The Men in White

It’s like ‘Come ‘on people, pay attention!

 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:1-11

Olivet

Angels

Obviously, the ascension of Jesus is the focus of this opening chapter of Acts, but let’s picture this scene for a moment. The Men of Galilee, as they are addressed here by the strangers in white, are standing there on the Mount of Olives slack jawed, staring up into heaven, probably somewhat in shock as they have just witnessed Jesus, who appears to still be as human as them, though they know better at this point, has just floated off of the face of the earth and disappeared into the clouds. Leaving them alone–so they thought.

They suddenly they hear a voice and turn to see two men in white apparel asking them, seemingly somewhat incredulously, ‘Why are you standing here gazing into nothingness?’  It’s kind of like the young man in white who earlier had asked Mary; “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” It’s like ‘Come ‘on people, pay attention!

In both these cases these angels, as we now know them to be, appear, or are at least described as simply menmen in white. To me that sounds like they could be mistaken for just another person—who happens to be in the right place and just happens to have the right answers, in the moment.

I have to wonder how many times these men in white have inconspicuously stood by us with an answer we needed at just the right time and we failed to realize who they were—until much later, if at all. Paul reminded us of this in one of his letters.

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Hebrews 13:12

There are many great stories of spectacular angelic rescues to be heard, but often, they are just bringing a word in time, to save a weary soul.

A few years ago I was a little discouraged—okay, a lot discouraged. I had been toiling away at the church here in Red Lodge Montana for years, still working full time —at that time actually working on a project in Miles City during the week—and the church seemed to have hit a wall, or at least I had.

So I was sitting on a park bench overlooking Red Lodge, up by the airport in a little park area and I was praying, or should I say whining, to the Lord. “Lord, what am I doing here. My vision of a thriving church that supports a ministry of healing and restoration, drawing people from all over to be refreshed and recommissioned for the callings and passions you had given them to make a difference in this world for you; it just doesn’t seem to be happening.”

Not to mention my vision of having a church big enough to allow me to quit my construction job and focus more on ministry—”Lord? What am I doing here? Did I miss something?”

Suddenly I noticed an older gentleman in a jogging suit and a pair of sneakers, walking down the trail that ran right past the bench I was on. He greeted me with a big smile and said; “Nice place for some R and R!”  “Yes it is.” I replied. And he just kept on walking. I sat there and thought; Yes, indeed it is, as his words seemed to reverberate in my soul.

I wish I could say the man was wearing white, I don’t remember— But he spoke the words of God to me just as surely as if the heavens had parted and Jesus had hollered down at me—’Hey! This is why you are here—remember?’

I am convinced that he was an angel.

That one sentence confirmed in me and reminded me exactly why God had sent me here, and reassured me that the vision and call to be here was still valid.

God sent me here with a very clear mission to build a church of refuge and rest, a place to recoup, rebuild and refit for wounded soldiers who are weary of the fight, who feel scorned and cast aside or who just need a little R and R. And what better place for a ministry like that then in Red Lodge MT at the foot of some of the grandest and most beautiful mountains in the world?

Red Lodge -Swaningson

The very nature of a ministry like that, by design, is that people might stay for a while and then move on into the plan God has for them. Healed, forgiven, forgiving, and empowered by his Spirit. And it has been happening.

God never told me how many it would be happening with at a time—he just asked me to come. And to claim and cling to my own healing along the way.

And if it takes an occasional visit from the men in white to remind me—than thank you Jesus, I’ll take it. Why are you standing here gazing into the heavens? —’Why are you sitting here on this bench whining?’ Okay Lord, I get it. I’ll go back and do what you asked me to do.

And you know what? Anything I have ever done with and for the Lord, no matter how difficult, is still better than my old life without Jesus.

Angel is a word that simply means messenger. Are you listening to the messages?

A Grand Entrance

He is risen!

And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.” 

Talk about a grand entrance!

Can you imagine the angels standing poised and ready to go at the word from the throne to release the risen Lord? Who will it be? When? Alright, there’s the sunrise—you—go! And an angle shoots down from heaven, no doubt at great haste once he was given the go ahead.

I have no doubt an angel can travel at the speed of light, and he makes a grand appearance—‘How about we shake the earth, that’ll show these big bad guards—and all the demons of hell, who the boss really is here, and then we’ll roll that puny little stone aside!’

‘Guards? Oh look, they seem to be a bit scared as they have fainted—poor dears.

I don’t know if angels employ sarcasm, I’m pretty sure my guardian angle does. Otherwise we’d never never get along. But somewhere in the midst of this grand angelic show—Jesus gets up and walks out of the tomb. Not just raised from the dead, but resurrected into a perfect glorified body.

A perfect body that can eat, yet walk through walls. One that can walk down a road and have a normal conversation with two travelers and  seem like another pilgrim, yet disappear in the midst of a meal at the end of the road. One that has flesh and blood scars that can be seen and touched yet can ascend to heaven like gravity is just no thing at all.

And then the angel just casually sits on the stone, I love that part. Hah, we’ll just slam into the earth at lightning speed with such force that the ground quakes, shove that little stone aside with a back hand brush like it’s just like it weighs nothing, watch the Lord of glory walk out into the sunlight like it’s the first day of creation when he created light and saw that it was good. And then the honored angel just casually sits on the rock like it’s a lawn chair at a picnic as he watches the guards finally recover their wits enough to run off like children being chased by hornets. —‘Off you go now!’

Fine day for a resurrection Gabriel! Why yes Michael, it is—the finest of days! At some point according to the other gospels, another angel has shown up as well—the gospels don’t name them, but it’s possible.

The angel, or one of the angels, then goes inside to sit and wait for the ladies.

Turned out the ladies were wishing for and worrying about the wrong thing. The stone was not a problem for the one who had the power to overcome death. In fact it sounds like the heavens had a lot of fun getting rid of that puny little rock.

Point made—what rock? Jesus is risen.

Let him roll away your stone today. Expect a bigger miracle, nothing is to big for the one who conquered death.