Notes of an address on Mark 16:7
Why should the young man clothed in white who sat in Jesus’ empty tomb have been so interested in Peter? Is it possible that angels are concerned about the backslidings of the disciples of the Lord? It would appear so from this incident. All the disciples had faltered and failed, and they all mourned and wept, and there was a message for them all; but Peter had travelled far upon an evil road; he had sinned more deeply than any other, and for him the angel sends a special word. Perhaps, as he thought on his ways, he so loathed himself that be was too ashamed to company with his brethren, and was isolating himself from them as though he were no longer one of them. If so, he had to be sought and found and the angelic message given to him; he had to be told that he would see his Lord again.
Was this heavenly visitant, who held that empty tomb in the Name of Jesus of Nazareth, acting upon orders received from his Lord when he added to his message “and Peter”? Without a doubt he was. When the Lord rose up triumphant from the grave and set the angel there in what had been once the stronghold of now vanquished death, He must have told him thus to speak to the women who were already on their way to that sacred spot. And if so, how impressed he must have been with the grace of his Master when he realized that His first thoughts in the hour of His victory were not the vindication of His own glory or the destruction of His foes, but of His weak and weeping disciples, and above all of Peter. We are not able to say definitely how things affect the minds of angels, for we are but men, yet we may well suppose that this would give that young man in white, and many another angel, fresh cause to wonder and to adore their most adorable Lord.
The angels are His servants, they do His bidding, they have their place in connection with His house and His ways of grace with men. There is joy in their presence over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 15); they take a deep and special interest in the manners and conduct of the Lord’s disciples, even in the way those disciples dress (1 Cor. 11:10); and they learn the manifold wisdom of God as they see it expressed in the church (Eph. 3:10). Consequently I do not think that I am exaggerating at all when I say that they are concerned about the backslidings of the disciples of the Lord. The young man in white did not deliver his message to the women as a sort of soulless automaton, his heart went with it. This is clear from the way he sought to still the fear in their breasts and to strengthen their faith by showing them the empty tomb and reminding them of the Lord’s words. He was concerned about them all, and especially about Peter, for he was more likely to be swallowed up with sorrow than the rest. And the angels, which are all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them that are heirs of salvation, must be interested in the welfare of those to whom they minister.
The angels of God care for the disciples of the Lord, and I do not doubt that they marvel at the love of God to them, and are more than amazed that they should so often sacrifice their greatest joys for sinful things, that they should turn away from their Lord and often deny Him, and become backsliders, as Peter was. But again, with what keen interest and joy they must watch the Lord’s ways of grace until restoration is complete. That is, of course, because they have but one interest and that the Lord’s glory, and the interest that they show is the effect of their seeing the love that the Lord bears to those who are His. The angel would not have been so concerned about Peter if the Lord had not been concerned about him, and the angels would not be so concerned about you and me, and the way that we live, and the things that we pursue, if the Lord were not concerned about us. The master of a great house may have thoughts and interests of which his servants know nothing, but suppose a child of the house is dangerously ill, or has strayed away from home, then if they are true servants and the master is a true master, they are all deeply interested. The master’s concern affects them every one. So it is with our Lord and the angels who are His servants.
Ought we to be less interested in each other than the angels are interested in us? Surely not. And especially since we may do what they cannot do. They cannot restore the backslider; as far as we know they have no part in this work, but we ought to wash one another’s feet (John 13), and “if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). But suppose there is a backslider who secretly mourns his departure from the Lord, but finds his brethren, as be supposes, coldly indifferent towards him, who thinks, perhaps, that no one is concerned about him. Let me say to him, “Though men seem careless of your welfare, the angels are not; they are interested, and they are interested because their Lord is. The restoration of your soul to the joy of salvation and communion with the Saviour is of deep concern to them because they know that this is the Lord’s desire and because the Lord’s glory is involved in it. Banish at once from your mind the thought that nobody cares, and let the angel’s words, ‘and Peter,’ speed your feet along the way of repentance to the Saviour who has not ceased to love and care for you, and whom through grace you still love or you would not be secretly grieving about the loss of His company and the joy that it gives.