“You will be my witnesses”

These are part of Christ’s last words to his disciples before he ascends to the Father.  Last words are important.  What someone who loves you says right before leaving you gives you an insight into their heart.  

This is why at the departure drop-off of the airport terminal you see people hugging.  You want to leave the ones you love with assurance of your love and what is important to you.  Jesus gave his disciples many assurances and instructions in the days before the Ascension.  This is one of the last ones: 

be my witnesses.

The very last thing Jesus said to the disciples before he ascended was that they would be a witness to who He is. Too often we think this is telling from start to finish what you believe about Jesus.  Like some corner evangelist, we think we need to hit on every nuance of theology.  But this isn’t what a witness does.  A witness simple tells what they know.

When I was a freshman in college I felt like it was my duty to share Jesus’s good news with everyone in my dorm hall.  To me this meant I should go through all the scriptures I knew. This was a big misunderstanding of what being His witness means.

Sadly, most of the guys in my college dorm were alcoholics by the time they left that year.  Every weekend it was a loud drunken party in the rooms all around me.  One night when I came home there was a guy sitting outside in the hall.  He appeared to be very upset and maybe crying. This was surprisingly vulnerable for this huge guy who played linebacker on the university’s football team.  I sat down with him and ‘witnessed’ to him as best I knew how.  He wasn’t ready for that.  The next morning he couldn’t even remember that we had spoken. Maybe if I had brought him inside, served him coffee, and listened to what he needed, the chances of him remembering something would have been higher. Maybe I would have connected with him better, and had more opportunities to keep talking.

I believe Maya Angelou was right when she said:

“…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The thing about Jesus is that, in everything He does, LOVE is the driving force. He sees people for who they are, and love them anyway. In his teaching, healing, admonition, companionship… God is Love. In His ministry in the flesh, Jesus made people feel seen, heard, loved by Him. He continues to do that today, as He intercedes for us, and minister to us constantly.

When Jesus instructs his disciples to be His witnesses, He is saying that the things they have seen and know about Him should be shared.  Not as a pressured sales job, fully rehearsed and performed.  We become His witnesses as an extension of His love in us. He is alive, and He speaks to us today. His love for us runs deep, taking root within us, and giving fruit – we become His witnesses. 

This is not about sharing the ‘four spiritual laws’.  Witnessing doesn’t start with you inviting them to church either.  It starts with the way you live your life. How you care for those around you, how you can go out of your way to help someone else, how you do your job, or finish your studies. How you live out of a place of being loved, and able to love others. Your relationship with our Trinitarian God gives you the privilege to be His witness. 

As I quoted in last week’s ‘Words from the Rector’,  Luke goes on to say in Acts 1:8:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”  

Let’s not forget He is here with us today. The power of the Holy Spirit is available to us today. Remember also these words Jesus gave to his disciples:

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” 

(Matthew 28:20b)

I AM, not ‘will be’ or ‘was’, but I AM. 

I pray this takes the pressure off of ‘being HIS witness’. The power of the Spirit in us is the power that changes people’s hearts. Moving the hearts of people to repentance is God’s work. Ours is the privilege to partner with Him to do his will, and display His Glory.

Blessings and peace,

Rev. Todd and Dr. Christiane