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Come! See! Go! Tell!

We are warmly invited to a personal faith that goes out to the world to testify what has happened to us.

This morning you have heard the Easter story as it comes to us from the Gospel of Matthew, and I want to walk our way through it this morning as a background for what I want to share with you. Matthew is very careful in setting the stage, in telling us the precise time of that which occurs.

"Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulcher."

We're told that this occurred after the Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath began at sundown on Friday evening and concluded at sundown Saturday evening. But the second time hint that we have here is "as the day began to dawn." We know that this did not happen Saturday night. Rather, it happened in the early hours of the morning.

We read that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, here left unidentified, went to see the sepulcher. But now if we read the other Gospels we find out that there were not just two women but there were a number of women who made this trip in the early morning to see the sepulcher. The other Mary is specifically identified as Mary, the mother of James and the wife of Clopas. And many scholars think that this Mary was a sister of the Virgin Mary. Now you may be very surprised to find out that you might have two daughters in the same family with the same name, but that was not at all unusual in those days because they also used a second name to identify themselves. Anyway, we know about Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James. Luke's Gospel also tells us about a woman by the name of Joanna, and then says "and other women" went to the sepulcher in the early morning.

We're told in the other Gospels that they went bearing spices, because Jesus had been buried so hastily he was not properly anointed. The women wanted to accomplish this task before the Sabbath began. And so it was that they went to the sepulcher in the early hours.

"And, behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat upon it."

Again, if you read the other accounts, you discover that the ladies on the way to the tomb talked among themselves. "How are we going to move the stone that covers the entrance to the tomb?" So apparently when they arrived, that had already been accomplished. They saw that the stone had been rolled away.

"And the angel of the Lord sat upon the stone. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him, the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. He is risen as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead. And, behold, he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him. Lo, I have told you.'"

It was the message of the angel that came to the women gathered before the tomb that spoke a word of peace and comfort. "Don't be afraid. Fear not. Come and see the place where Jesus lay. Then go and tell his disciples that Jesus has been raised from the dead." In those verses—5, 6, and 7—I find four great imperatives of Easter, imperatives which I want to lay before you, to recall to your mind that of which we speak today, but also to challenge you. And those four great imperatives are the great verbs that we read in those three verses. The first is come. The second is see. The third is go. And the fourth is tell.
We are told to "Come" and participate in Jesus' costly life.

First the angel said, "Come." The word come is a wonderfully welcoming word. It's a word that dispels fear as though one might be afraid to approach. The word come is an invitation: "You are welcome here." And this was the word that was spoken first by the angel. "Come."

It seems to me that these four words actually encompass for us the whole of the Christian life and experience, because our Christian experience begins with response to the word come. Those of you who are gathered here today, practically all of you at some point in your life for the very first time heard the invitation extended to you, "Come. Come." And you might have had reason, even as these women, to fear. You might have said, "I'm not worthy to stand before a holy God." And you would be correct. You might have said, "I'm not good enough to come." And that would be right. But somehow that invitation that you have heard in a thousand ways has spoken peace to your heart and an absence of fear, and faith enabled you to act on that invitation and you came. That's the way it is with the Christian life.

I'm thinking of a passage in which Jesus speaks a word of invitation: "Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." What a wonderful invitation. "Come to me," Jesus said. Once again, Jesus was not a person who pushed people away. He was a person who called everyone to himself. Notice the people assembled. All who are heavy laden, all who feel weighted down with the cares and the problems of life, you are the ones that I'm calling to myself.

Jesus on another occasion said he did not come to call the well but those who were needy in the sight of God. Jesus never frightened people away. He called them to himself in a most natural way. Children came to him. And when they were rebuffed by the apostles, Jesus said, "Forbid them not. Let the children come to me, for they are welcome, and of such is the kingdom of heaven." You see, this gracious invitation of Jesus is indeed the word come. Come. Come.

He also assured us that all who come to the Father will in no wise be cast away. Think of that for a moment. Let that word speak peace to your heart, and assurance. All who come to the Father, he says, the Father will in no wise turn away.

I think of this so often especially as I work with people and seek to help them commit their lives to Jesus Christ. I find I have to assure them that they would be welcome. They're not sure of that. For many, God has been a fearful judge or someone from whom they have fled away. Perhaps they are like the prodigal son and they feel ashamed to come, or they feel weighted down with unworthiness. And I am able to say, no, all who come are most welcomed before him, and he turns no one away.

But when we think of coming to Jesus or coming to the Lord God we have to consider the fact that Jesus' own words are very particular. Jesus did not seek to win disciples without laying before them the implications of discipleship. I read from the 16th chapter of Matthew, and this is what Jesus says. "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

You see, Jesus might have been told, had you and I been there, that that's not exactly the way to win friends and influence people. If you want to win adherents, you do not go out and tell them, "The first thing I want you to know is that you need to deny yourself." People don't like that. But, you see, Jesus didn't seek to get converts and disciples by false advertising. He said, "No, if any man is going to come and follow, this is what it's going to cost. You must deny yourself. You must take up your cross." And in Luke's Gospel the word every day is added. And follow me.

