"Now on the first day of the week Mary Mag'dalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb." John 20:1
People have long performed ceremonies for the passage of loved ones. The death of our family and friends is not only painful, but it is the most humbling experience of our lives. For, it is their passing that helps us to realize, though we may differ in life, we are all equal in death. Everyone will die-yes even you-will die.
So, we honor a person when they die not only to mourn their passing, but as some resolution to our own impending death. Early man buried their dead along with the implements of their life. The pharaohs did the same, though more elaborately than their predecessors. Monuments of stone have been constructed for those who were deemed greater in life than the rest of us, but death is the great equalizer for our bodies perish and our energy (spirit) leaves. In the end, we are no longer present on this earth.
The Hebrews buried their dead as well, though without the aplumb of their Egyptian neighbors. After burial, they would pile stones atop the grave as a monument to the departed. Visiting the gravesite was encouraged and with each visit more stones would be added to the heap as a tribute of rememberance. Evidence of this tribute is still present around the globe as we find small stones or pebbles placed atop the grave marker on Jewish graves. This tradition, passed from generation to generation, is still an act of tribute and rememberance.
Knowing this gives great significance to what Mary found at Jesus' tomb that early morning. The stone was missing from the grave. Surely, the Son of God could have left the tomb without moving the stone, thus the removal of the stone must have been a sign that the occupant was no longer dead. As a Jewess, Mary would have recognized this sign - of course the empty tomb was her next clue, and she ran back to the apostles with a message that crowned her as the first evangelist. "He has risen!"
That stone (death) has separated us from God since the Garden, but death no longer requires homage with our monuments of stone. The open tomb of resurrection is ours for the asking -
"Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7