After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you.’
You’ll know that there is more than one account of what happened at the tomb of Jesus on that glorious resurrection day. In Matthew’s gospel we have a person who is quite frightening in appearance. Mark describes the angel as a young man, toned down in comparison to Matthew’s angel, though the onlookers were still filled with alarm. It’s interesting to note his posture in Mark’s account. For completeness, Luke describes two men and John an empty tomb.
The Matthew angel has come from heaven at God’s bidding to release the stone covering the tomb (that would be a superhuman task), thus frightening the daylights out of hardened soldiers, and announce that Jesus is not inside, as he has already risen. What a task! Do you think that perhaps there was a gaggle of angels all vying with each other for God to choose them to be appointed to this special task?
I’m wondering how long it took for the angel, once sent, to reach the tomb. Can we think in terms of distance and speed, because if we do, we are assuming that heaven is at a measurable distance from earth! The messenger was not reported to have wings – you would mention that, wouldn’t you, if he did?
We’ve had two passages with angels looking like lightning. How does this image compare with stained glass representations in churches?
The angel was described as a man. Could there be female angels?
Was Mark’s angel a young angel?
Why didn’t God himself come down to make the announcement?
Father God, I wonder how the angel you chose to make this announcement must have felt as the task was given him – to roll away the large stone and sit on it, waiting for the women to arrive. Could he contain his joy? Would you fill me with the same joy that my Lord and Saviour is risen and alive? Amen.