God Rolled Away the Stone, Not the Scars

Matthew 28:2 – And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.”

I came across a powerful podcast today that really helped me. The title of the Podcast series is “The Bible Never Said That” by Clara Donahue. The episode I listened to was “God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle.”

Among the many profound points she made was one about how Jesus was raised from the dead and given life, but He still had the wounds and scars.

Please think about that, and meditate on it. Why did God raise Jesus from the dead, give him new blood and water, allow all His organs and internal functions to work, but still leave the wounds? The wounds were a testimony to the power of God. Jesus could say to His disciples, “Place your hands in the wounds and believe.” The wounds were a witness to what God did through Jesus.

Here is a quote from Clara Donahue in the podcast, “I feel some of my own scars pulling tight on the tender healing of my soul, and I wish they would just disappear.” Amen. But those scars, she explained, are used by God to show His power, grace and love to others.

Your wounds are not a badge to claim victim-hood through life. Those wounds are a witness to the power of God and His grace. What has God done through you? Look at the scars. Consider how God has led you through your own valleys of the shadow of death and brought you out on the other side.

John 20:20 – When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

John 20:27-28 – Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Worse Things Than Death

There are worse things than death.

We are studying the book of Revelation in our congregation right now. There are a couple of examples we found showing folks wishing for death because they feared something much worse. Specifically, we saw that people feared facing the wrath of God and His punishment more than they feared death.

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
(Revelation 6:15-17)

And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.
(Revelation 9:6)

In fact, the book of Revelation talks about a “second death” that is far worse than dying the first time. The Christian will face death like every other person on this earth, but God delivers His people from the second death, which is eternal punishment. Again, there are worse things than dying.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
(Revelation 2:11)

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
(Revelation 20:14-15)

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!
(Luke 12:4-5)

For today, remember that death is not the end, nor is it the worst thing that could ever happen. The Christian has hope and a promise of eternal life with Jesus. Dying is just the beginning for the one not in Christ. Dying is as bad as it gets for the Christian, after that we are with Jesus.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
(Philippians 1:21-23)

Jesus and Smyrna

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.'”
(Revelation 2:8-11)

Here are some things I see Jesus saying in this short but powerful note to the church in Smyrna.

  • You are in poverty, but you are rich, because in Me you have everything.
  • You will suffer, maybe even die for your faith, but you will rise again, because I died and came to life.
  • You will be thrown into prison, but I will give you a crown of life. In Me you are free and reign as kings and priests. The world will try to take everything away from you, but I give you eternal rewards.
  •  You will face great fear, but remember that this time of persecution is short, and I will be with you through it. I know your tribulation. The Devil and those who follow him only have limited power for a limited time. I am the First and the Last.

Let’s take this encouragement from Jesus with us today.

Mary!

Mary Magdalene had seen Jesus die. She witnessed Jesus’ body taken down from the cross, and she observed Jesus being buried (Matthew 27:55-66). When she same to the tomb Sunday morning, she was looking for the body of Jesus. Three times in John 20, it states that Mary was looking for what happened to Jesus’ body (John 20:2,13,15).

When Jesus came to her and began talking to her, she did not recognize him as Jesus, but “supposed” Him to be the gardener. Here is one of the most tender moments of the Bible. Jesus breaks through all her grief, her expectations and assumptions, her focus on her task, etc., and says, “Mary!”

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
(John 20:14-16)

What an incredible moment for Mary! She was so focused on finding the body of Jesus that she did not see Jesus right in front of her.

I wonder how this may happen for us in our lives today. Can our assumptions or expectations cloud our eyes to the truth before us? Is it possible to be so overcome by grief that we forget the promises God has repeatedly given us through His word? Do we get so focused on a task that we don’t see the bigger picture? Does Jesus have to at times reach through the cloud of all our doubts, grief and fear and renew our faith and focus on Him?  Yes to all the above!

Hopefully we can take a lesson today from Mary Magdalene and Jesus. Thank you Lord, for showing us this example of Mary, and thank you for patiently loving us through those times when our faith and focus needs some renewal!