Being a messenger is not always the best job in the world. Sophocles wrote that no one loves the messenger who brings bad news, and the practice of shooting the messenger stems from antiquity. For thousands of years messages were usually delivered in person by the messenger, and sometimes, as in war for example, when a messenger arrived from the enemy camp bearing threats or other bad news, the already keyed-up warriors would take out their anger on the one who bore it. From what I have read, killing the messenger happened more often than not, to the point where you wonder why anyone would be led to actually deliver a message to anyone else. The Chinese outlawed the practice of killing the messenger, and the butchering of British town criers led their authorities to make killing the town crier an act of treason. On the flip side, delivering good news can be rather rewarding. The prophet Isaiah wrote “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation.” How beautiful is the doctor who says “It’s not cancer?” How beautiful is the police officer who says “We found your daughter, and she’s going to be just fine?” Angels are messengers, the word angel actually means messenger, and some of them have delivered some pretty amazing news. The archangel Gabriel delivered most of the messages in the New Testament; he got to tell Zechariah that he would have a son named John and he got to ask Mary if she would bear the very Son of God. We don’t know the name of the angel that St. Matthew just told us about, but he must have been as beautiful as it gets – he got to deliver the best news ever.
He was casually sitting on a rock when they first saw him, sitting there as casually as an angel sitting on a rock could be. Even the rock itself wasn’t a thing for casual use: stones used to seal an elaborate tomb like the one in which Jesus was laid would have weighed somewhere between three and four thousand pounds, or the approximate curb weight of a Lincoln Town Car. Stones like these were moved by lots of guys with lots of rope and levers; they were rolled into a dug-out rut at the base of the tomb door, secured with rope, and then sealed with wax. But this rock, this rock wasn’t where it was supposed to be. The seal was broken, the ropes on the ground, a four thousand pound rock was nudged over just enough, just enough to let Mary and the Magdalene in.
Wait! That sounded weird, right? To let the women in? In our imaginations, we tend to see the angel moving the stone from the door of the tomb so Jesus could get out, right? But that’s not what angel said.1 “Do not be afraid,” the angel said, “for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” The moving of the stone was a message, a message for the women and for us: Come and see, see that the Lord is no longer in need of this tomb.
“Lo, I have told you,” the angel said, with the appropriate amount of fear and joy, “That’s the message.” And the women scurried off with their appropriate amounts of fear and joy. The angel presumably went off to his next assignment, to deliver his next message, but I like to think he went up to heaven to see his angelic buddies, to tell them the story of how he was the first to proclaim the greatest news in the history of the world. How beautiful he must have been, not just in his angelic glory, but in the brightness, almost the fury, of his message: Christ is risen.
And yet, that angel wasn’t the last of God’s messengers; he may have been the first to say it, but the Mary’s quickly followed suit, spreading the beauty to the Apostles and the Apostles to the whole world. Just hearing that message is a privilege, but the greater privilege is that we too get to spread the message, we too get to say those words: Come and see; come and see the greatest thing that has ever happened, come and see that Christ is risen.
1This idea comes from Scott Hoezee in This Week.