“See. Hear. Go. Tell.”
April 01, 2018
By John Partridge*
John 20:1-18 Acts 10:34-43 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Leader: He is Risen!
People: He is Risen indeed!
We join together this morning to remember and to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the most important day on the Christian calendar and represents the climax and conclusion of the story that begins with Christmas. Well, sort of. We know that it is wrong to say that the story “began” at Christmas because we have thousands of years of recorded history that tell us about the people of God and God’s work on earth prior to the coming of Jesus and the writings of the New Testament. Likewise, we know that it’s wrong to say that Easter is the conclusion of the story because we’re still here two thousand years later. But however we choose to describe it, Easter is indeed the climax of the story. This day, the day that Jesus rose from the dead, is a pivotal moment in history and the pivotal moment of God’s redemption and rescue of humanity. But if the story doesn’t end with the resurrection, if we are still here two thousand years later, if we are still worshipping and following God, then we are presented with some questions that need answering and foremost among them is “Why?” Why are we still here? When is the end of the story? What is supposed to happen between now and the end? And finally, what are we supposed to be doing?
We won’t have time to answer all of those questions today, but the Easter story itself answers some of them, so let’s begin there by reading the story from John 20:1-18.
20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
One of the things that struck me as I read this passage is that each participant saw something. Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb and she saw that the stone had been removed. She ran to Peter and John and immediately told them what she had seen. Peter and John ran to the tomb and they saw the strips of linen and the empty tomb. But then, while Peter and John return to the home where they are staying, Mary remains at the tomb weeping and brokenhearted. And while she is there two angels appear and ask why. “Why are you crying?” And Mary explains that Jesus has been taken from her and she doesn’t know where they have put him. And then she repeats herself to the gardener but in doing so, suddenly realizes that it is not the gardener to whom she is speaking but Jesus, risen, resurrected, alive, and well. But then, Jesus tells her to “Go” and to “Tell” the disciples that Jesus was returning to heaven.
Twice, Mary had seen, and twice she ran to tell others what she had found.
These moments, at the very heart of the Easter story, set the pattern that is to be followed throughout history and to this very day. In Acts 10:34-43, Luke tells us how the disciples themselves understood what had happened at Easter.
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
“You know the message God sent to the people.” “We are witnesses of everything he did”
Peter said, you were there, you saw, you heard, you know. And because of that, Jesus “commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.” Peter wasn’t preaching to the disciples, or to the apostles, or even to the church, but to a gathering of Gentiles gathered in the home of a Roman centurion who had heard the stories of Jesus and had been given a vision by God. The command to tell others is not a command that was given to disciples, or to pastors, or teachers, but a command that was given to everyone who knows the story.
In 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Paul explains it this way:
15:1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
This is the next generation of believers. Paul never claims to be a witness to the crucifixion or to the resurrection. Paul did meet Jesus, but long after the events of Easter recorded in the Gospels. And Paul isn’t writing to eyewitnesses as John and Peter did. Paul was writing to a church in Greece, to people who were nowhere near Jerusalem or Israel when Jesus rose from the dead.
In other words, Paul was writing to people like us.
And Paul says, “what I received I passed on to you as of first importance.” There were, at that time, still plenty of people who had seen Jesus after the resurrection and Paul emphasizes that the church in Corinth had heard the story from him, had believed, and held firmly to what they had learned. But Paul also says that what the apostles knew, they preached so that others, like the Corinthians, might also believe.
It’s a pattern that began on that first Easter morning.
Come and see.
Hear the Good News.
Go, and tell.
The church has followed that pattern throughout the ages from that time until today. Every one of us is here today because someone else heard the story and then told it to us. And now, because we have heard the story, it becomes our mission to do the same for others.
Our world, our nation, our community, our neighborhoods, and even our families are filled with people who don’t know the story and who haven’t heard the good news. They have no idea that Jesus came to rescue them from guilt, sin, and death. In Romans chapter 10, Paul asks, how can people call on Jesus Christ if they don’t believe in him? How can people believe if they have not heard the story? How can they hear of no one ever told them? And how can anyone preach, if the church never sent them?
We’re glad that you came today, but it isn’t enough to hear the story and then keep it to yourself.
You have seen and you have heard the story.
Now it’s your turn.
Go and tell.
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*You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.