The Shepherds and the Angels
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
But Mary stood weeping outside 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?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.
These are two of the rare occurrences of angels recorded in the Gospels. The first is taken from what is commonly referred to as the Nativity narrative or story and is a wonderful telling of how the Good. News that the Messiah was entering to world was announced to the lowly shepherds.
In first century Judah, being a Sheperd was not considered that honourable a job, they were relatively unskilled and possibly illiterate workers who worked unsociable hours a a lot of the time, hence why they were in the fields during the night time when the Angels announced the Birth of Jesus.
But look at the spectacular display that God put on for them, “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude o the heavenly host praising God……..” One only has to take a read of some of the apocalyptic type writings predominantly in the Old Testament but also in the book of Revelation to realise that the Heavenly Host comes in many and varied forms.
This of the best firework display that you have ever been to. Maybe the New Year’s Day celebration on the stroke of midnight in London? Maybe, if you are old enough to remember, a similar display held somewhere across the globe at the turn of the millennium? Think of the best light show that you have ever been to, maybe a Pink Floyd Concert or similar (am I showing my age there making that reference?)
Well I bet that in every way possible the display of the multitude of the Heavenly Host beats your experience hands down.
All those beings right from the presence of God singing his praises in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ! Magnificent.
Zip forward approx 33 years and we have a very different scenario, but one that is nonetheless any less exciting.
It is Sunday morning, and the previous Friday a day we now refer to as Good Friday, and Jesus had been killed in the most cruel torturous way devised by man at the time. His body had been hurriedly entombed in linen and expensive spices so as not to violate the impending Sabbath and all of the associated regulations that entailed.
The women who were followers of Jesus had got up early, before sunrise, prepared some more spaices and had visited the tomb in which Jesus had been lain to prepare his body. Weather it was because the job on the Friday prior had been rushed because fo the Sabbath, or because this was simply their act of honouring the man they had followed for the best part of three years is not clear, and is not important, what is important is that the Tomb was Empty!
A few things occurred from the initial discovery put to he point in the second set of verses above but we find Mary (Magdelane) on her own at the tomb crying over the disappearance of her Lord. Go read the whole section to get a full picture. And she encounters two angels sitting in the tomb, one at the head and one at the feet of a body that was not even there. And they simply ask why she is weeping?
There is no fanfare, there is no Heavenly Host, there is now chorus or orchestra of celebration just two angels asking a simple question.
Now, we have two thousand years of Biblical exegesis to benefit us and we know the end of the story, if you don’t go read it for yourself its right there in the Gospel accounts. We know that Jesus was raised from the dead that he was resurrected that he now sits at the right hand of the Father and all that, but what had just been achieved here is nothing less than the victory over sin and death. Re-read that, what has just happened here is nothing less than the victory over sin and death. The victory over sin that allows us, you me and everyone who accepts Jesus as Lord and Saviour to enter into relationship with God. And the victory over death because as we enter into that relationship we begin a journey that will last into eternity in His presence that whilst we may die in these mortal bodies, we have a hope of resurrection ourselves. And that some will not “taste” even death but at the appointed time will be caught this up in the air to be with Jesus. Transformed in the twinkling of an eye.
Of all the battles ever fought and won this is the most marvellous, most magnificent, surely the most praiseworthy?
But unlike in our first verses the angels who maybe have witnessed this great even do not offer up a single note of music of praise to God. There is no Heavenly Multitude here there are no lights in the sky, now merge presentation of worship to God for what Jesus has achieved by these beings.
Have you ever wondered why? No? Maybe not, but I have and maybe if you have managed to read this far maybe you are now?
Well I think the answer is simple. Of course the good news of the birth of the Messiah was some ting to celebrate and maybe something that the angels could get excited about because they could see the instigation of Gods plan of salvation.
But the significance of the resurrection relates only to us. To the Human Race. You see we are the ones made in Gods image, not the Angels or other elements of the Heavenly Host, you, me, mankind we are made in Gods image and it is for us that Jesus emptied Himself of all except love and became obedient, even to obedience to death on a cross.
So it is not for the Angels that it is incumbent upon to praise God for this event, rather it is for us, you me and all believers to offer up our praise and worship, be that manifest in song, music, service, works, attitude of heart and mind, whatever form our worship takes it is ours to give, ours to offer ours to make sure that it is given. Not the angels or other Heavenly Hosts.
My challenge is how am I going to make sure I do that?