Continuing the Angelís Task comment (0)
April 24, 2014
By Bob Terry
Matthew’s words are dramatic: a violent earthquake caused by an angel of the Lord coming to the tomb where Jesus had been buried; light as blinding as a flash of lightning pushing back the large stone that sealed the entrance to the tomb; Roman soldiers sent to safeguard the tomb so overcome by fear they curled up on the ground shivering and shaking (Matt. 28:2–4).
The angel was not sent to let Jesus out of the tomb. In His resurrected body Jesus could appear in a locked room (John 20:19) or disappear from a table where He had been eating with friends (Luke 24:31). Neither the bindings that had been wrapped around His body the previous Friday evening nor the carved round rock blocking the door could keep Jesus in the grave.
The angel was sent to help people see that Jesus had been raised from the dead.
The first part of the task was easy — roll away the stone so the women who came to do the last deeds of service to the body of their former leader could see the empty tomb and the grave clothes lying there. The emotional trauma of grief and loss was so heavy on those who loved Jesus they could not connect all the dots of God’s eternal plan even though Jesus had told them about it earlier (Matt. 16:21). What they knew was the One they loved was dead. They needed help in understanding what they were experiencing.
“I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified,” said the angel. “He is not here. He has risen just as He said” (Matt. 28:5–6). There it was plain and simple — the first Easter announcement. He is risen. He is risen indeed.
Luke’s account adds more details. “Remember how He told you while He was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again” (Luke 24:6–7). That is when the women remembered, when they began to understand (v. 8).
Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the angel’s announcement, “He is not here.” All three announce that Jesus has risen and all three offer the proof of the empty tomb to help the women remember Jesus’ teachings.
An angel was the first to announce that Jesus had been raised from the dead, the first to remind of God’s plan for the salvation for humanity, the first to point toward the empty tomb as proof that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). But after the encounter with the women at the tomb, the task of sharing the good news of Jesus was transferred from the angel to those who believe.
The angel who rolled away the stone so they could see the empty tomb, the angel who announced He is risen also charged the women to “go quickly and tell His disciples He has risen from the dead” (Matt. 28:7). Scripture records no later incident of an angel declaring Jesus’ resurrection. In Acts 1:10–11 angels promise the return of our Lord. But from the time the women left the empty tomb the task of telling others about Jesus was transferred from angels to those who believe that Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed.
As if to emphasize the responsibility of believers to share the resurrection story, Jesus emphasized that point over and over again in His appearances following the resurrection. Matthew says before the women could get to the place the disciples had gathered Jesus appeared to them and commissioned them to “go and tell” (Matt. 28:10).
Jesus told Mary Magdalene to stop clutching Him as if that were all there was in life but to “go and tell my brothers” (John 20:16–17).
Later that evening Luke says Jesus appeared to the disciples “and opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:45–47).
To the disciples who were just beginning to connect the dots of scriptural teaching, Jesus said, “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).
Matthew, Mark and Luke, together with the Book of Acts, all record Jesus’ final charge to His disciples to tell others about “repentance and the forgiveness of sin.” In the famous Great Commission, Jesus said, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19–20).
In Mark 16:15–16, Jesus says, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
“Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem,” says Luke 24:47.
Acts 1:8 records Jesus’ final words to the disciples and other believers including “and you will be My witness in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
Sharing the marvelous good news of the Jesus story can be personally challenging. Even the joy of seeing the empty tomb and hearing directly from the angel that Jesus was alive could not drive out all the fear of the women at the tomb (Matt. 28:8). And not everyone will believe our witness. Not even the disciples believed the women at first because their words seemed like “nonsense” (Luke 24:11).
It was not the angel’s job to make the women believe. His task was to share the announcement and help them see God’s love in action. No human being can make another believe in Jesus, but we can share the announcement and help others understand that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19). When we do that we continue the angel’s task and we comply with the charge given by the angel and by the Lord Himself.