In Luke’s version of the discovery of Christ’s resurrection, there are two “men” waiting at the tomb to announce that Christ has risen from the dead. I place “men” in quotation marks for a reason.
Luke also writes of their “dazzling” clothing and the stunned response of the women at the tomb. In describing their clothing, Luke uses the same Greek word here that he earlier used in 17:24 to describe a flash of lightning. Clearly, he wants us to understand that these “men” are angels.
When I hear this story, I wonder if angels find humans perplexing. Along with announcing the resurrection, these two angels find themselves called to restate what Jesus had already said several times. “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
As the women ran back to tell the others, did one angel look at the other and say, “What did they expect?”
One of the angels could have noted the humans had hundreds of years of prophecy to guide them toward an understanding of what must happen to the Christ. For example, these Israelites would have repeatedly heard the words of Isaiah 53:10: “When his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.”
And then there are all those Psalms—16:10, for example. “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”
“But that prophecy stuff is pretty vague for sin-cloaked humans,” the second angel might have countered. “They don’t see God the way we do.”
“Okay,” I imagine the first angel saying. “But then Jesus came along and performed all those miracles to demonstrate who he is. And then he said who he is. And then he told them again and again that he must die in Jerusalem and be raised from the dead.
“What did they expect? Did they think they would actually find his decaying body this morning?”
I also wonder whether angels find us perplexing in our modern day. First of all, reports of Jesus’ resurrection are widely available, in all four gospels and other New Testament writings. His resurrection is the centerpiece of history, shaping Western civilization. The power of this truth to spread globally is evidence something miraculous is happening.
Second, Jesus made promises that go far beyond his personal resurrection. He has promised that a day is coming when he will return, and his resurrection will then be ours, leading to eternal life or eternal punishment. “Stay dressed for action,” Jesus says in Luke 12:35.
Angels certainly must expect those of us who call ourselves Christian to take such an admonition seriously. And when we lapse into the short-sighted lifestyles we often lead today—lifestyles of hoarding and self interest, of lewdness and meanness—we must seem strange to heaven.
Easter is our chance to adjust our perspective, to see the big picture and make the truth of the resurrection a part of everything we do. With the Holy Spirit’s help, perhaps we can even see the world with the eyes of the angels.