Matthew didn’t identify him – just “an angel.”
Matthew said that this angel rolled back the mill-stone door of the tomb of Jesus and was sitting on it when the two Mary’s arrived. Luke said that Joanna was there too. They came expecting to have the awful task of putting aromatic spices on a body already beginning to decay – a measure of the love that they had for this dead one.
The Roman guards that were supposed to be guarding the door of the tomb were dumbstruck by the angel’s presence. Who wouldn’t be? A giant mill stone moved about like a marble. An angel sitting on the door like he was taking a coffee break. The people who were supposed to insure against anything fishy were lying in a stupporous heap against the tomb.
The women, though frightened, did not faint like the guards. Women are often emotionally stronger than men. But, then again, finding an empty tomb was probably not anymore surprising than dozens of other things during the three years of being with Jesus. I can imagine them saying through tears, “What’s next? First the crucifixion, now this.”
Matthew didn’t identify the angel, but I wonder if he was Gabriel. Why not? Gabriel was the angel that delivered the “Hey, you’re pregnant” news to Mary 33 years earlier. If it was Gabriel I wonder if he was peering over the balcony of heaven into what was happening on the earthen floor below.
What a ride it would have been for him. Watching Divinity as he took up residence in humanity, became vulnerable to every human danger, and eventually became the victim of human rage. Gabriel had to watch it all unfold; he had no prior knowledge or insight to be able to interpret what he was seeing from heaven. I can imagine him thinking that God’s plan had failed.
But on Sunday morning God told Gabriel that it was time to open the tomb. “Three days is enough.” Can’t you see it? Gabriel stumbling toward the door of heaven, mismatched socks, feathers out-of-place, breathless to get to the tomb to make his announcement.
And what a grand thing it was to have that privilege. “The tomb is empty, and the one you’re looking forward is in Galilee now. Go there.”
It’s still a privilege to make that announcement. “The tomb is empty.”