Who Will Roll Away the Stone?
Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:3 NRSV) is a profound and subtle question in the closing lines of Mark’s gospel. Chapter 15 is the trial, crucifixion, and death of Jesus Christ; but by the time the reader gets to chapter 16, Easter has arrived and Jesus has been raised from the dead. There is no true post-resurrection appearance story in Mark. It is widely believed that Mark 16:9-20 was a later addition by believers who thought the gospel ended too abruptly and with too many question marks. The earliest copies of Mark’s gospel do not include these eleven verses that wrap the gospel up so nicely. In that earlier form, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome are simply left to wrestle with the reality of what they have seen and not seen. They are left to believe.
‘Who will roll away the stone for us?’ is a practical question at first glance. The tomb was blocked. It was sealed. As these women approach to anoint the body, they must gain access to the tomb. The living must gain access to the dead. The typical depiction of this scene includes a heavy disk-shaped rock as tall as a person that must be shoved away from the entrance. It is no easy task. To their surprise upon their arrival, the stone has already been rolled away. They see a young man, angel of the Lord, who explains the situation. He tells them “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.” (Mark 16:6 NRSV)
A deeper understanding of this story may contrast life and death, life and new life, death and resurrection, expectation and new reality, Good Friday and Easter, using the stone as the barrier between old and new. As much as these women have been changed by their encounter with Jesus Christ in his life, they will be even more profoundly changed by his resurrection. The change occurs as they cross the threshold of this gravestone.
As we approach the second half of Holy Week and journey through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday, I would challenge us to think deeply about the stones that keep blocking our entrance into Jesus’ tomb and resurrection. What gravestones bar us from new life, new hope, and the new reality of the resurrected Kingdom that Christ is bringing into this world? Where are we asking, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us?’ Where are we finding the resurrected Christ?
Rev. Tim Blodgett