There are questions that are as old as time itself. Why are we here? What is my purpose? What is the meaning of life? There have been untold variety of answers to these questions and my hope with this post is not to analyze them but instead give my answer to the question – “What is the meaning of life?”
I have asked that question many times from my childhood, adolescence and in adulthood but it wasn’t until I was studying God’s Word during a Holy Week shortly after completing graduate school did the answer come to me. It is simple in its raw written form but much more complicated when looked at in a theological perspective and is a roadmap for a full life the way God intended.
But enough setup, here is the meaning of life as stated in six words:
“Come and See, Go and Tell”
This collection of two simple commands (whose sequential order is important) is a common theme in the New Testament and these words bookended the life of Jesus on Earth as told by the Gospel of John.
See below a passage taken from John 1:43-49 (emphasis mine) which was early in the ministry of Jesus:
43 The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He *found Philip. And Jesus *said to him, “Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip *found Nathanael and *said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip *said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and *said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael *said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”
Shortly after Phillip became a Disciple of Jesus, what does he do? He goes to tell Nathanael about this Jesus and how He was the Messiah that was prophesied by Moses. Of course Nathanael is skeptical so how does Phillip handle it? He tell Nathanael to “come and see” this Jesus. After heeding Phillip’s suggestion, Nathanael encounters Jesus and shortly after he is convinced and becomes a believer.
Again, after Phillip first became a follower of Jesus, he then responded to that saving grace by going to tell others (Nathanael) about Him. “Come and see, go and tell” is the roadmap and pathway to a life that God intends us to occupy.
At the end of John we see another example of this simple but powerful philosophy. After Jesus was crucified, his Disciples (minus Judas) behaved like most of us would after seeing our leader violently executed – They went into hiding. It took the courage of a woman, Mary Magdalene, to do what Jesus had taught them to do – Seek Him. She was just as upset as the Disciples and just as scared for her life but instead of hiding, she went to the tomb to find his body. As is the case when desperate people seek Jesus, they go reluctantly and with a great deal of skepticism but instead of finding defeat (a dead body), they find redemption (an empty tomb).
See how the Scripture describes this event in John 20:10-18 (emphasis mine):
10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes. 11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she *saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She *said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and *saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she *said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and *said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus *said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene *came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
After seeking a corpse but seeing the risen Christ, Mary’s first commandment was to go and tell the Disciples of His resurrection. Again it must be stated – Mary didn’t seek the risen Christ but instead was anticipating a lifeless Jesus. Instead of succumbing to defeat from desperation, she chose to “Come and See” her Savior even though she had no idea of what awaited her. After seeing the resurrected Lord, she received her commands of “Go and Tell.”
Permit me a quick Sidebar here. There are many reasons why Christianity differs from all the other faiths of the world but having women occupy such a prominent role in its history is one of my favorites. At the time of Jesus’ resurrection women were not seen as equal members of society but Jesus’ risen body appeared first to a woman! That along with the fact that women were given equal salvation once accepting the saving Grace of Jesus sets Christianity apart from all other faiths.
But John is not the only place in Scripture where the “Come and See, Go and Tell” meaning of life is described. The Gospel of Matthew offers another account of these same events and you can read them here from Matt 28:1-10 (emphasis mine):
1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. 3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”
8 And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus *said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
In two occasions in this passage of the above Scripture you see the “Come and See, Go and Tell” instructions to the women. The angel told the women to come see the place where Jesus was lying and then Go tell His disciples that Jesus was risen from the dead and then Jesus instructs them personally to go tell His brethren in Galilee so they can see Him.
“Come and See, Go and Tell” – This is truly the meaning of life. We are commanded to come see the risen Lord and then go and tell others about Him.
Lest I be too harsh on the Disciples, there is an interesting fact that bears repeating. These men were scared to death (literally) after seeing the death of Jesus and if Christianity was to count on them for spreading the Gospel it didn’t seem likely that this would happen on Saturday night. But something happened on Sunday morning to change these men so that all but one of them would go on to spread the Gospel of Jesus and be executed for that fact (John was the only one to die a natural death). What caused these timid, weak, simple men to transform into aggressive missionaries who were willing to be executed in very painful ways (Peter, who denied Jesus three times the night after Jesus’ death was crucified upside down)? The only explanation for these men following the second command (“Go and Tell”) was that they followed the first command (“Come and See”). After seeing the risen Lord, they were embolden in their efforts and risked life in order to preach the Gospel.
“Come and See, Go and Tell”
How we come to see Him can be done in many ways – go to Church, read the Bible, read Christian authors, listen to Christian radio, talk to Christian friends or spend quality quiet time with Him in prayer. We might not have much hope or faith in the act of attempting to see Him but we are rewarded in that act when we make the first move.
How we go and tell others about Jesus is also not limited. We can be Christian parents to our kids and raise them in the Church, we can volunteer to help the less fortunate, we can hear the call to accept a life of ministry as a pastor or missionary or we can make ourselves available to our friends and coworkers to explain the Gospel or we can live our lives so that others are drawn to us and want to find out why the evils of the world do not tear us down.
Once you become a Christian your journey is not complete. If it were then God would immediately snatch you up to Heaven and that would be it. I don’t know why God made the delivery method of His Gospel to be through sinners such as myself but since He is the creator of the Universe I have to think that He knows better than me. It would be so much easier if Angels were to come down and talk to each person of if Jesus would make an appearance to each of us (like what happened to Saul on the road to Damascus) but God didn’t choose that method. We are the messengers of the saving Grace of Jesus Christ and after we become aware of the fact that the death and resurrection of Jesus pays for all our sins (“Come and See”) we are compelled to carry out the second command (“Go and Tell”).
This is Holy Week – The time between Passover and the Resurrection of Jesus that is so full of emotions and theological significance that is literally defines what Christianity is about. If you are a seeker, then I invite you to Come and See the risen Lord. If you are a Christian, then I challenge you to Go and Tell someone about the Son of God who offered a sacrifice that covers their sins and provides hope in an evil world.