There has been an idea rattling around my brainbox for a couple of years that I can’t seem to get away from. Like so many ideas, it’s vividly clear in my mind but I always thought it was too hard to explain … That is, until I tried it out at talks in Montreal and Texas this week. Much to my surprise and amusement, it landed with people. It's a short film … about two angels … whose job is to roll away the stone at Jesus’ tomb on Easter Morning.
Enjoy (or whatever your reaction is).
It’s still mostly dark on Sunday morning when two white shapes drop from the heavens and land in the garden of Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man in the Middle East. Had anyone been there to witness it, they would have been baffled to see the figures fall like anvils and yet land weightlessly, barely folding the grass beneath their sandals.
As the pink of almost dawn pushes its way over the horizon, the figures stand upright, straightening out their robes that had been ruffled during their descent. Their form would be obviously humanoid were it not for their height and their wings, now moving back into position, after breaking their fall.
The older of the two (played by Gary Busey) has done this many times and pulls out a pack of smokes while he watches his partner with amusement. As he lights his cigarette, the flame reveals his haggard face. The wrinkles, the bags under his eyes and the cracks that form at the edge of his mouth as he smiles at the young angel’s awkwardness.
The younger angel (played by Jay Baruchel) is still trying to free the corner of his robe from the tip of his wing, almost turning a full circle as he reaches for it like a dog trying to catch its tail. When he eventually dislodges it, he smoothes out his robe, runs his hand through his hair and turns to Gary with an excited smile. ‘Let’s do this!’
‘Chill, kid,’ Gary says, ‘We have a couple minutes.’
He drags hard on his cigarette, puts it out between his fingers and tucks into a pocket on the inside of his robe. ‘Best not litter,’ he mutters, ‘That would be tough to explain.’
Suddenly, a low rumble begins to shake the ground beneath their feet. It would have been easy to ignore, were it not for the light now pouring through the cracks in the tomb beside them. The two angels move together to the edge of the tomb and put their shoulders to the rock currently serving as a door. As they push, the light is set loose and begins to flood the garden, lighting up the angels in silhouette as they roll the stone from its resting place.
Their job done, they walk a few steps past the tomb, finding rocks to sit on while they wait.
Minutes pass, the rumbling stops and the light suddenly retreats into the tomb, leaving them sitting in the pinkish-yellow half light of the new day, the first day of a new world.
A figure emerges from the tomb, barely recognisable as the man He once was. He pauses and turns to them. A smile breaks across His face and He winks at them before walking out into the garden.
As Gary lights another cigarette, he sees Jay rise from his resting place and pull from his robes a trumpet. He gives himself a little shake, clears his throat and puts it to his lips. He inhales, summoning air and nervous energy, as he prepares to announce to the world that everything has changed.
Before he can blow, Gary has moved with what would be surprising speed for an angel of such a vintage to those of us who see growing older as growing slower rather than growing stronger. He slaps the trumpet from Jay’s hands and it lands in a bush fifty feet away.
Jay turns to him, wide-eyed, angry and humiliated.
‘What are you doing?! The world has changed! Death has been defeated! It’s time to let the world know! It’s time to blow the trumpet! To wake the world up!’
Gary, back in his seat as if he’d been there the whole time, takes another drag.
‘Sit down, kid. I need to tell you how this works.
You’re new to this so I get it … but we don’t get to blow the trumpet. It’s not our story to tell and it’s not how He wants the story told.
You see, you could blow that trumpet and it would wake all of Jerusalem. They would pour into this garden and they would see that He has beaten death. They would know because they have seen but they would try and make Him into the God they want, not the God He is.'
Jay thinks this over for a moment, skeptical but curious and responds, ‘So how will He let them know He is alive?’
‘He will go and find a few. He will appear to those who loved Him, to those who were closest to understanding Him. This is the final piece of the puzzle. They are ready now to understand Him. Then He will ascend to Heaven and the disciples and others, they will go out and tell the world. He does not want a following based on a trumpet blast. He wants His people to live out His resurrection in a way that is so contagious, courageous, loving and sacrificial that it will be undeniable.’
Jay puts his head in his hands and sighs loudly. Exasperated, he slides a cigarette from Gary’s pack that is sitting on a stone beside him and lights it, pulling hard and releasing a thick cloud of frustrated smoke.
After a few minutes have passed, Jay speaks, his face seeming a little older and a little more worn.
‘I’m sorry, man, but that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. What’s Plan B?’
Caught off guard, Gary bursts out laughing and pats Jay on the knee.
‘There is no Plan B. I’ve been watching this story unfold for thousands of years and I’m still not sure I get it. He really does have a ludicrous amount of faith in these people. Now come on. They’ll be here soon and we need to let them know where to find Him.'