“Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 'Take away the stone,' he said. 'But, Lord,' said Martha, the sister of the dead man, 'by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.' Then Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?' John 11:38-40
The thing that lay between seeing the miraculous glory of God- the power to raise the dead- was a stone. As we continue with this fascinating collection of rocks found throughout scripture, we add the final pieces this week. Almost all of us can identify with Martha. Jesus on the brink of a miracle- even after we have witness Him do many- is still paused by our “but, Lord”. Usually, also like Martha, the giant stones between us and the miraculous glory of God are based on logical reasoning. So often God proposes what is so out of our imagination and so contrary to our inclinations we are left stammering, “but, Lord!”. Every Biblical miracle, however, was a time when God met our fathers and mothers in the faith in a place beyond imagination or contrary to logic. God is an unchanging God, and while we are still here, there is a still a spiritual war waging and a mission to be completed. He is waiting to release the same glorious and miraculous power in our own lives. What is the stone in the way? What leaves you saying, “but Lord”?
It's so interesting that above sticks and flowers and many other options that rocks have become so much more collectable. There is something weighty- no pun intended- about rocks and their ability to hold symbolic meaning and even literal value. We hold on to rocks. On a retreat, I once received a rock that had “PEACE” written on it. It has stayed with me, and each time I look at the rock, it is a reminder not only of what God did during that time, but also to remain grounded in peace. It's no surprise then that we find Jesus in a scene very familiar to the one we just saw with Lazarus in Luke 24 during His resurrection. I wonder if, as His followers gathered outside the tomb, any gazed at the stone blocking the entrance and had a fleeting memory of Lazarus. I wonder if that Lazarus miracle occurred in just such a way so that the image of the stone being rolled away from a tomb and the dead rising would be held in the memories of all who heard of it as a REMINDER that He could- and would- do it again! Maybe, just like my PEACE rock, it went beyond practicality to trigger that memory. Each time God breathes miraculous hope into a situation we thought was hopeless, that's a spiritual stone we want to hold in our memories as a reminder that He can do it again! We build up this rock collection as a testimony of what God has done for us and also as a reminder of what He will do again.
God has, for some time, marked His chosen ones with stones.
“The entire priestly vest must be made of fine linen skillfully woven with blue, purple, and red wool, and decorated with gold. It is to have two shoulder straps to support it and a sash that fastens around the waist.
Put two onyx stones in gold settings, then attach one to each of the shoulder straps. On one of these stones engrave the names of Israel’s first six sons in the order of their birth. And do the same with his remaining six sons on the other stone. In this way Aaron will always carry the names of the tribes of Israel when he enters the holy place, and I will never forget my people.
From the same costly material make a breastpiece for the high priest to use in learning what I want my people to do. It is to be nine inches square and folded double with four rows of three precious stones: In the first row put a carnelian, a chrysolite, and an emerald; in the second row a turquoise, a sapphire, and a diamond; in the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; and in the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. Mount the stones in delicate gold settings and engrave on each of them the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel.” Exodus 28:9-12, 15-21
The stones God chose to adorn the high priest with were to be reminders of His people. They were each depicted as precious stones, denoting the value each had to God. YOU are a precious stone affixed close to the heart of God.
Jesus also RENAMED Simon as Peter, meaning ROCK, saying he would be the rock upon which He would build His church (Matt 16:18). This privilege wasn't reserved exclusively for Peter. In Revelation, the message to the churches said that to those who were victorious a white stone would be given with a new name (Rev 2:17). God is still creating Peters today! We are to be the stones the cry out! As we conclude our rock-collecting journey, our prayer should be this; Lord, may I be a rock upon which you continue to build your church. Amen.