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Eyes on Jesus: Angel Eyes

April 12, 2020
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for blessed Easter morning comes from our Gospel text, where Mark records the words of the angel, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.”  Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

You’ve likely heard the phrase “angel eyes” before, and depending on your age and interests, it probably means something different. It’s been a popular song title – from Ella Fitzgerald’s duet with Frank Sinatra, to the power ballad from the Jeff Healey Band, to the modern country hit by Love and Theft. There was the 2001 movie of the same name, staring Jennifer Lopez and Jim Caviezel. Dog lovers recognize “Angels Eyes” as the brand name for products that help clear up tear stains around the eyes of dogs. It’s a popular phrase for branding, no doubt, but today you and I will focus on some literal angel eyes. We’ll look through them to see the greatest sight this world has ever seen: the empty tomb of Jesus.

It’s funny that we call it the “empty tomb.” From the way Mark describes it, the tomb was a bit overcrowded on the first Easter Sunday. The two Marys and Salome were shocked to discover the large stone rolled away from the tomb. They went inside to investigate and were startled to find, not a dead Jesus, but a young man dressed in white. No doubt this was distressing – not only was the body of their Lord missing, but angels of God are terrifying! Despite what you see in figurines and artistic depictions, God’s angels usually appear as majestic creatures who strike fear into the hearts of onlookers, which is why the first words they often say to believers are, “Don’t be afraid!”

Exactly the words from this Easter angel. He says to the terrified women, “Do not be alarmed.” They needn’t fear this angel, since he has come in peace bring a message of Good News: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.”

The angel directs the women to see with their own eyes that Jesus isn’t there, then explains what his own eyes have seen. He knows they are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, “who was crucified.” The women had gazed upon Jesus, suffering for the sin of the whole world, under His Father’s wrath on the cross, and they had looked on as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus buried His lifeless holy body, but that’s all they had seen. The angel, however, has seen the resurrected Jesus with his own eyes but still calls Him “the Crucified One.”

Later that afternoon, Jesus would appear to ten of His apostles and prove His identity by showing them the nail and spear scars on His hands and side. The next Sunday, Jesus invites doubting Thomas to touch those scars, which turns him into believing Thomas as he cries out to the Crucified One, “My Lord and my God!” Still later, Paul would encounter the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus then write to the Corinthians, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

Why all this talk of the crucifixion on Easter, of all days? Because the cross must always be the center of our theology! A God who has not been crucified on your behalf would do you no good. Look through the angel’s eyes and see that Jesus is the Crucified One, put to death for your sins. The cross is our life! Paul told the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me, and far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

We need the cross, but Lord knows that we need the empty tomb, too! We need to see through the angel’s eyes that Jesus was raised on Easter for your justification. Good Friday and Easter are like two sides of the same coin. Jesus had to actively obey God’s Law on your behalf and passively suffer for your sins against the Law. He had to actively fight Satan, whom you couldn’t defeat, and die for all the times you have fallen for the devil’s temptations. He had to go into the grave and deposit all of your sins there, but He had to come out alive in order to grant you forgiveness of sins and His own righteousness. The angel saw this first hand and delivered this message to the ladies at the tomb.

It’s a message of Good News for all people, a that message needed to be shared (and continues to be needed). Jesus sent His apostles out to be His angels, His messengers, proclaiming the Gospel to all of creation. In turn, those angel-apostles appointed and ordained pastors and teachers to continue sharing the Good News of Good Friday and Easter morning. Just as the heavenly angel Gabriel visited Mary with the wonderful news that the Lord was with her in the incarnation, now earthly messengers proclaim to all who believe and are baptized that the Lord Jesus is with them until the end of the age. Just as the angel of the Lord brought glad tidings of great joy for all people to the shepherds at Christmas, now earthly angels proclaim the glad tidings of great joy that Christ has died for all, for the sin of the whole world, and has risen to declare all humans righteous so that they may be saved by believing this message!

It’s the same message you receive here at St. James week in and week out, whether we are physically together or not: for the sake of Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven. Baptized into His death and resurrection, you are now clothed with His righteousness, which grants eternal salvation. When we are gathered once more in this place, we will taste and see the salvation won for us in the Supper of Jesus’s true Body and Blood, in under and with the bread and the wine, a foretaste of the feast that awaits us on the Last Day.

That first Easter morning, the angel told the women where they could find Jesus. It’s same message I give to you today: Jesus has promised that you will find Him in His Word and Sacraments. May your eyes stay always stay fixed on Jesus Christ, crucified for your sin and raised for your salvation! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.