Jesus was dead. He was consigned to the grave in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. And even though he had several times taught his disciples, and then by extension it is assumed, his inner core of followers, that he would rise again, they did not yet understand or believe that such would happen.
But that would not keep them from honoring and loving their fallen master and Lord. As a matter of fact, it was not their belief in the resurrection that took the two Marys to the crypt that morning (Mk. 16:1), it was their lack of it. They were not coming to see if he had risen. They were coming to minister to his body by anointing it with spices. In this they were showing their devotion to their fallen leader.
They came at the break of dawn on the first day of the week. This was the first opportunity they had in as much as the Sabbath had just ended at sundown on Saturday and such an excursion would have been forbidden on the Sabbath. And, they could not come at night, so they waited until the sun began to peek over the horizon on that first Sunday morning after the crucifixion.
Obviously, their spirits were full of love and devotion if not full of faith in the resurrection. But as they determined to come, there was a roadblock to them accomplishing their intended task. A great stone had been rolled in front of the tomb. This was to seal it and prevent any grave robbers or vandals from entering the vault. Ostensibly, a good number of strong men would be required to remove the stone. This was a source of consternation to the devotees of Jesus as they traveled to the burial chamber. Along the way they mused over the question of, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb…(for) it was very large” (Mk. 16:3-4). What would they do? Would there be men in the area sufficient to the task to whom they could appeal to roll back the stone? If so, would they even be willing to do so? It is unlikely that they knew that Roman guards had been assigned to make sure no one disturbed the grave. If they did, they would hardly have come that morning to anoint his body what with the entrance being guarded by soldiers.
Well, you know the story; how that when they arrived, the stone had already been rolled back. This unfolded the several events of that magical morning with angels attending and disciples rushing to the scene. It must have been something.
But the point of this devotional is not to upbraid those who should have believed. I scarcely think any of us would have fared any better. It is not to develop a theological basis for the resurrection. It is not to answer all the questions we might have of the resurrection narrative. No. It is instead to encourage every devoted follower of Jesus who desires to minister to their Lord and Master, that there is no hindrance or roadblock to your serving Christ that cannot be rolled away. There is no stone too large for God to remove so that you might fulfill your heart’s desire to honor, love, and serve him.
God’s servants have often been “put off” doing something extraordinary because of “stones” in the way. Moses was a prime example of this objecting three times to God’s calling him to lead his people out of Egyptian slavery. From “I don’t know your name” to “I am not eloquent of speech” to “they will not believe me”, all Moses could see was the giant stones in the way. But God just kept rolling those stones away until Moses saw that there was no reason left not to serve God in this way.
Believers today are much the same. They are quick to cite why it is they themselves cannot serve God in some given capacity; “I just don’t have the time”, “who would watch the kids”, “I’m not gifted enough” all become “stones” that block the entrance to your dedicated devotion to “anoint the body of Jesus” with your service. Listen, if you are intent enough… if you are committed enough, as these dear women were…God will roll away those stones somehow. Most of those excuses are just that… excuses… like Moses tried to float. They didn’t hold water for him, and they don’t for us either.
This year is still new enough to make a determination to visit the tomb and see if God will roll away the stone on a desire to serve him in a significant way. Extraordinary ministry is done by very ordinary people who have a serious commitment to honor and serve their risen Lord. God will leave “no stone unturned” in providing a way for you to do that, if you want.