From: All God’s Angel
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. (Luke 24:1-8; John 20:11-14)
The appearance of angels at the Resurrection of Jesus is described differently in each of the four gospels. In the previous chapter we considered the role of a single angel as recorded by Matthew and Mark (though with some differences between them). In this chapter we turn our attention to Luke and to John, each of whom writes of two angels; though again, each gospel has its own particular emphasis.
Luke says that the angels appear as men, once again, apparently giving away their true identity only by the gleaming brightness of their garments – in the Greek, their apparel “shone like lightening.” There’s another interesting detail. In the other accounts, the angels stand at the entrance to the tomb and sit on the stone, or (in John) wait where Jesus had lain. But in Luke’s narrative, they appear to be identified more with the women than with the tomb – “two men stood by them.” Their interest is in the welfare and encouragement of Jesus’s mournful disciples. They who had “stood by” Jesus in the dark hours of his temptation and his agony now stand by his friends in their dark hours of grief and loss.
From the opening chapters, Luke gives significant attention to the role of the angels in the life of Christ. With Jesus “safely” risen from the dead, they now turn their attention to his followers. As in other accounts of angelic visitations, they must come close to us to bring the presence of God’s love within human reach. On this morning, while consumed with fear after having lost their beloved Master, the women see the first sign of his presence on the faces of two angels. “Remember what he said to you,” they say to their frightened listeners. This is a helpful way to think about the work of the angels on our behalf. In whatever way they can, by deed and by word, they remind us that Jesus is risen and alive – and that this is the final answer to everything.
John places the two angels in the empty tomb. They are not there to say to Mary, “Look what we have done.” That is never an angel’s message. Always the angels declare, “Look what God has done.” Pointing to their Lord is always their greatest joy. They wait for Jesus’s friends, and when Mary appears at the door, they ask about the reason for her tears. They know that Jesus has risen and, in fact, they can see him standing right there behind Mary, even as she cries. Were there faint smiles on their faces, tingles of anticipation in their chests, as they waited for the precise moment, a moment they knew would come, when Mary would turn from them, and behold the One who stood behind her?