Did you know that there are angels in the Easter Story? We more commonly associate angels with Christmas, but the Bible also records that on the first Easter Sunday, angels appeared at the empty tomb.
A lifetime apart, these two messages from the angels are very similar. When addressing both the shepherds of Bethlehem and the grieving women at the tomb, the angels’ first instruction was: “Do not be afraid!” The unsuspecting shepherds and mourners were perhaps understandably shocked, being spoken to by angels!
The angels in both stories talk about where Jesus was at that very moment. At Christmas, the angels told the shepherds: “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger”. At Easter, the women were looking for Jesus in the tomb where he had been left after the crucifixion, but they were told by the angel: “He is not here.” The fact that he was not there would have been apparent. The angel further explained: “He has risen.” In these two short statements, the angel made the circumstances clear: the tomb was empty and this was because Jesus had been raised to life again!
In the Bible, the story of Jesus’ earthly life unfolds: from a baby wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a manger, to an empty tomb with a discarded strip of cloth. The angels in both stories encourage their listeners: “See the place where they laid him,” whether that was the manger in Bethlehem or the borrowed tomb. On both occasions, the shepherds and the mourning women rushed off from their angelic encounters to discover Jesus for themselves.
This Easter, we may not be able to visit the garden tomb and see and touch the discarded grave clothes or have events explained to us by an angel. But we can take time to imagine what it would have been like for the women, as they had their despair evaporate in the face of the reality of the “good news of great joy” promised at Christmas and brought to fruition at Easter: “He has risen!”