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Few. Many. You.
April 09, 2023*
By Pastor John Partridge
John 20:1-18 Acts 10:34-43 Colossians 3:1-4
In 1984, the Faberge company hired popular actress and model, Heather Locklear to star in a commercial for their new line of Faberge Organics shampoo. In that commercial, Heather Locklear says that she was so impressed by the results of using this new shampoo, that she told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on. And with each repletion of those words, the image of Heather Locklear doubles, and continues to multiply. Many of us remember that commercial.
But whether we remember seeing it or not, it is a good representation of what happens when we learn of new products that excite us, or hear juicy gossip, or any other kind of news that gets us excited. And this is the way that the news of the resurrection happened. There wasn’t a mobile television news crew from channel eight broadcasting live from Jesus’ tomb, nor were there any newspaper reporters or internet bloggers skulking around looking for a scoop that would sell newspapers or make their blog go viral. News, even incredibly exciting news, traveled the old fashioned way, one person told their friends, and they told their friends, and so on, and so on, and so on. And that’s exactly what we see in the story of the resurrection recorded for us by the Apostle John in 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.
First, I want to notice that everyone is running. This isn’t the kind of news that is merely interesting and you think to yourself that you’ll need to tell someone the next time you see them. This is earth-shaking, life or death, call 911 and start CPR, kind of news. First, Mary Magdalene finds the empty tomb, then Simon Peter and John run to join her and see for themselves. Then the disciples leave and Mary is left alone, only to be joined buy two angels, and then by Jesus. But, after Jesus leaves, Mary runs to the place where the disciples are staying so that she can tell as many people as possible.
The message of the resurrection began with only one, and then to only a few, but it didn’t end there or none of us would be here this morning. Not too long after the resurrection of Jesus, on the day of Pentecost, Peter and the disciples were still in Jerusalem. But now, instead of hiding, they shared the good news of Jesus’ resurrection with a crowd of many people as we hear in the story of Acts 10:34-43.
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.”
Rather than sharing the news with two friends, who can share with two more friends, Peter speaks to a crowd of people from every nation to which Jews had migrated. Being one of the required feasts, pilgrims from everywhere had come to Jerusalem and there, Peter and the disciples shared with them the story of Jesus and the news of his crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection. The reason that this story is good news is that it is not limited to one group of friends, to one group of people, or to one nation. Peter preaches that he now knows that “God does not show favoritism” so the people who had come there from Africa, and Asia, and everywhere, are just as known, and just as loved, by God as the people who live in Jerusalem. God’s love, grace, and forgiveness are not limited by ethnicity or geography, but are now available to everyone who believes.
But that wasn’t the end of the story either. Decades later, when Paul wrote his letter to the church that he had founded in the city of Colossae, in what is now the nation of Turkey, he says this in Colossians 3:1-4:
3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
On Easter morning, Mary Magdalene discovered that she was the only one who knew the truth, but then she told two friends, and those friends told more friends, and eventually announced the good news to many, and soon that news was traveling all over the known world. And here, in the worlds of Paul, we find God’s call to us. “Since you” (that’s us) “have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above. Set your minds on things above and not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden in Christ with God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Like Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, and like the disciples at Pentecost, we are witnesses. We have received, and we are the carriers of the greatest pieces of good news ever shared from one human to another. Like Mary, and the disciples, and legions of people since then, we are still called to share the good news that we have received. Although millennia have passed, this news is so good, far better than the discovery of a new organic shampoo, that we are still called to tell our friends and our neighbors what we have seen, and what we have heard. And, like always, when we tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on, then our good news will find its way… to everyone.
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, 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 or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com . All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™