Today we give thanks to God for the gift of angels.
Our text says very little about angels. Only one verse talks about them. “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” Here the Lord gives a tantalizing glimpse of these special beings we call angels. He does not tell us as much as we want to know.
The phrase, “their angels” may indicate that there are guardian angels, that is, specific angels to guard specific people. This perhaps means that you have one angel that was assigned to you at your birth and has watched you ever since. But Scripture does not state it very clearly or describe them in detail. So we cannot dogmatically say much on this topic.
Yet God never desires for us to be left in the dark with the things that we need to know. So we can conclude that if He has not told us everything we want to know about angels, it is because we do not need to know. He clearly speaks in Scripture everything that we need for salvation, so that it is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness.
So what about the guardian angels? Definitely angels guard each believer, probably a large number of them all around at all times. If you believe that a particular angel has guarded you since you were in diapers, that is a very innocent belief that is likely true. Just be aware that Scripture does not explicitly spell this out so that we are compelled to believe it. Go gently with others who believe differently about guardian angels. This is not a teaching, after all, that is necessary for salvation.
We also do not know precisely what is meant in our Gospel by the words, “little ones”. “Do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” In verse two, Christ took a little child and set him in the midst of the disciples. That seems to indicate that the little ones Christ mentions are children. If so, then guardian angels are particularly sent to protect them, because the Father in heaven holds them especially dear to His heart.
But Christ also says, “Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” In other places, He refers to the disciples as little ones. So perhaps the words “little ones” mean all who have faith.
There is some virtue in each view. Does God only send angels to protect the young, but leaves us adults alone? That is clearly not so. Yet perhaps here the Lord is especially pointing to little children to encourage us to have compassion on the weak, as the Father does.
But these questions are missing the point. The whole point of angels is not the angels, but God. Who is the Lord of the angels? He is the one who gives them their assignments, whatever they may be. We should pay the most attention to the Father’s love for us His children.
Whatever number of angels are around you right now, they are sent because the Father wants you to be protected. Dangers and demons that might attack you. But the Father loves you, so He sends His ministering servants to watch over and guard you.
This is why the Lord has revealed these things to us, because He wants you to know and trust in His love.
You probably will not see angels defending you. You do not need to. We have faith that the Father is working to help us, because the Word tells us that it is so.
There is another lesson we learn from guardian angels. The fact that angels are assigned to watch over us, in whatever fashion the Lord does so, shows us a glimpse of heavenly vocation. God could do everything Himself. He is all-seeing and all-powerful. He could personally take care of everything without using a single angel ever. But He does not. He chooses to use angels, so that through their work, God’s will is done. They become the hands and feet and mouth for God.
In the same way, we often are God’s hands and feet and mouth. He could do everything Himself. Someone is hungry, and suddenly bread could rain down from the sky. That is what He did with the manna in the wilderness. But instead, in the vast majority of history, God uses people to provide food for one another. This is God’s love in action.
We see this closest to home in parents. The way it commonly works is this: A father goes out and earns money at his job. The wife buys the food at the store and brings it home and cooks it up. The family eats. That does not seem amazing or miraculous. But this is the love of God in action. That is vocation.
We also serve as God’s mouth when we speak His Word. When you tell someone about Christ, you are speaking for God. He could speak out of the sky to every human being all the time, but He chooses not to do it that way. Instead, He uses us to tell others about His grace in our Savior’s death and resurrection.
So you are like an angel every time you do a good work for someone. Even if you do something seemingly insignificant, like giving someone a glass of water, it is God’s love coming through you.
However, if you choose to treat the little or weak or vulnerable with contempt, you are not showing God’s love. The Lord, who sends His angels to watch over these little ones, will not take it kindly if you despise them. Better for a millstone to hang around your neck and you be shoved into a watery grave than that you should lead one of these little ones into sin.
This is not the unforgivable sin. But don’t let that make you complacent. Be careful! Do not let you heart become so callous and careless that you allow yourself to lead others astray. Do not teach them that it is okay to break commandments. Do not teach them to be indifferent to pure doctrine. Do not teach them to wander away from the life of the Church in this Divine Service. Leading little, vulnerable ones toward death is a most heinous evil.
If we do so, may the Spirit drive us to our knees in repentance before the Cross.
For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. That is us, the lost. We are the ones who have a wandering nature that led us far from God. There was no hope for us. We were not only little, weak ones. We were dead ones. We were completely unable to do anything to find God or come to Him.
So He came to us. God became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Christ our Lord became a little One to save little ones. He became the Good Shepherd in order to seek us lost sheep.
That was the whole reason He became the Son of Man. On the Cross, far worse than a millstone fell upon Him. He took the punishment as if He were the worst offender of weak ones. He was cut off, as if He were a hand or foot that caused offense, so that we would not enter the everlasting fire. He entered the torment of hell, the baptism of fire that was God’s wrath against sin, in our place.
After all that, the Father raised Him from the dead to show that the kingdom of heaven has been established in the work of our Savior, Jesus Christ, our dear Lord.
Let us rejoice and be glad in this wonderful salvation. Amen.
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