The Christmas story is full of angels. We commemorate their visit by putting their pictures on postage stamps and portraying them in 3rd grade Christmas pageants. Oh, and by poking the top of a Christmas tree up their angel pants.
But did you know that these ministering spirits made several cameo appearances during the span of Christ’s life?
The angel Gabriel invited Mary to give birth to Christ (Luke 1:26-27) and an angel nudged Joseph to take the pregnant Mary as his wife – enlisted as the guardian of the Christ child (Matthew 1:19-21).
Of course, it was the angels who heralded His birth to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-14). Two years later an angel popped in to warn Joseph about the plot of maniacal King Herod (Matthew 2:13). It was also an angel that recalled the little family back home once the danger had passed (Matthew 2:19-20).
At the onset of Jesus’ ministry, the devil tried and failed three times to tempt Him. Scripture says, “Then the devil left him, and angels came and began ministering to his needs.” (Matthew 4:11). After a fast of 40 days, they may have served Him some angel food cake.
Then there was Gethsemane where Jesus wrestled with the burden of the cross. Three times He asked the Father to remove the suffering that was to come. The Father remained silent, but He did send help for the moment. Luke 22:43 says “Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” Emotional resources from heaven to carry on.
Let’s see, angels at His birth, throughout His life and also present for His resurrection.
“…an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.” (Matthew 28:2). The Lord passed through the stone when He was raised, but an angel rolled it away anyway so that the world would have to grapple with the fact that Christ had risen.
The same angel had the privilege of being the first being to announce the resurrection news (Matthew 28:3-5). Forty days later the disciples watched Jesus ascend to heaven while an angel explained to them the significance (Acts 1:10-11).
As to the future? Yes, angels will be a part of His story. Matthew 25:31 says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.”
Angels, angels and more angels. They were there at every critical juncture in the life of Christ to watch over Him. The devil put it this way, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will lift you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’” (Matthew 4:6).
And yet, there is one period in Christ’s life where the angels were derelict in their duty. That would be His brutal crucifixion.
The Biblical record tells us that they were not there at the cross. Why not? Certainly, they could have helped. Angels provided protection for the babe, but none was offered at Calvary. Angels strengthened Christ in the wilderness but just let Him hang on the cross.
Jesus could have commanded their help. He said, “Do you think that I cannot call on my Father and that he would send me more than 12 legions of angels right now?” (Matthew 26:53).
But He waived them off instead, for the cross was something that He and He alone had to bear. He alone had to suffer the full brunt of God’s wrath. He alone had to endure the judgment that was due to you and me.
If angels had assisted, it would have raised a terrible unanswerable question: Would His diminished sacrifice be enough to satisfy the wrath of God?
Thank God we don’t have to wrestle with that question, because the angels were forced to watch from a distance as Jesus bore the burden of the cross alone.
A PRAYER: Jesus, thank you so so much for bearing the oppressive burden of the cross alone – for us.
This has been Jim Johnson with pickleheavenpress.com
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Scripture references are from the NT Bible ®