“And they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?'” (Mark 16:3 NIV).
“…I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17-18 NIV).
A great amount of energy is expended when changing the velocity of an object at rest to an object in motion. The greater the mass, the greater the inertia. The stone that covered the tomb of Jesus was of great mass and rested in a carved out stone groove, sealing the grave. It would take incredible strength to move it.
When the women went to the Lord’s tomb early on that first Easter morning, they worried along the way about how they would move the stone. They knew that they didn’t have the strength to move it. They went hoping that someone would move it for them.
With resurrection power God raised Jesus from the dead and moved the stone of separation between God and man. God put into motion a movement that continues to gain momentum until this very day.
God didn’t move the stone so Jesus could get out. He moved the stone so that the women could get in.
We still need God to move in order for people to come in to faith in Christ. As we desire our lost neighbors, acquaintances, relatives and friends to hear the gospel and believe, we must recognize that there is still that which keeps them out. There is a kind of stone in their lives that only God can move. Our best evangelistic efforts will fall short without God moving in their stony hearts.
“What does this mean for evangelism? It means quite simply that evangelism cannot possibly succeed. However clear and cogent we may be in presenting the gospel, we have no hope of convincing or converting anyone. Can you or I by our earnest talking break the power of Satan over a man’s life? No. Can you or I give life to the spiritually dead? No. Our approach to evangelism is not realistic until we have faced this shattering fact and let it make its impact on us. Regarded as a human enterprise, evangelism is a hopeless task” (J. I. Packer).
I agree with Packer. But like the women who walked to the tomb, we can pray, “Who will roll away the stone?”
We can pray that God would move in people’s hearts as Jesus instructed the apostle Paul when He commissioned him. We can pray, Lord, move to …
- Open their spiritual eyes (because they are dead in their sin)
- Lead them into light (because they walk in cultural darkness)
- Free them from Satan’s power (because they are enslaved and deceived)
Evangelism begins with prayer. Prayer plows the hard soil of human hearts to receive the seed of God’s Word. Prayer rolls away the stone that separates the living from the dead. Prayer is not an evangelistic afterthought, it’s a necessity!
After praying for God to move, we can run to tell the good news that God has moved the stone and that Jesus is risen!