|"As for us, there’s no question—we can’t keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard" (Acts 4:20, The Message Bible).
By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.
The disciples saw firsthand the miracle of that first Easter morning. But what if they had kept to themselves all they had seen and heard? There is another part to this timeless Christian story.
The disciples faithfully carried forward the Message from that day. Without their continuing witness, the church would not be here now.
Yes, our Easter Sunday celebrations have concluded for another year. But our transformational work is not done. On the church’s liturgical calendar, we are moving through the seven Sundays of Easter and onward to Pentecost Sunday (May 23), marking the birthday of the church.
There is no better time than now for you and me to focus on the other side of Easter. What we must do as followers of the Risen Lord is what those first disciples did: Go out and proclaim boldly the significance of that first Easter morning. Let us tell what we today have seen and heard.
Let me share with you how we can best go about the task.
One of the biggest problems we have in witnessing is our inability to convince other people that we know the Christ we serve.
Others look at us, at how we live. They can see clearly when a person does not know anything about the Master he or she claims to serve.
To tell others about this Risen Savior, you must have firsthand experience of encountering him. Acts 4:20 declares, "We cannot keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard." Therefore, in order for you to witness to his death and resurrection, Jesus has to be alive in you!
In this day and age, it is not enough to cultivate a Christian personality. No longer is it sufficient to be a good example. Nor can we simply talk about this wonderful Savior and expect to lead others to Christ.
It is now necessary to live the Christian life. You and I must be willing to demonstrate those things that will produce a well-rounded Christian and person and, in doing so, we ourselves will be changed.
For Christians, we witness today by
1) what we are,
2) what we say, and
3) what we do.
The early followers of Christ were so vociferous in their witnessing that the New Testament word for witness—matureo—was transliterated into our word martyr, meaning one who dies for his or her faith.
Dear friends, the other side of Easter demands that we "go and tell" the story of this great victory for us.
Go and share the story in the same way Mary did at the tomb. Go without hesitation, just as Cleopas and the other disciple did when they broke the bread and discovered that it was the Risen Lord who had walked with them as they traveled. Speak up when the opportunity presents itself to tell people how Jesus changed you and how available he is to anyone who seeks him!
J. Ralph Grant tells about a monk in the Middle Ages. His name was Martin of Basel. He came to know Christ as his Savior, but he was reluctant to confess his faith openly.
On a piece of parchment, he wrote his confession of faith: "Oh, most merciful Christ, I know that I can be saved only by the merit of thy blood. Holy Jesus, I acknowledge thy sufferings for me. I love thee! I love thee!" But after writing that confession of faith, Martin removed a stone from the wall of his chamber and hid his confession. It was not discovered for more than 100 years!
About the same time, Dr. Grant wrote, there was another monk also named Martin. He, too, discovered the great truth of the Risen Lord and of justification by faith but, unlike Martin of Basel, he confessed his faith publicly. He declared, "My Lord has confessed me before men. I will not shrink from confessing him before kings."
And that’s just what Martin Luther did! On Oct. 31, 1517, he nailed his confession of faith, called the Ninety-five Theses, on the bulletin board of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. And thus began the Protestant Reformation.
How will your witness rally others to our Risen Lord? You may not ignite Reformations, but you can change one person at a time with the news that is too good to keep. And you yourself will be changed as well.
"O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his grace!
My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad the honors of thy name."
("O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing," by Charles Wesley, is No. 57 in The United Methodist Hymnal)