Written by Brock Booher
Illustrated by Alexy Bikman
Graves are often marked with headstones, because the dead, like stones, are cold and lifeless. They lie in the stony earth and return to dust, but I can tell you that the dead will remain neither dust nor stone forever. Stones, like people, come in all shape and sizes – stones with sharp edges, uneven and fractured stones, and even large ignoble stones like me. I am a desert sandstone from the region you call the Middle East. Although I am as old as the earth, I did not become an individual entity until I was quarried and shaped. Industrious men extracted me from the hillside and transformed me into an instrument of productivity. They chipped away my sharp edges and made me round. They bored a hole through my center and inserted a large log. Then with the help of oxen driven by a small boy, they rolled me around and around to crush and mill grain. I soon realized that my efforts provided food to families and improved their lives. I could see the delight in customer’s faces, and I took pride in my work. I was happy. Unfortunately, my happiness would not last.
One day as the boy drove the oxen and the soft grain cracked beneath my weight, something peculiar happened. The miller got into a heated argument with a customer over price. Their tempers flared and the argument escalated. Harsh words became a physical struggle. One of the men pushed the other in front of my path. I can still remember the screams of the dying man as I broke his bones and crushed his body under my weight. The boy unhitched the oxen, and I sat idle. I wondered if I could crush grain after crushing the life from a man. I longed to be helpful and productive as before, but I was haunted by the evil I had been a part of. Strange men came and inspected me, making note of my stains and impurities. They removed the large log from my center, and toppled me over on to my side. The boy hitched the oxen to me for the last time and drug me through the dusty streets of Jerusalem to the outskirts of the city.
They left me alone in a garden with several small caves.Visitors frequented the garden, but only to bring the dead body of a loved one. My new home was a place for burying the dead in tombs of stone. I languished alone in the garden for several years with only the dead to comfort me. Although exposed to the elements, the stain, along with my sadness for the tragedy, remained. I wondered if I would ever be of service again, or if I would simply erode and weather away in the elements. Would I also return to dust like the dead around me?
Then one day, instead of friends and family coming to mourn the loss of a loved one, a small group of men arrived late one evening just before sundown to lay someone in a tomb. I noticed that the body was wrapped in linens and smelled of myrrh. A small group of mourning women hovered in the distance apparently wanting to know the location of the tomb, but afraid to get too close. Roman soldiers accompanied the procession. The mourners interred the body in a small stone tomb. Other ornately dressed men scowled and looked on in disgust. Roman soldiers stood guard. I felt the tension in the air, and the two groups seemed to be at odds. I wondered if the soldiers were there to keep peace between the mourners and the wealthy onlookers. How could a dead man’s body cause such contention? “Your Excellency, as a member of the Sanhedrin,” said one of the well-dressed men to the Roman leader, “I request that you secure this tomb. His followers will come in the night and steal the body away. They will then claim that he has risen from the dead and lives again. We must prevent such trickery.” “Sir, I beg you leave the dead at peace!” said one of the mourning men. A wave of the hand silenced the two men, and the Roman leader looked around in thought. His gaze rested on me, and he pointed. “Move that stone in front of the tomb and seal the opening,” he ordered. Several soldiers jumped at his command and rushed over to me. The soldiers struggled at first, but using a few crude tools and a combined effort, they set me upright and rolled me in front of the tomb, sealing the opening. I now found myself in the center of this peculiar controversy. “That should be sufficient to deter any thievery or deception, don’t you think?” asked the Roman leader. “Thank you, your Excellency, but some of the dead man’s followers could with the same skill and force remove the stone in the night and steal the body away. Pilate has promised us a watch. I would kindly beseech you, your Excellency, that you order some of your men to guard the tomb for a few days as added protection against such a deception,” replied the wealthy man. Some of the men who had placed the body in the tomb mumbled and groaned as if to protest the entire scene, but a look from the Roman leader silenced them. “Very well,” commented the Roman leader authoritatively. “Tesserarius, see that this tomb is guarded both day and night for three days.” The Tesserarius bowed his head and smote his right fist across his chest signifying that the order would be carried out. With that, two of the soldiers trudged to their post on either side of me, and the rest of the group hastened away. For two nights and a day I listened to the idle chatter and grumbling of Roman soldiers.
At dawn on the third day, the soldiers slumbered at their post. As the bright rays of the rising sun broke across a clear sky, a light inside the tomb also began to rise. It began as a soft glow, but then intensified. Like the rising sun, the dormant body began to radiate and shine. Then I saw it move. The previously dead man sat up and began to slowly unravel the burial linens that held him captive. He removed the head napkin first, carefully folded it, and placed it where his head had lain. Then he began removing the rest of the burial linens, starting at his feet and working his way up. A few rays from the rising sun managed to steal their way into the tomb, but the majority of the light came from the body itself. It was brighter than the sun at noonday. He finished unwrapping himself and stood. I don’t know how, but suddenly he was clothed in robes of splendid white. He had nail marks in his hands and feet. His beard was full and his hair was shoulder length. He appeared to be about the same size as most of the men I had seen in my day, although slightly taller. He did not appear especially handsome, but something about him was warm and attractive. His face still glowed and had the characteristics of strength, and love combined in each feature. His eyes had the depth of a thousand oceans and his gaze seemed capable of penetrating solid rock. I had never seen such a magnificent man!
I felt his gaze rest on me. Time stood still. “The stain you bear was no fault of your own,” he said without moving his lips. His voice was smooth and strong like the sound of water rushing down a mountain stream. “You know me, and my past?” I asked, surprised that I could also communicate with him. “Yes, you were hewn from a living earth, and I know of the past, present, and future of all living things,” he replied in a gentle yet piercing voice. “I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Realizing that I was in the presence of deity, I asked for the desire of my heart. “Can you remove the stain from me so that I can mill grain again?” His eyes looked deep into my stony soul. “Yes, I have the power to remove the stain, but if I cleanse you, I will require greater things from you than just milling grain. If I cleanse you, will you accept my call to serve?” I hesitated in fear. Would I be able to live up to the calling He gave me? What if I failed at the task assigned? What if I was stained again by accident or by design? He must have read my inner thoughts and unspoken fears. “You need but look to me with a broken heart and contrite spirit to overcome any future stains,” he said. In His presence, my fear turned to faith. “Yes!” I answered. He smiled and nodded. With a touch of his hand, the stain departed from me and left me clean to the core. With loving eyes he said, “I call you to stand as a witness to all mankind that Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death and has risen again. You will stand as a witness in front of an empty tomb and tell the world that I live!” If I could have bowed on bended knee or prostrated myself before Him, I would have done so, but I simply whispered, “Yes, my Lord.” He smiled at my reply and I was filled with peace. “Stone,” he commanded. “Roll aside that Jesus Christ the Resurrected Lord may go forth from the tomb.” Amazingly, I found that, through Him, I had the ability to do as He commanded. I gladly moved aside, for I wanted the world to know – He lives. I had seen His lifeless body lie on stone since Friday evening, and now on Sunday morning, He exited the tomb a glorious victor over death and sin. The events of the day unfolded. The Roman soldiers fled in fear. Mourning women came to dress the body only to find an empty tomb and a risen Lord. Doubting followers came and wondered. To each one that day, and everyday since, I have witnessed – He lives.
He brings hope to the roughest of stones – stones with sharp edges, uneven and fractured stones, and even a large ignoble stone like me. Many search for Him in the wrong places, but today I am still here in the garden as a silent stony witness that the tomb is empty, because He lives!
Luke 19:40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.