So often people in talking about the cross or crosses in life equate them with problems, as though a disagreeable mother-in-law might be your cross or some physical infirmity from which you suffer. Listen, people: That is a common fortune of the whole of the human race. That is not the cross. When Jesus talked about the cross, he was talking about an instrument of death and annihilation. Jesus was saying, in effect, to us, "I want you to deny yourself; in fact, to die to yourself. Die to your plans, your objectives, your purposes. Die to yourself. Then come follow me."

There's the mystery of the Christian experience. We come. We lay down our life, and yet we find it again. Paul says, "I die daily." He says, "Nevertheless, I live in Christ Jesus." There's that strange paradox. And who can explain it but those who come to Jesus, lay down their lives and find new life.

We are told to "See" and experience faith personally.

The second imperative is found in the word see. "Come and see the place where Jesus lay." This is an imperative to gain your own personal experience rather than to go forward on hearsay.

You know there are a lot of people who have no personal experience with God. They know something about him, but it is all word of mouth. It is all by hearsay. The angel said to the women, "Come in. Don't be afraid. Come right in. I want you to see the place where Jesus lay. He's not there. Investigate it for yourself. Test it out. Look at it. Come to an understanding on the basis of your own experience. You don't have to take my word for it." You see, this is an invitation to personal faith, no longer secondhand faith.

It was David duPlessis who said profoundly that God has no grandchildren. Your mother and father could have been devout Christians, but that says nothing whatever about you. You cannot enter the kingdom of heaven on the basis of a relationship to a godly parent. You see, there comes a point at which you respond to the Lord God. You see for yourself. You enter in. It's so important that we understand this.

One finds it all the way through the Gospels, particularly in the writings of John. I turn to the first chapter of John's Gospel, and this is what we read. Philip has told the good news to Nathanael and he said, "I want you to come and hear a prophet from Nazareth."

And in a rather cynical way, Nathanael said, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?"

And Philip said unto him, "Come and see." Come and see. You don't have to take my word for it. I want you to come, listen yourself, make up your own mind, and conclude on the basis of the evidence that you discover.

You see, all the way through authentic Christianity there is that call to personal experience. It's not simply listening to another person give a testimony. It's not simply using the words of someone else. It's come and see. Come and look for yourself. Investigate. Use your brain. Look at the evidence. One finds that everywhere.

I'm thinking also of a passage in the fourth chapter of John's Gospel, the interview with the woman at the well. And she is so impressed with this man that she has met at the well that she excuses herself, runs back to town and says, "Come, see a man who told me all that ever I did. Can this be the Christ?" You see, something's happened to her and she goes back and she tells the people, "Come, come and see the man who told me all that ever I did." I think if I met a man who told me all that ever I did, that the last thing I would want to do is invite people to come too. But she was so impressed with what he had to say that she said, "Listen! Don't miss out. Don't miss out."

But I want you to hear the response of the people who came, because the whole village turned out on the basis of her testimony. Verse 41 says, "And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman 'It is no longer because of your words that we believe. For we have heard for ourselves and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.'" You see, they came first on the basis of someone else's witness, but then having come, then they discovered for themselves.

You know there's a strange thing about Episcopalians. I run into it everywhere, all over the world. Episcopalians have been told a half-truth and they've believed it. The half-truth is that Christian faith is personal and private. Well the half-truth is the Christian faith is personal. Christian faith is nothing if it is not personal. But it is never private. Sometimes I hear Episcopalians say, "Oh, my faith is so precious to me. It is so personal. I hold it so close to my heart I couldn't possibly talk about it."

Well, listen. If you can't talk about it, you haven't got it.

Something happens to people who meet Jesus Christ. They know it. For a time they may be operating on the testimony of somebody else, but there comes a point where they say, as the people of the town of Samaria said, "We came because of what you said, but now we no longer believe on your word, for we have seen him ourselves." "Come and see," the angel said.

We are told to "Go" and be sent out into the world.

Then third imperative is Go! Go. All who come are received, welcomed warmly. But then they're sent out again. Strange movement of coming and going, always coming and going.

Now the temptation has always been for God's people just to want to come, just to sit at the feet of Jesus. You remember Peter wanted to build three tabernacles on the Mount of Transfiguration. Such a wonderful spiritual experience it was. He said, "I never want to leave here. This is marvelous." But I have to tell you, it is not the will of God that we simply cultivate our own personal and private experience of God. No, if we really come to him, we discover that there's another imperative, and that is go.

Jesus said to the three on the Mount of Transfiguration, "I don't want you to stay up here on the mountaintop. I want you to go down in the valley. That's where people live. I don't want you to enter a monastery. I don't want you to pull way from the world. I want you to get into the world." That's the place where the Christian life is to be lived—on Main Street, in the marketplace, in the classroom, in the home, not in the church.

