By Bruce Garner
When you look through the life of Christ, one of the evidences that this is no mere man is seen because His life and work were witnessed and supported by angels. Jesus lived His life, I am confident, as an incomprehensible spectacle to angels.
What are angels? The Bible tells us that they are ministering spirits. Just like you and I, they are creations of God, but they are of a higher order than you and I. They are created for God’s service. The Greek word literally means “messengers.” They are simply creatures that God has created to serve Him and to serve believers. And they are all through the life of Jesus Christ.
They praised God at His birth. Angels filled the heavens in a moment and praised God and sang the first Christmas song, celebrating that the Word had become flesh.
They served Jesus after His temptation by Satan. They met Him in the desert, and after His days of fasting and temptation by Satan they ministered to Him.
An angel strengthened Jesus as He prayed in Gethsemane. As Jesus agonized, literally, to the point of suffering a very rare medical condition, whereby his sweat became as drops of blood because of the severe physical and spiritual stress He was under, when His prayers were concluded, the Gospel says an angel came to Him and strengthened Him.
And here’s the part that tore me up: Thousands of angels were available to rescue Him from His crucifixion. A mob with weapons and sticks has come to arrest Jesus. The boldest and the most impetuous of His disciples strides forward and with the clumsy attempt of a man who is not trained for war takes what probably amounted to a dagger and lops a man’s ear off. It was noble, it was heroic, it was manly and it was utterly ineffectual because he was a fisherman. And Jesus stopped this well-intentioned but practically meaningless defense, healed the man, and here the Scripture says this:
“Then Jesus told him, ‘Put your sword back in place because all who take up a sword will perish by a sword. Or do you think that I cannot call on My Father, and He will provide Me at once with more than 12 legions of angels? How, then, would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?’” (Matt. 26:52–54, HCSB)
A Roman legion was 6,000 men. What’s the significance? If I do the math, Jesus says to Peter, ‘Put your sword away. It’s not necessary. Don’t you know that I have more than 72,000 angels who would be here at a moment’s notice to rescue Me?’ And here’s the part that moved my heart, because it speaks so deeply of the courage and the strength and the absolute self-sacrifice that marks all greatness and that marks Jesus Christ as not only a man among men but the God-man. At the very moment that vile, wicked men laid hands on Him, 72,000 and more angels stood ready to come at a moment in His defense. If you look through the Old Testament, you will find that on one occasion, the Angel of the Lord killed 185,000 men of a foreign army in one night. One angel—5,000 dead. That essentially amounts to the population of Huntington Beach, California. And that was one angel! It’s as if Jesus says, “This moment is so great that twelve legions and more—72,000 angels—stand ready, Peter to come rescue Me, but put that sword away because this is exactly what the Scriptures said must happen.” Though I do not know much about angels (the Bible simply does not tell much about them), but I can imagine these created beings, perfect in holiness, amazing in power—if one can kill 185,000 (men) they are without a doubt the most feared fighting force that has ever intersected human history I can imagine…ready…waiting…just a word from the Father to put an end to it…to stop our salvation, to set our redemption aside. It would take one word from the Father, and both Father and Son refused. And the Son went on to endure the crucifixion that those men had come to deliver Him to, and wicked hands laid Him on a cross, and made a public spectacle of Him, beating Him and cursing Him, and tearing out His beard, and blaspheming Him, and He did it all…for you…and for me. That’s love.
And that makes such an astonishing difference to your day to day life. If you know that God loves you like that, it pushes all your questions about Him and against Him out of the way, because you know for a fact that He refused rescue so that you could be saved and forgiven. That an amazing rescuing force stayed its hand because the Father and the Son did not will it to come. And they could have come at any moment. And you and I would have been lost…
All of that in this single phrase. When Jesus was on earth, after becoming manifested in the flesh, after living a righteous life, after being justified by the Spirit, He was seen by angels.
1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.