Faith & Worship: The angel and the stone

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I am intrigued with a simple statement in Matthew’s account of the resurrection of Jesus. It is found in chapter 28, verse 2. “Suddenly there was a great earthquake, because an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and rolled aside the stone and sat on it.” (New Living Translation). I’m referring to the notation that the angel sat on the stone. I find that an amusing stance. Picture the angel sitting on top of the stone, legs dangling, arms crossed and smiling a wry smile.

Now it occurs to me that Matthew must have had something more in mind than a stroke of humor when he included that detail in his account. I turned to the Biblical scholars in my library to see what they had to say on the subject. Most of them didn’t say anything, they just glossed over it.

Those who did have something to say on the subject said essentially the same thing. The stance of the angel signaled victory. Jesus had indeed risen from the dead and thus the empty tomb. “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead” (Mark 9:31, NLT).

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It was also an act of defiance. The angel was the guardian of the tomb, a deterrent to anyone who might want to tamper with it. The position of the graveclothes was telling. “Peter ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings…” (Luke 24:12, NLT). “He also noticed…the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side” (John 20:7, NLT).

The angel was also there in anticipation of the women who came to the tomb, interpreting its significance, which should not have been necessary. “I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He has been raised from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying” (Matthew 28:5-6, NLT). This then is the significance of the angel and the stone.

This got me to thinking. The cross is the symbol of the Christian faith. It is central to our theology and our Christian experience. However, I think it would also be appropriate to have an empty tomb superimposed upon the cross as a Christian symbol. Jesus is after all, as Paul Waitman Hoon says, not “the crucified Lord who was living, but the living Lord who was crucified.”

Christians are a Calvary people, but we are also an Easter people with an Easter hope. We have a risen and living Lord who said, “I will live again, and you will too” (John 14:19, NLT).

~ Retired Baptist Pastor, Dr. Darryl E. Maxwell