Sermon by Rev. Deborah Hannay Sunoo
For the last few months, we’ve been working our way through Luke’s gospel asking: for whom was the kingdom of God Jesus proclaimed especially good news? To put that another way: whose good news was it?
Today we get to ask that same question about Jesus’ resurrection. Whose good news was it that Jesus had risen from the dead? It seems to me we can tackle the question in at least two ways.
First, to whom did the news belong? Well, the men in dazzling white first told it to those who’d come with spices to embalm Jesus’ body and instead found an empty tomb. According to Luke, it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women who got hold of the news first: Jesus isn’t here; he’s risen! They rushed back and shared what they’d seen and heard with the apostles, so the good news of Easter could be theirs as well. At least it could have been theirs at that point if they’d believed the women’s testimony. I’ve shared with some of you before that the Greek word leiros here in Luke 24:11, which in the English translation we heard today translates as “idle tale,” could apparently just as easily be translated nonsense or garbage. In other words, the women tried to hand off the good news to the apostles, but they weren’t having it! Not at first anyway. Imagine how differently things might have played out if they hadn’t come around.
But there’s something marvelous that happens in our text between verses 11 and 12. I’m not sure if you caught it? Verse 11 – the women’s words seem to the eleven a load of bunk, Peter of course being one of those eleven. Verse 12 – But Peter got up and ran to the tomb. Why’d he go, do you think? To prove them wrong? Why would he need to, if he already knew it to be impossible? Or was there just enough room in Peter’s imagination to wonder if it really might be as the women had said?
In any event, once he gets to the empty tomb, and looks in and sees the linen cloths by themselves – no body – Peter goes home “amazed” at what had happened. (Luke 24:12) Like the women, he may still be reeling from it all, but the good news of the resurrection has started to belong to him as well.
As chapter 24 continues past what Don read for us today, two disciples walking along the Emmaus are joined by the risen Jesus but don’t know it’s him. Not when they first see him, not when he explains the Scriptures to them to help them understand the events of the last few days, not until he breaks bread at their table are their eyes finally opened to the miraculous truth. Once they see it, the good news is theirs, and they hurry back to share it with “the eleven [apostles] and their companions.” (Luke 24:33) And then suddenly Jesus is right there with all of them, inviting them to touch his hands and his feet. Luke says they’re joyful and disbelieving and wondering all at once (Luke 24:41) but Jesus explains what’s happened and even eats a piece of fish in front of them to convince them he’s alive. He sticks with them, in other words, until the good news is theirs.
That very same good news – that Jesus had risen from the dead – has since been shared from person to person, from community to community, across continents and generations. And it expands as it’s passed; it’s not a zero-sum game as if my taking hold of it means the next person can’t. Like Jesus’ miracle of multiplying loaves and fishes, as the basket full of Easter good news is passed around, there’s more than enough for anyone who’s hungry for it. Because the women at the empty tomb, and Peter, and the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the rest of the apostles all chose to claim the good news of the resurrection, and believe it, and share it, it’s become your good news too, and mine…
But there’s another sense too in which we can ask the question “whose good news?” about our gospel text. For it’s not simply a question of to whom the news belongs. We also want to know: for whom does the news of the empty tomb actually make a difference? The question of impact goes along with the spirit in which we’ve been asking “whose good news?” throughout our series on Luke this year. We’ve seen, for instance, that the extravagantly inclusive, justice-oriented, life-giving kingdom of God Jesus proclaimed was good news for those who were poor and hungry, for prisoners and those who were oppressed. It was good news for fearful fishermen and repentant tax collectors, for those battling physical and mental illness, for the lost and those with nothing left to lose. Good news for those who’d been underestimated, undervalued, and excluded, and good news for those brave enough to lay down their treasure and share their power and privilege.
When we then ask the question specifically about Jesus’ resurrection here in the final chapter of Luke - whose good news was it? – perhaps we can add to that list not only specific individuals with names like Mary and Peter, but additional categories of people as well. For instance, that first Easter morning brought good news for the heartbroken and the grieving, the terrified and the perplexed. Good news for the early risers and for those who stayed home, for those who hesitated and those who charged into action. Good news for the fearful and the faithful, for the do-ers and the doubters, and good news too for those who had a little trouble remembering everything they’d learned. It brought good news for the first witnesses themselves and those with whom they shared their testimony. Good news for the women and the men, for the famous and those who remained anonymous. Good news for the disbelieving, even, and good news for those who were amazed.
That pretty well covers all of us, doesn’t it? Which means, once again, that the good news of the resurrection is yours today, and mine. Ours if we’ve claimed it. Ours if it’s made a difference to us.
Ours even if, like Peter, we simply remain open to the game-changing possibility that it’s true. And I don’t just mean game changing individually in reframing the way we think about life and death, though any of us who’ve grieved the loss of a loved one know what a difference the good news of resurrection can make at such a time. Consider the state of our nation as we gather this morning. Consider the state of our world – our deeply wounded, battle weary, sin-sick world – and the difference it can make in such a world to keep our hearts open to the good news of Easter. To proclaim that God defeated evil that day. Did it once. Can do it again. To proclaim that life conquered death. This means nothing is so broken, so lost, so ruined that God can’t perform cosmic CPR, breathing new life into the driest of bones, and creating new possibilities in even the most desolate spaces.
Think about the infusion of hope this offers a world in despair, the gift of light in the darkness and grace to meet us in our collective grieving over this past year. Think about what it means to those fighting tirelessly against injustice. Evil may have its day, but “God gets the last word… and that is always a word of healing, a word of liberation, a word of hope, a word of life.” Think about what it means to congregations like ours all over the globe, physically separated from dear friends in Christ for two Easters now, but knowing “God [doesn’t] do distancing. God [continues to stand] with us – always with us,” and “Jesus [isn’t] finished – not now, not ever. He is risen. This changes everything.”
If it’s already yours – this good news of resurrection – celebrate it! Share it! Sing loud and long: that God wins! That life, and love, and good ultimately win!
And if you’re not quite sure, simply consider: what if this Easter story that sounds too remarkable to be true is true? Whose good news could it be then?
Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
 Martin Copenhaver, “Preaching on Easter in a Good Friday Season” Journal for Preachers (Easter 2021), p. 13.
 Scott Black Johnston, “Empty” Journal for Preachers (Easter 2021), p. 32.