“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road --- the desert road --- that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. … The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’ … The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’ Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.’”
---- Acts 8:26-27, 29, 34-35
“The same power that brought Christ back from the dead is operative within those who are Christ's. The Resurrection is an ongoing thing.” ---Leon Morris
“Whether we are prepared or not to accept the occurrence of the Resurrection as a fact of history, we cannot deny the influence that a belief in it has exercised in the world. We cannot deny that it has brought life and immortality to light as no other belief could conceivably have done; that it has substituted for the fear of death, for a large portion of the human race, that sure and certain knowledge of God which is eternal life; that it has permeated our customs, our literature, and our language with a glory and a hope that could have been derived from no other source.” --- C.H. Robinson
Easter is a funny thing --- it comes as one of the great religious and national holidays on our calendar, and we celebrate it with great enthusiasm and flourish. Churches are decorated with Easter colors and so are the people who attend Easter services. It still is not too unusual to see women and girls in colorful Easter hats and new Easter clothes. Men and boys look handsome in coats and ties --- which they avoid wearing so much of the time. Many families attend church together and go to local restaurants afterwards for a great feast. It’s genuinely a day to remember for many of us!
However, just as soon as Easter has come, it goes. The gala church musicals have been presented, the dramas are over, and although the Easter decorations are still up in our churches, we’ve settled back into the old routine of life. Monday came all too quickly with its demands, its work, and its projects! There are miles between family members once again, so it will be some time before we repeat our get-togethers. Somehow, the wonderful message and music of Easter seems to get drowned out in the loudness and hectic nature of life!
So, what IS the lingering message of Easter, after all? What is there in Easter that is life-changing and empowering to God’s people? Is there ANYTHING we carry away that adds a quality to life that others can see as remarkable?
Of all the things said in Easter and about Easter, one of the most wonderful qualities is how the Gospel --- the good news of Jesus Christ --- has been changed. The story of Jesus is far more than the story of an inspired religious teacher or gifted public figure. The story of Jesus for the past 2,000 years of human history has been the story of God’s Messiah, His Promised One, Who would deliver His people from their sins. The Easter story is a great affirmation that God raised Jesus from the grave in public testimony that His sacrifice was accepted in payment for our sins. The “good news about Jesus” that was told to the Ethiopian eunuch by Philip included the testimony that God raised Him from the dead. Jesus is alive and lives for ever more! Can news like that be any other than “good news?!”
The message of the Resurrection told to the Ethiopian eunuch was repeated 2,000 years later by another Christian messenger to Ethiopians. In 1927, the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) sent missionaries to the Wallamo people, a wild Satan-worshipping people, in Ethiopia. Their work was slow, and when Italian soldiers of Mussolini invaded the country in 1935, there was a small Wallamo church. The missionaries were ordered to leave, and as they did so, 48 Wallamo believers said their “goodbyes” to their SIM friends. The missionaries wondered if they would ever be able to return, and if so, what would they find?
They prayed for the Wallamo Christians until they did return in 1943. What they found was truly amazing! From a small, seemingly helpless church of 48, God had grown a church of 18,000! The Wallamo people had suffered terribly under the occupation of Italian forces. Church leaders regularly received 100 lashes, and one received 400. Some had died, and others could not lie on their backs for months. Their Bibles were confiscated by Italian officials. One Ethiopian leader, Wandaro, was beaten in public and he preached to the gathered crowds between beatings. Another leader, Toro, was beaten with a hippo-hide whip, and he cried out the Gospel in the marketplace where he was punished. As conversions grew, tribal villages began sending their own missionaries to other villages. The isolated Wallamo church literally grew with no outside encouragement or support!
How can you explain this true story? The remarkable growth and vitality of this isolated and persecuted tribal people is found in their belief in the Risen Christ! They were devoted to no mere religious teacher or vaunted religious icon. Their commitment and loyalty was to a living, reigning Lord Who was with them through anything thrown against them. His “I will never leave you or forsake you” was a daily affirmation necessary to life. Pain and suffering were their routine. Thriving in an environment of threat and death is explainable only by an overwhelming hope --- the hope that comes from a living Christ Jesus! Their very life was their testimony.
SO --- what about US? Is Easter over for us? Absolutely not! BUT --- does your life and mine give a living testimony of the continuing life of Christ? Leon Morris is absolutely right --- “The Resurrection is an ongoing thing.” Is it ongoing with you and me? Do those around us see something that is only explainable by our faith in the Resurrected Christ? Easter is continuing this week --- I trust it will continue in our lives, in our witness, and in our churches!
On the Easter just before he died, Rev. D. William Sangster painfully printed a short note to his daughter. A deeply spiritual Methodist minister, 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 that progressively paralyzed his body, even his vocal chords. On 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!’"