Gabriel, Messenger Angel

Bible References: Daniel 8.15-27; Daniel 9.20-27;  Luke 1.18-25, 26-38.

Heart of Story:  The angel Gabriel was sent from God with messages to three people: Daniel, Zechariah (John the Baptist’s father) and Mary (the mother of Jesus Christ).

Back Story: Gabriel is one of two angels named in the Protestant Bible. His name means “man of God” or “strength of God.” Gabriel was an angel who stood in the presence of God, as of in waiting before a superior. Some traditions identified him as an archangel; however, the Bible does not support that designation.

In the Bible, the role of angels was:

  • Watch history unfold
  • Protect and direct people on behalf of God
  • Deliver messages from God to individuals
  • Function as holy warriors
  • Praise and worship God.

Story Line:  In the Old Testament Gabriel appeared only to Daniel twice. If he appeared to Daniel at other times or to other individuals his name was not given. Both times that Gabriel appeared, Daniel was fearful at his presence and both time Gabriel reassured Daniel. In one instance when Gabriel appeared to Daniel, he interpreted a vision that Daniel had. The second time, he foretold the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the coming of Jesus, the Christ.

In the New Testament, Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, and to the Virgin Mary. To both, he announced that they would have a son. Zechariah’s son would be the forerunner of Jesus. Mary’s son would be the Christ, the Son of God.

Pondering Relationships: In paintings of Gabriel he is always depicted with wings, however, in no place in these Bible stories is Gabriel described as winged. In the book of Daniel, Gabriel is described as looking like a man, albeit a fearsome man. Daniel was so frightened by Gabriel that he fainted and seemingly was in bed ill for days after Gabriel appeared to him. Zechariah’s initial response to seeing Gabriel was fear.

Women are (of course) made of sterner stuff than men. The Bible reported that Mary was more perplexed by Gabriel’s message than afraid of his appearing.  Mary queried Gabriel how she, a virgin, was going to have a child. When her questions were answered, Mary told Gabriel, “let it be according to your word” (Luke 1.38 ESV).

Reflection: Do you ever ponder the rightness of some Christian traditions, i.e., Gabriel is an archangel and he has wings? I wonder what these traditions add to our faith in the crucified and risen Christ.

Copyright: Copyright January 23, 2019; all rights reserved.

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