Something funny happens to people when they live in churches. I remember saying to a woman in this congregation, "If I see you around this church any more, I will think there's something wrong with your home." And there was. She was running away. Some people use the church to avoid the world. Even worse, they would seek to use the Lord to avoid the world. No - if you come and see, then you go.

Remember, the commission is, "Go into all the world and make disciples from among all nations." That is a universal command of Jesus Christ. It's called the Great Commission of the church. And unless you have received a personal exemption from heaven itself, it means you. You come. You see. And you go.

Now you may not be called to move all around the world. You don't have to be. Consider your world. Your world is the whole circle of people that you touch with your life, the whole realm of your experience, your influence. It may not be as great as someone else's. That's of no consequence. But your world is to be penetrated by your witness for Jesus Christ. The workaday world, your home world, your leisure world, all of that is a part of what is intended to be salted with the salt of your life, to be seasoned with the grace of your life, to be illuminated with the light of your life, to be warmed by the love of your life. That is your world, and you are to go out in it and penetrate it utterly with the grace of God and the life of God.

Come! See! Go!

We are told to "Tell," to bear witness, to testify .

And finally, tell. Tell. You don't only go, you go with a message. You have something to say. I'm thinking of the way John put it in the first chapter of his first letter. What a powerful word. Listen to this:

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard (notice the personal word which we have heard) which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands concerning the word of life. The life was made manifest and we have seen it and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us. That which we have seen and heard we proclaim to you, so that you may have fellowship with us and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ."

Did you get all of those verbs in there? Did you see the sense terms? "That which we have heard with our ears." This isn't secondhand, this is direct. "That which we have seen with our eyes, which our hands have touched, that we bear testimony to, that we proclaim to you." You see, they have come. They have seen. They have gone forth. And now they tell.

I don't think everybody is called to be a preacher of the gospel. In fact, I'm sure everyone is not called to be a preacher of the gospel. I understand that to mean that some people are called of God and equipped to declare the truth of God in such a way that people can hear the voice of God through the preached word. I don't think everyone is called to do that. But I am sure that everyone is called to bear witness, to testify.

I've told you before that my first teaching experience was in a law school. All of my students were going to be lawyers, and I taught them logic and argumentation and how to arrange their arguments so as to lead inevitably to conclusions. And during those days we spent time discussing the function of a witness in a court of law. A witness, you know, is a person who tells what he or she knows from direct experience. If you've watched Perry Mason or some other TV courtroom drama, every once in a while they attorney will jump up and say, "I object. The witness is drawing a conclusion."

As a witness, we are simply to tell what we know from our own experience. That's why I say if you can't tell it, you haven't heard it. If you aren't able to speak it, you don't know it because God works at the deepest levels of our being. He changes our lives. And when he does, there's something to talk about. We're able to say, like that blind man, "Once I was blind but now I see. Once I didn't comprehend, but now it's plain to me. There was a before and an after in my life. There was a time when I walked in darkness, but now I walk in light." A Christian is able to say that. And however it happens to them, that's not the important point. However it happens to them, they know that God has done something for them.

I wonder about you. Do you have a testimony? Do you have a witness? Are there things in your life that you can bear witness to, to anybody who will listen? Are you penetrating your world with the truth of God and the love of God and the life of God? Is your understanding based on personal witness and experience? Or are you a second-generation Christian with no roots of your own? Have you said yes to the invitation to come?

There it is, people. I believe this is God's word for us today. It's simple, isn't it? Four great imperatives. Now I want to put them together into twos.

Come and see. Come and see. I bear witness. Jesus makes a difference in a person's life. Come and see. If you feel as though you've been walking away from the Lord God, he will receive you back. Come and see. If you feel that you are unworthy, he will clothe you with the cloak of righteousness so that you can stand before him. Come and see. Don't go on my testimony or the witness of someone else or the weight of the centuries of the church's testimony. Come and see.

And then the other imperative is Go and tell. Go and tell. People, when you leave this place, I hope it's just not a warm slushy feeling in your heart you carry away. I hope you carry away a fresh hearing of the command and the great opportunity and the privilege to bear witness for Jesus Christ and to penetrate your world with his life.

That's God's word. Anyone, anyone who has ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.

Everett L. Fullam

(c) Everett L. Fullam

Preaching Today Tape #19


A resource of Christianity Today International

Terry Fullam was the rector of St. Paul's in Darien, Connecticut, the author of seven books, and an internationally-renowned speaker on church renewal who conducted missions in more than 25 countries. To find out more about his biblical teaching ministry and to access his sermons, please go to the "Life on Wings" home page.

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Sermon Outline:


I. We are told to "Come" and participate in Jesus' costly life

II. We are told to "See" and experience faith personally

III. We are told to "Go" and be sent out into the world

IV. We are told to "Tell," to bear witness, to testify