I remember thinking how cool it would be to wear glasses. Yup, that’s the kind of thoughts I had. I’m not really sure why I thought it would be cool—perhaps, all the really cool kids happened to wear glasses or perhaps the other glasses-wearing children just looked especially fun or perhaps the girl I had a crush on had them, and I wanted to have some vicarious link to her? In any case, unfortunately I was cursed with perfect eyesight. Sigh.
But, along came my fifties; and as I’ve aged my eyes have weakened. At last, now I get to wear reading glasses! Double sigh. The annoyance! The aggravation! The broken frames and lost glasses! I guess that goes to show ya: Be careful what you wish for.
I suspect the same could be said for how most of us think of angels. The Bible tells us that the angels serve as God’s messengers, that they minister here on earth, and that they worship in presence of God Himself. It sounds reasonable for us to want to meet them, to encounter one face-to-face. And, according to the author of Hebrews, many of us might have unknowingly met an angel when showing hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2). With this in mind, I think we often envision angels as looking just like us, and that we could easily (and perhaps often do) pass them by on the street without notice. Now, I suspect that is true, and perhaps takes place frequently. But, that’s not the dominate picture painted by the Scripture.
Usually, when an angel shows up, it does not appear to be cuddly, cutesy, warm, or fuzzy. Often, when angels appear, everyone is stunned, frightened, if not absolutely terrified. At Jesus’ birth the shepherds were “filled with great fear” (Luke 2:9), as was Zechariah when he was scared speechless (Luke 1:12). Cornelius stared in terror (Acts 10:4) and the great warrior Joshua fell on his face (Joshua 5:14). And, no wonder! Some descriptions of the heavenly host are absolutely spooky—four-faced, with calf’s feet, wings with hands, eyes all over (Ezekiel 1). And, all so often, dazzling, blinding light. Nightmares!
Imagine the women who had followed Jesus during His ministry—downcast, distraught, despairing as they made their way to the tomb to anoint His body following the crucifixion. How overwhelmingly depressive that must have been, with little room for any other emotion. And yet… when they get to the tomb, find it empty, wonder in confusion, suddenly, bam! Blazing light! Two angels appear! The women’s response? “They were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground” (Luke 24:5). If there was a time to greet an angel from God, certainly this was it—saddened, abandoned by their leader, some angelic comfort would be good. Instead, the women are terrified, and the angels appear to somewhat less than comforting.
Unless, that is, the angels know something about true comfort; that true comfort is found in Jesus, that the best thing they can do, the best thing we can do amid despair and pain is to talk of the Lord. And so the angels, terrifying in presence, point the women to Jesus, to what He has said and to His presence. Frightening as it might be, perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad after all to meet an angel… to be directed over and again to our Lord Jesus.
As you prepare for worship on Sunday, read through the opening verses of Luke 24.
1. What does the “but” in verse 1 connect to?
2. Is it significant that Jesus rose on the first day of the week? When you think of your week, do you think of it as Sunday to Saturday? Or Monday to Sunday? Interesting…
3. Read the parallel descriptions of the resurrection in the other Gospels. What is distinct about Luke’s account? Why do you think he includes what he does and leaves out other things?
4. Finding Jesus’ body missing, the women were “perplexed” (vs. 4). How might you describe your emotions if you were in that position?
5. The angels recount Jesus’ teachings in verses 6-7. How do the Gospel accounts capture Jesus’ words?
6. Verse 8 is big… huge in my book. Why do you think that is?
7. What is the natural response to an encounter with the resurrection (vs. 9)? If that is not your reaction, what might that mean?