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"Seen of Angels" (2)

P McCauley, Belfast

The years of public ministry came to a close. The Lord has satisfied the heart of the Father by His lovely life, but now the hour drew near when He would satisfy the throne of God by His sacrificial death. He left the upper room and made His way with His disciples to Gethsemane.


Eight of them were left and three were brought further, but then He left them and withdrew "about a stone’s cast" (Lk 22.41) from them – His closest followers could only go so far. In the sorrows of His soul that night He was alone, for none have ever experienced sorrows like His. The Gethsemane experience defies exposition and understanding. As with those disciples, there is only so far we can go in our comprehension, but we hear Him say, "Tarry ye here, and watch" (Mk 14.34). As we watch we see Him kneel and fall upon His face. We hear strong crying as His soul, wrung with grief, contemplates that awful encounter with sin in lonely hours upon the cross: "O my Father, if it be possible…" (Mt 26.39). God sent an angel to strengthen Him (Lk 22.43), and again, reverence forbids us prying too deeply into that which is beyond us. A created being left heaven to come to the side of the Almighty, to strengthen Him. What a sight for angels to behold! Did the angel grant the comfort His disciples failed to give? Was physical strength given following the draining experience of His outpouring of heartfelt supplications and prayers? He was in an agony, and He prayed more earnestly. We watch as sweat falls to the ground like great drops of blood. How great was the stoop of the Lord of Hosts!

His humanity

Gethsemane proves to us that His humanity is true – we see the tears upon the cheeks of the Man of Sorrows, the sweat upon His brow; we hear His cries and His prayers as He pauses on the brink of that deep, dark valley of suffering through which He would pass alone. But Gethsemane also proves to us that His humanity was holy as we view His revulsion of sin and His anguish as He considers the hours of sin-bearing that lay before Him. The angel drew near at Gethsemane indicating heaven’s pleasure in Jehovah’s Servant, but then he had to withdraw again, for the task that lay before the Lord Jesus was one in which no angel could have a part; He must do it alone. The Lord rose from prayer and went forth to meet the soldiers led by the betrayer, and as Peter tried to defend Him he was told, "Put up again thy sword into his place…Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" (Mt 26.52-54). The armies of heaven awaited the word to move in vengeance against these weak but wicked men, but no word was given. He opened not His mouth and gave Himself into their hands. A long night of suffering and shame followed, and at nine o’clock in the morning "they crucified him" (Lk 23.33).

The cross

The Saviour hung upon the cross for six hours and no angel was sent, indeed He could say through the Psalmist, "There is none to help" (Ps 22.11). Darkness fell, a darkness that no human or angelic eye could penetrate. Beneath the crushing weight of human guilt and the infinite load of divine judgment, a load that all the mighty hosts of heaven together could not bear, the lonely Man of Calvary suffered alone. No angel could do anything to assist; no one could come to His side as He was forsaken by God to bear our sins.

He finished the work, His lifeless body was lovingly taken down and laid in the tomb, and early on the third day Mary Magdalene came to anoint her Lord. She found the stone taken away and sent for Peter and John, who investigated the scene and left, but Mary stayed. As she stood weeping she took another look inside the tomb and saw two angels sitting. Angels sitting? Scripture says they are ministering spirits, they are always busy, always serving, but here there is no work for the angels to do, there is no part for them to play – the Lord Jesus did it all and the angels have to sit. They sat one at the head and the other at the feet of where the body of Jesus had lain. In such a posture we are reminded of the two cherubim on the mercy seat, where God, in picture, received satisfaction in regard to sin. As we look at that scene – angels sitting where the body of Jesus had lain – it proclaims to a guilty world that God’s justice has been fully satisfied as He who undertook to pay the penalty for sin has risen from the dead.

Those angels could not stop the flow of Mary’s tears, but when she saw the Lord and heard His voice her sorrow ceased and her fears fled. The one who had hung on the cross in shame and had lain in the tomb in death now stood in the garden in triumph and drew near to comfort a sorrowing soul. Let us thank God that our Lord is living and He is therefore able to draw near to all His own and comfort them in their sorrows.

For forty days the Lord Jesus showed Himself alive, and then the time came when He would leave this world and go back to the Father. He led His own out as far as to Bethany and while blessing them He started to ascend. As we gather together the accounts of the ascension we discover that He went up in His own power and right, He was carried up as the triumphant Victor, and He was received up in acclamation by the Father, and indeed by all of heaven. Two angels appeared with the disciples as the Lord went up and no doubt the hosts of heaven were present to see Him as He went in. At Bethlehem they saw God take a place that only humanity could occupy as He lay in the arms of Mary, but at the ascension they saw a man take a place that only Deity could occupy as He sat down at the right hand of God. Angels had seen Him take a position "a little lower" (Heb 2.9) than them, but now they see Him take a position "so much better" (Heb 1.4) than them as He ascends up in glory through the territory of the defeated forces of Satan and into Heaven itself, there to take the highest place.

Angels will see the Lord come to this earth again, and, unlike the first time, He will come in the blaze of divine glory, and that innumerable company of angels will accompany Him and will hear God say on that day, "Let all the angels of God worship Him" (Heb 1.6)! There will be no more humiliation, no more lowly ministry, no more tears or suffering – just glory for evermore.

So, He was "seen of angels" – what wonderful sights they saw!



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