They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. (Mark 16:3,4 NRSV)
Mark mentions the stone 3 times. Matthew mentions it twice, Luke and John once. I wonder if Mark wants to draw our attention to the stone. I think he makes a very strong point that the stone was indeed quite large. That the stone was large would have been fairly obvious. It was a simple enough security measure against thieves and animals. But Mark, through the women’s lips, indicates that the stone is quite large because they need help to move it. Then he again indicates the largeness of the stone when he tells us it had been moved.
What does Mark want us to see? Could he be scoring a few political points for his alleged source and mentor Peter whose name, (given by Jesus) means rock? I don’t think so. Mark actually doesn’t even mention that story, interestingly enough.
This stone is near the end of Mark’s story. This stone that has been rolled away proclaims the resurrection. This stone shows that the everlasting kingdom is most definitely here. This stone crushes empires and outlasts them. This stone disturbs a pagan emperor.
Yes, we’re back in Daniel now. Is this random association on my part? Yes it is. But what of Mark?
If we look at Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream and Daniel’s first dream/vision we see various parallels. The dreams are about 4 kingdoms. The 4 kingdoms will all pass away. At the end an everlasting kingdom is established that is over all.
In Daniel it’s the ‘Son of Man’ who has the everlasting dominion. For Nebuchadnezzar it is the stone that grows and covers the whole earth. A very large stone indeed.
Another set of parallel passages again intertwine.
‘There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence.’ Dan 12:1
‘For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be.’ Mark 13:19
One of these passages leads to resurrection; the other to the appearance of the Son of Man ‘in the clouds’. This is the climactic statement that Mark recounts twice from Jesus’ lips: the first in Jesus’ narrative of the apocalypse (Mark 13) and the second when Jesus utters the words ‘I am’ to the council at his bogus trial in the temple. (Mark 14:62)
Now I think that Mark sees the Son of Man’s arrival and establishment of his dominion at his resurrection. Why can’t he say it more plainly? Well Mark’s Jesus is himself barely plain. To say these thing plainly though could have led to immediate physical danger but there was a greater danger Mark wants to avoid: complete misinterpretation for the purpose of power.
So he points to the stone. The stone that disturbed an ancient king of kings. A stone that the power drunk emperor ‘couldn’t remember.’ A stone that a prophet brings back to memory. A stone that rolls into power’s way, crushing oppression and releasing life.