You see it in movies and on TV. There’s a nervous person in the witness-box. They swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They are usually just people who happened to see or experience something pertaining to a trial in a court of law. As a result, they are called upon to testify before a judge, perhaps a jury, and the plaintiffs or defendants. Witnesses tell the truth as it happened to them, and every witness has a story.
Nike had a pretty effective ad campaign for LeBron, saying that we are all witnesses of his exploits. LeBron James does indeed have an impressive basketball resume, but here’s a more important consideration. It has nothing to do with LeBron. When it comes to life, what’s YOUR Story? What have you witnessed?
People in Jerusalem were challenged to be witnesses about what they ACTUALLY saw.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV)
The last couple of weeks, we have been observing the folks who witnessed Jesus on earth, and who recorded testimony about him. When talking about the various witnesses to who Jesus was, it’s important not to forget one last group. He commissioned everyone who would encounter him, eyewitness or not, to be witnesses on his behalf.
Witnesses to What?
It’s not surprising that Jesus commissioned his disciples to be witnesses. After all, they were looking at him, and eyewitness testimony is a powerful thing. It is used in courtrooms and product testimonials. Even Nike and its ubiquitous swoosh appropriated the idea and challenged people to be witnesses. I like LeBron, but I’d have to say that life is not worth much if we are only witnesses to basketball…
This verse is often used to illustrate strategy. It certainly makes sense to “bloom where you are planted”. From there, you extend your outreach to successive concentric circles, beginning with your city and extending to your region and your state. It’s a strategy that worked amazingly well in a time before there were marketing experts, demographic studies and focus groups.
To me, one of the great proofs of Christianity is that so many first century believers were changed so radically by the good news. Everyday people were touched by the message and teachings of Jesus Christ, and lived differently as a result. When they were challenged by opposition, they could have recanted or back down to protect themselves, but they didn’t. Many of them died defending their beliefs, and it is truly astounding to think about the world-changing power that was unleashed through those first century witnesses. They even died confirming what they had seen and heard.
More Than First Century Myth
That chain of confirmation includes everyone who heard the good news and found it worthy of a response. Witnesses came from those ordinary citizens in Jerusalem who heard Peter or Stephen preach. They were people like Lydia the seller of purple and Cornelius the centurion. The chain linked to philosophers on Mars Hill. It was held by martyrs who chose public and painful deaths rather than renouncing their testimonies…
The world’s transformation went on and extended to the next generation of witnesses. It went through Catholic priests, to Reformers, to Lutherans and Methodists and Moravians. Testimonies popped up through successive generations of believers who continued to be witnesses one after another.
These witnesses took the Gospel out to foreign cultures and to other lands, spread out across history against all odds, using the word of mouth that reached all shores like ripples in a pond.. And it has come down to here: to you and me. We are all among the secondary generation witnesses. We are now empowered to testify about our experience in our OWN neighborhoods and hometowns, across social and cultural barriers, and everywhere we go.
More Than Other Witnesses
I am a witness. At fourteen, I had lived in eight or nine different family configurations. My mom, who was a vivacious and beautiful woman, struggled with alcohol and relationships. As a result, things changed a lot, and they changed often. My dad, who took me in at age 10, was secure but tough. Net result: I was an insecure kid. I had grown to feel that affectionate love was not very dependable, and dependable love was not very affectionate. It seemed like the more I reached out for it, the harder it was to find.
But I encountered the life, teachings, and resurrection of Jesus in a way that changed my life. It enabled me to feel loved, to love God, and to love others. To be honest, I wasn’t totally sure it was true. But something made me believe that Jesus mattered, and that he mattered to me.
Since then, I have seen God heal. I have seen Him change lives. I have been a witness to His deliverance as part of a small party of refugees from a war zone. In short, I have experienced His boundless love and forgiveness in real life. In turn, that has encouraged me to love and to forgive. My life is a testament, not to my good nature and sunny disposition, but to God’s love.
What Have YOU Witnessed?
It occurs to me: we are not only witnesses of it but participants in it! What’s your story? I’d love to hear it. Post it here in a few sentences, go:
(Or post a comment, and PLEASE put your story here!!)
To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread