Prayer and Fasting – April
Sitting on the Stone
This month begins our journey to Jerusalem and our celebration of the resurrection – the heart of the good news! Jesus has risen from the dead, overcome evil, and given us eternal life!
And yet, this good news comes amidst a lot of difficult news. War in Ukraine, genocide in Myanmar, illness, death, injustice, oppression, poverty, hunger – the list goes on. That’s why it’s important not to rush too quickly to the good news that comes at the end of the story. We grow in our faith when we sit for just a bit with the difficulty that came first.
Mark tells us about that difficulty in chapter 15, verses 42-47. For Jews, Sabbath begins when the sun goes down on Friday and by time Jesus died on the cross it was getting late, so his friends wanted to get him buried before sunset. If they couldn’t do it by the time the Sabbath began, his body would be left out in the open until Sun and who knows what would have happened to it.
The problem was that there wasn’t enough time for the women to prepare Jesus’ body. There was only enough time to get him down from the cross, wrap him in some cloth, get him into the cave and roll a huge stone across the entrance. So that’s what they did and as the light faded, they went home to honor the Sabbath, praying, pondering, wondering, and waiting for the Sabbath to end so the women could return to prepare the body properly for burial.
Let that scene sink in for a moment. Jesus’ body laid quickly in a cave. A huge stone rolled in front of the opening. No one could get in. No one could get out.
That’s exactly what the women were talking about as they walked to the tomb early Sunday morning carrying burial spices. What were they going to do about the stone? They knew it was too big for them to manage. They knew that if they couldn’t do something about the stone, they wouldn’t be able to reach Jesus. (Mark 16.1-3)
That’s quite an intense concept – that something could be so huge that it could block us from getting to Jesus. But that’s the way it was that morning – a huge stone stood in the way of these women and the person they’d committed their lives to, their Lord Jesus. If something amazing didn’t happen with the stone, they wouldn’t be able to reach Jesus, end of story.
Now thankfully that’s not the end of the story – but again, our faith is deepened when we don’t rush too quickly to the end.
Life is full of stones. With the pandemic still impacting so many parts of our world, it’s easy to feel like a gigantic stone has been blocking everyone’s path for the past two years. But even in good times there’s still pain, suffering, guilt, shame, secrets. There are stones in the good times and there are even more in the bad times.
I remember being in Africa a few years ago and we were in a jeep driving down a dirt road. We crested a hill and there was a huge elephant standing in the middle of the road. Our driver came to a quick stop, and it was clear the elephant wasn’t going to be moving anytime soon. So he turned the jeep around with the simple explanation – elephant roadblock.
Roadblocks. Things that keep us from moving forward on our spiritual journey. Stones that keep us on one side and Jesus on the other.
What are the stones in your life right now? What might be blocking you from experiencing God’s love and mercy and forgiveness in all its fullness? Are there things that are keeping you on one side and Jesus on the other? Are there things that are keeping you on one side and someone you love on the other? Are you like the women who went to the tomb that morning – if you can’t do something about that stone, you won’t be able to reach the one you love?
It’s hard work to identify stones and face them. It requires us to get honest, which is always hard. But that is what opens us to the power of God’s Holy Spirit. When we are honest about the stones in our lives, the Holy Spirit will always show up.
And that’s when the whole thing is turned into good news.
When women arrive at tomb to their amazement the stone had already been moved. The huge stone that they had worried over, the huge boulder they knew they would never be able to move on their own, it was no longer blocking their way. It had been moved. Matthew says that not only had the stone been rolled aside, but an angel sat on it.
We all have stones that need to be moved but are too big for us to move on our own. As you pray and fast this month work to identify those stones but do that work trusting that you don’t have to move the stones on your own. The truth is that none of us can move them on our own. But the good news is that we don’t have to.
God has power to move every stone. And God doesn’t just move them, angels sit on them.
That is the good news we will be celebrating in a few weeks. Nothing can separate us from love of God in Jesus Christ. Nothing. There is no stone too big, no guilt too great, no shame too strong, no struggle too overwhelming. NOTHING. God moves every stone and angels sit on them.