Summary: Easter is the best Good News we could possibly hear, therefore it is worth sharing with others.
Easter, is it the best good news ever told, or is it the best-kept secret? I think that is an important question for you and me and for everyone. If we take our passages seriously from Psalm 118 and Luke 24; then I suggest to you today that God’s way is that of resurrection; he is able to give new life in situations where we human beings seem to see only death. In both our psalm and gospel today, we learn that when God acts to give new life; then we are called upon to go and tell this best good news to others.
In our psalm, which is the last one of the Hallel Psalms, used at the Jewish pilgrimage festivals—especially for the Passover—the psalmist remembering both how God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, as well as recalling how God personally delivered the psalmist, says this: “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.” (Ps 118:17) Recount the deeds of the LORD, in other words the psalmist wants to tell others the best Good News there is; that where death was knocking at the door; God acted to bring life.
In our gospel, on that first Easter morning, the women came to embalm Jesus’ dead body with spices. They were expecting a dead Jesus inside the tomb. Surprise! Surprise! They found an empty tomb, and two men telling them Jesus had risen from the dead, just as he had told them he would when they were in Galilee, before his arrest, trial and crucifixion. So with that message told first before the event by Jesus himself; then retold by the two men at the empty tomb; the women go to the eleven apostles and the other followers of Jesus and retell the message of Jesus’ resurrection to them.
Now when you think of your life, how did you come to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead? Well, I hazard to guess that your parents or grandparents, or some other relative, friend, neighbour, a pastor or Sunday School teacher, a fellow student or fellow worker told you the best Good News of Jesus’ resurrection. You may say: “No, I read it myself in the Bible.” True, however someone had to write it down for it to get into the Bible. So another human being was involved. I know I would not be here today to celebrate Easter with you unless someone—namely my parents and grandparents, as well as pastors and Sunday School teachers had told me the best Good News of Jesus’ resurrection. So you see without someone telling us in many and various ways, the best Good News would remain the best-kept secret.
Whether we realise it or not, Easter calls each one of us to go and tell the best Good News to others—which reminds me of the following story:
On Easter just before he died, Rev. Dr. William Sangster painfully printed a short note to his daughter. A deeply spiritual Methodist, he had been spearheading a renewal movement in the British Isles after World War II. Then his ministry, except for prayer, was ended by a disease which progressively paralyzed his body, even his vocal chords. But the last Resurrection Sunday he spent on earth, still able to move his fingers, he wrote: “How terrible to wake up on Easter and have no voice to shout, ‘He is risen!’ Far worse, to have a voice and not want to shout.”1
Far worse, to have a voice and not want to shout. Yet even those who are capable of shouting and not wanting to shout are not “hopeless cases.” God is not finished with them yet. In fact, some of the most passionate sceptics who resist and refuse to believe the message of Jesus’ resurrection have come to believe and proclaim that very message. There is a long history of such people, starting with the first apostles. Luke tells us in today’s gospel that when the women told the eleven apostles the best Good News of the empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection they were sceptical: “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” However, as we learn later on they did come to believe and then went out and told the best Good News to others. This pattern of moving from scepticism to faith continues to this very day.
Let me tell you about one woman who had a special way of sharing her resurrection faith. Her story is told in a book by her physician, Dr. Will Phillips of San Antonio. Her name was Edith Burns. She was an elderly widow who loved Jesus. She would often sit down with someone and say, "Hello, my name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" If they said yes, she would ask them what they believe about Easter. If they talked about Easter bunnies and colored eggs, she had a chance to share with them the real meaning of Easter. Countless people were led to Christ by Edith Burns, including Dr. Phillips’ head nurse.