An English clergyman in the 16th & 17th centuries by the name of John Donne wrote some of the most beautiful poems in the English language. One of them rings especially true to the heart of today’s message. He wrote this (perhaps you’ve heard portions of it in other venues):

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Ernest Hemingway wrote a book and the band Metallica wrote a song with the title being what the ending of that poem says – “for whom the bell tolls.” When Donne wrote about the tolling of the bells he was referring to funeral bells. In saying that “it tolls for thee,” Donne was expressing a couple of things: that when funeral bells were heard it was a reminder that we are all nearer to our own death each day; and he was saying what some of us believe to be true about the human family– that all people are socially and spiritually interconnected. That is, when someone dies, a part of all of us dies. If you have lost a loved one, you certainly have certainly felt this reality. It might be seemingly apparent that when a bell tolls it is for the one who is deceased, but make no mistake that it tolls for all of us.

The stone rolled away... (credit:

The stone rolled away… (credit:

So what about the question that our text raises: “For Whom the Stone Rolls”? It might seem apparent just from thinking about it, that the stone rolling away is how Jesus could escape the tomb. It’s the opening of the tomb so he could get out, we tend to think, right? In fact if you read the account in Mark, Luke, and John, there would be no reason to necessarily think otherwise. But Matthew tells us something that the others don’t – Matthew tells us that the Marys witnessed the stone being rolled away themselves. Matthew tells us, then, that the stone rolls not for Jesus, because he was already out, but for Mary Magdalene, for the other Mary, and then, by extension, for you and for me. The stone rolls, church, for us that we can see that death does not have the final word, that death has lost its sting, that death cannot contain Life; that we may see that Jesus is alive once again and forevermore!

The bells that tolled, according to John Donne, were a sign to those who heard that we are all mortal and meet the same end known as death; that when one dies a part of all of us dies. The stone that rolled, according to St. Matthew, was a sign to those who witness it that the end known as death is not, in fact, the end; but that when this One is made alive again, a part of all of us becomes alive again, and that all who believe and trust this Resurrected Lord will know of the same resurrection that Jesus himself experienced nearly 2,000 years ago! Church that is good news! That is Easter! The stone rolls for you and me! So know that it is fine to ask for whom the stone rolls; it rolls for thee! And when we hear the sound of the stone rolling, it sings a beautiful harmony in our ears that the chief end that draws nearer to us is not death, but resurrection!

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!