged neatly with the burial linens folded up. Like they were expecting guests.

And not just the women—the stone was rolled back to let the world in. Every denier of the resurrection of Jesus is forced to admit that the tomb is empty. But more importantly, the empty tomb is forever a testimony for believers that Jesus is risen. Some people claim that the empty cross is a symbol of the resurrection; no it’s the empty tomb. See the place where they laid him.

1.

The tomb is still vacant today. Of course, every so often a B-list cable company will run some special on finding the bones of Jesus or some such thing. Their scholarship is so full of holes it’s not even worth me spending time on them. They hardly even rise to the level of a hoax.

The tomb is still vacant today. In fact, there is a Church that was built on what is supposedly the grave of Jesus. That one is still empty. Whether people have identified the correct grave or not, we have something more sure than the physical evidence of an empty grave. We have the evidence of testimony from eyewitnesses, who not only saw the empty grave, but also encountered the now living former occupant of that grave.

If you get a chance to go to Jerusalem and visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, you may perhaps get a chance to duck your head into the empty tomb they have there, and it’s possible that you might even see for yourself the place where they laid Him. But that’s not really necessary.

The word of the apostolic testimony doesn’t just give you a glimpse into the empty tomb, but it makes you a partaker of it. St. Peter testified of the resurrection of Jesus in the first sermon of the Christian Church on Pentecost: God has raised this Jesus — we’re all witnesses of that (Acts 2:32). When the people asked what this means for them, Peter said, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will be given the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

Baptism, as St. Paul writes to the Romans, is your connection to the cross and empty tomb of Jesus. Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Now when we were baptized into His death, we were buried with Him so that as the Father’s glory raised Christ from the dead we, too, will live a new life. If we were united with Him in this likeness of His death, then we will be united with Him also in the likeness of His resurrection (Rom 6:3-5).

This vision is an even greater vision that that of the women early in the morning, because it doesn’t conclude with fear and trembling. In fact, it doesn’t end at all. It’s an eternal vision that even your own death cannot destroy. Because you are joined to the empty tomb of Jesus, your tomb will also be an empty tomb. That’s the vision given in the font, and it’s a sight to behold.

See the Place Where They Laid Him

In the name of + Jesus.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Jacob W Ehrhard
VD+MA