Main Text: John 11:38-39
38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
There are two stones mentioned in the Bible, besides the five that David picked up going after Goliath, two stones that sit in the way of victory and blessing for every one of us. To receive all that God has for us, these stones need to first be rolled away.
The first stone is mentioned in the text we just looked at. This passage, along with several verses before and after it, tell the story of Lazarus and his resurrection.
11 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” 12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” 16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. 19 And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. 20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” 28 And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” 29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.” 32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” 37 And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”
In this story, Jesus arrives on the scene to find those whom He was close to grieving over the loss of their brother, Lazarus. They were convinced that if Jesus had come sooner, then their brother would not have died, but now they were offended at Jesus who could have easily healed their brother if He had come as soon as He heard of Lazarus’ sickness. They were offended.
You need to remember something. Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, were very good friends of Jesus. They may or may not have been physically following Jesus from town to town, but they were followers of Jesus. And, Scripture makes it very clear that Jesus loved them. He loved, and still loves, everyone, but His love for them was special, otherwise Scripture would not have made a point in mentioning that. How hurt and offended would you be if someone you loved dearly, someone you thought loved you the same way, did not come running to help you as quickly as possible or in the way you thought they should have if they truly loved you so much?
How many times have you been offended because Jesus didn’t respond to your prayers as soon as you thought He could and should have? After all, we faithfully attend church, we’re faithful with our tithes and offerings, and we help at the church as much as we can. Is it too much to ask after all we do? Shouldn’t those things we’ve done make our requests a priority with God? And now you’re offended.
Yes, Jesus could have gone sooner and healed Lazarus, but the Father had bigger and better plans for this situation. When Jesus finally arrived on the scene, everyone thought that Jesus had come too late to help in any way. How many times do we think the same way when Jesus hasn’t responded to our requests for help in our circumstances, and now it seems like it’s too late for Him to do anything on our part? Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt that a situation got to the point that it was too late for Jesus to help or do anything? (scene in Facing the Giants; another team cheated)
When Jesus finally arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days, and the stone was in front of his tomb. Jesus knew that Lazarus would be raised from the dead, but He also knew there was a stone that would prevent Lazarus from appearing to everyone else. The stone had to be moved. But Jesus, the Son of God, God, the creator of the ends of the universe, wasn’t about to move it, or even help move it. The stone can represent things in our lives that block and prevent the manifestation of victories and blessings God has available for us. If the stone wasn’t moved, Lazarus would not have come out of the tomb though he may have been resurrected from the dead. How many times has God resurrected things in our lives only for them to never be seen or experienced because we hadn’t first removed the stone in our lives?
**** Things that can represent a stone in our lives ****
- Doubt and unbelief
- Israelites not allowed to enter the promised land due to doubt and unbelief
- Jesus was unable to do much of anything in His hometown due to their unbelief
- What will others think
- What if God doesn’t come through
- Will I look like a fool?
- Forgiveness that needs to be sought
- Forgiveness that needs to be given
- Disobedience and rebellion (towards God and those in authority over us)
- Sexual immorality in all its many forms
- Gossip, backbiting, slander and profanity
- Attitudes and mindsets, “stinkin thinkin”
As Christians, our hope of seeing God’s hand move on our behalf when we need Him to is realized and manifested after we roll away the stone, or stones, that are keeping them from being seen. When God shows us something in our life that needs to change or be removed, are we just as determined to obey Him in that area as we are in other areas where we exercise great determination and energy to accomplish? Or are we apathetic about it hoping God will move it for us, or that He will still move on our behalf with minimal or no effort on our part? The very fact that Jesus shows us what to change in our lives as we grieve over a need we may have, that should energize hope within us that God is going to move on our behalf, but we still need to first roll the stone away.
To move the stone, as big and heavy as they were, would require strength and determination, or in other words, it would require work. In the same way, the stone or stones God wants us to remove in our lives may take both work and determination on our part to complete the task at hand. And like we read about Lazarus, where the results were more than worth the effort it took to remove it, even so the work it may take to remove the stone or stones in our lives will be nothing in comparison to what God will do afterwards. Do we really want the victory and blessings we are seeking God for?
The second stone is mentioned in all four of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The story as recorded in each of the Gospels centers around the stone that was placed in front of Jesus’ grave, and that the stone had been rolled away.
Matthew 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-8; John 20:1
1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”
In this historical account of the greatest event in human history, recorded or otherwise, God by way of an angel He sent out, is the one that rolls the stone away. We often mention this from the idea that the stone had to be removed to prove Jesus wasn’t there, but perhaps there is another reason for this? Like the account of Lazarus being raised from the dead, the stone had to be removed for all to see, but how the stone was moved in both situations is important to know and understand. When we read of Lazarus being raised from the dead, even though Jesus was there on the scene, it was by His command that others had to move the stone.
In the case of the resurrection of Jesus, God was the one that moved the stone, and that is a very important point to understand. The resurrection of Jesus is one of the essential elements of the salvation process, for without His resurrection there would not be any hope of eternal life in heaven. When we understand that, it is then that we can understand why it was so important that God moved the stone, as that further represents that fact that salvation was not dependent upon humanity in any way. It was through God and the death and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf, that salvation is made possible for us. There was nothing on our part that we could say or do to make that happen, which further reinforces the passage that lets us know that we in no way can earn or be worthy of salvation.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9 that salvation is not offered to us because we deserve it or because of any works we have done of ourselves. It is a gift of God, and God makes it clear in that He’s the one that moved the stone. He is the one that makes it available to all.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
No matter what is in your past, or where you are at in the present, the fact that God, Himself, rolled away the stone from in front of Jesus’ tomb should cause hope to rise within you of better days and years ahead if you will accept what Jesus did on your behalf, and embrace everything about Him with passion and determination.
God isn’t asking or requiring you or anyone else to roll away the stone from in front of Christ’ tomb. There is nothing needed on your part to make that happen. You don’t have to, as some would say, “get your act together first before coming to Jesus”. As others would say, “you don’t have to take a shower before getting cleaned up by Jesus”. The tomb is wide open for all to see. People go there by the tens of thousands to see for themselves.
Your past doesn’t determine whether the stone is blocking you from seeing the risen Jesus. The stone is gone making the path to Jesus easy, but you must walk that path to Him.
What is in your past?
- Sexual immorality?
- An abuser of others (mental, emotional, physical, sexual)?
- A thief?
- A liar (dishonesty and deception)?
- A victim of abuse (sexual, mental, emotional, physical)?
In His death by crucifixion on a cross, Jesus paid a price enough to cancel out our debt of sin against God, a debt that we could never in ourselves pay. In His resurrection from the dead, Jesus made the hope of eternal life in heaven a reality for all who accept what He did on their behalf and surrender their lives to Him and for His purposes.
Are you in need of hope in your life? Are you in need of God to move supernaturally on your behalf in some way? Are you needing to be set free of something, including sin and the penalty of sin? If you haven’t accepted Jesus as savior and Lord of your life, God has a hope for you to embrace that is found in Jesus’ death and resurrection, evidenced in His moving the stone away for you.