Church historian Martin Marty told of a friend of his who taught Sunday School for many years. One April morning the weather had turned so warm and spring-like that the teacher knew his class needed to spend time outside. He brought plastic eggs, leftover from Easter treats, and told the eight-year-old students to look around for something that showed new life and then to put examples in their eggs.
Stephen was the teacher’s biggest concern among the dozen students. He had been born with many challenges, including both physical and learning difficulties, and he spent all his waking hours in a wheelchair. An assistant pushed him about while the teacher romped with his other students in the energizing spring morning.
Soon it was time to gather the class. Now the teacher was beginning to worry about his lesson plan, knowing that Stephen could not have done much for this activity and was likely to become the target of classroom laughter when his egg was opened. The teacher planned to move past it as quickly as possible in order to save Stephen whatever embarrassment he could.
The eggs were mixed in a circle in front of him. He opened the first, and a fragile flower blossom floated out. “That’s mine!” cried a girl. “It’s got the new life of spring!” Nods and murmurs of shared wonder erupted.
The next egg contained a butterfly. It almost scared everyone when it flitted out of its plastic prison, but just as soon, there were cries of delight. “That’s mine!” shouted a boy. “A caterpillar turned into a butter fly!” Everyone was impressed.
The teacher thought the next egg was Stephen’s when he twisted apart the halves and a stone fell out. He tried to push it away quickly, but another boy said, “That’s mine! See the moss growing on the rock?!” It was a great lesson, showing life emerging from death.
More gems followed—flowering twigs, blades of grass, even the downy feather of a baby bird. Finally, only one egg remained. The teacher knew it was Stephen’s. And just as he expected, when opened, nothing came out.
But Stephen was not embarrassed. In his thick speech from a twisted mouth, Stephen fairly shouted, “That’s mine! See? Just like Jesus’ tomb on Easter! It’s empty!” And no one laughed in derision, but all clapped excitedly. Yes, indeed! The teacher was relieved.
Stephen’s condition worsened rapidly in the next months. By mid-summer he was failing. And those who thronged the funeral service at his August death witnessed an amazing site. After everyone was seated, eleven eight-year-olds marched confidently down the church aisle. Each carried a plastic egg. Each cracked it open and placed the empty halves on top of Stephen’s casket. Stephen’s own great Easter lesson was now being taught to others by his classmate evangelists.
This is the time of year when all that is best of the message of Jesus needs to be shouted in every way possible. We need evangelists, and evangelists need to be trained.
Join us at CLC in the training of more evangelists to shout the good news of Easter.