Today I sat in service, listening to another Easter message. I say “another”, like it’s just the same old thing year after year, but thankfully, it wasn’t like that. There were a few things that struck me this year that just had me thinking more holistically about the whole event, and opened up the conversation for me a little.
But Mary stood weeping outside of the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” – John 20:11-13
Ok, for those unacquainted with the whole story, here’s the cliff notes version:
Jesus dies, gets buried, 3 days later rises… women come to the tomb, earthquake, angels roll stone away… women see Jesus gone, go tell the disciples… the men don’t believe the women (typical, right 😉 ), go to the tomb, see it empty… John believes, Peter, not sure… they leave, Mary, having followed them, stays and cries, believing the body of Jesus to be stolen.
Here’s where I am fascinated…
These two angels were a part of notably, the biggest event in history… By all accounts, they were most likely around for Jesus’ existence before he came to earth. They didn’t really know all the details of what would happen, but watched the whole play-by-play, from Jesus’ birth to death. Then they were called up on day 3 to help usher in the new era… Jesus was about to get up from the grave.
I wonder what they said to each other when they entered the tomb.
Now, while we don’t know a lot about angels, we do know:
- they worship
- they wage war
- they help each other and us
- they wonder,
so they are not simply unemotional robotic servants who are just here to do our bidding. They have feelings, personality, intelligence, emotions. These two angels were summoned to roll the stone away, to see the resurrected Jesus before all others, and to be there when he walked out of the grave. Maybe they were tasked with folding the grave clothes, placing the face cloth away from the rest. Maybe they watched the resurrected Jesus fold the clothes before he exited the tomb.
I wonder what their conversation was after Jesus walked out.
I can’t imagine that they were just stoic about the event… they couldn’t have been, “just give me my assignment: earth… roll stone away… ensure Jesus gets up successfully… wait for woman to look in. Ask her why she is crying. End transmission…”
We read it that way though, don’t we? We pick up on the main themes, decide who the major players are, and ignore the minor players because they don’t speak to us, or aren’t the heroes, or whatever. Or, we get caught up in our story to the point that we miss commands, clues or critical pieces that are given to help our faith grow.
Years ago, I was in a movie (don’t worry, you’ll never see it, unless, maybe you are in Korea watching late night B-movies) as an extra. One of the scenes we filmed was a bunch of us, literally walking back and forth in the room. Sounds silly, but it was a filler scene that would be important when the editors put the final film together. We never take notice of those scenes, but without them the movies we see would lose their continuity.
So, the angels. Living, thriving, active, are sitting where the body of Jesus had just reanimated – more than that, where he was restored with his pre-earth glory…
I wonder what they had to say to each other…
In peeks Mary… crying, distraught. This is actually the second time she had come to the tomb, and the second time she dealt with the angels. If we just listen to what was said, their words seem kinda weird… I mean, if you went to anyone in a cemetery and asked why they were crying, they would look at you like you were crazy. Wouldn’t it make sense for Mary to be crying? Her teacher and friend had just died.
The angels weren’t just being insensitive or incapable of understanding Mary’s plight. I imagine though, it’s almost as if they were looking at something so real to them, so obvious, so fantastic, that if she could just see what they saw, she would have no reason to cry.
I wonder how they asked Mary why she was weeping? If they were so caught up in the excitement of the resurrection, that they would just point to the space between them, like, “here is your answer!”
I wonder what happens when story becomes more than story. When the promise becomes reality… What does the conversation look like? How does the conversation change?
Christ was alive when the world began, yet I myself have seen him with my own eyes and listened to him speak. I have touched him with my own hands – I John 1, TLB
I wonder how different my conversation is compared to the angels’. How close am I sitting to the place where Jesus had lain, or am I spending my time outside the tomb, weeping because I feel that my hope was stolen…
Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni.” – John 20:14-16
The good thing is, regardless of where I am, Jesus is there to meet me. He may not be visible right away, or in my distress I may not recognize him, but he will take the time to reveal himself, so that my experience and my conversation can be like that of the angels.
One time I was coming home from a business trip, as I boarded the plane, I immediately recognized a man seated on the right: Coach Tony Dungy. He was a coach I respected for his style and his faith. It’s one thing to hear about someone, quite another to see them in the flesh. I didn’t interrupt him – for me it was enough to see him. He moved me yet again with his story on I Am Second: