What is a “witness” and why are witnesses so important? Peter, when he was meeting with the other disciples, said they needed to choose someone to replace Judas who had been with them the whole time Jesus was with them beginning with John the Baptist clear up to the time of his ascension…” For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
A witness, according to the dictionary, is… “one who can give a firsthand account of something seen, heard, or experienced.” So, this one the disciples chose was one who had travelled with them from the very beginning. Someone who had seen the miracles Jesus did, heard the parables he told, and listened as he told them about his death and resurrection. This one they chose was there on the beach at Galilee when he prepared a meal of fish for them. He was there when he appeared to them in the upper room and showed them his hands and his side. This one witnessed his ascension into the clouds. And why was this so important?
Think about it for a minute. Who would you believe someone who had witnessed every event in Jesus’ life firsthand or someone who’d heard about Jesus from someone who may have also heard about him from someone else who may have heard about him from one of the disciples? I’d be more apt to believe the one who had actually been there, wouldn’t you? That may have been the reason the church grew so rapidly in the beginning. Because everyone who spoke experienced Jesus’ life firsthand and they were believable.
But, you’re saying, the disciples didn’t live forever and we don’t have any of the original disciples to corroborate the words read and preached to us today. And you’d be absolutely right. So, how can we be certain that the testimony we hear every Sunday is true? Who is the credible witness we can rely now that the disciples aren’t with us anymore?
What do you think? Who do we listen to today? John says in his epistle, the passage we heard read today, that…“God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony.” If we willingly accept human testimony doesn’t it make sense that God’s words are even more credible, even more believable? So, I would tell you that the witness we listen to today is God.
Now you may ask how can God be a witness, how can he testify that Jesus is His Son, the Christ? I believe that God witnesses to Jesus through the Bible, His word to us. John said that he wrote his epistle…“to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” He knew that the original witnesses wouldn’t be here for everyone to hear so the only way they would come to know Jesus and his gospel was through the spoken and written word of God.
So, even though we who read and proclaim the word of God and give our testimony are imperfect and sinful people, God witnesses to those who listen through the Holy Spirit who is at work in those giving their testimony.
Now it’s up to us who aren’t firsthand witnesses of Jesus and his life to tell the story of God’s love for the world and to keep his commandment to love one another. The question we have to ask ourselves is…how are we doing?
Today we are called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ to the world, to our sisters and brothers who haven’t heard the testimony of Jesus’ disciples. And we can’t use the excuse that we’ve done our part and now others should take over. Nope, there is no early retirement for those who are called to be witnesses.
My challenge for all of us is to focus this week on being witnesses for Jesus as we live our lives this week at work and at our leisure. Every person we meet is an opportunity for us to tell the story of Jesus, to witness to them about what He means in our lives. And if you need help know that everyone here today would be glad to back you up and tell their story along side yours. Remember none of us are in this alone.
Good friends, we are all called to be ministers to God’s children and witnesses to our faith in Jesus Christ. Go out into the world this week filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and tell your story.
Thanks be to God for his loving, empowering grace. Amen.