Monday, June 9, 2008

The Original Witness

John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness . . . (Rev. 1:4-5)

The words that struck me in the above passage are “Jesus Christ . . . the faithful witness.”

It is common in Christian circles to speak of being witnesses for Christ. There are some expectations associated with this concept, such as: a Christian witness shares the gospel message with unbelievers, invites people to church, leaves tracts in restaurants, goes door-to-door doing any or all of the above.

But this passage describes Jesus as being a witness. As I began meditating on what that meant, the following insights came to me.

Basically, a witness reports what one has observed. Witnesses are important in a courtroom because they have seen and heard things that the judge and jurors need to know in order to make a just decision. In what respect was Jesus a witness? He had come from heaven; no one else had. He had seen the Father; no one else had. As Jesus expressed it:

No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father (John 6:46).

Not only that, he regularly heard from the Father while he was on earth.

So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him" (John 8:28-29).

So Jesus was a witness in that he
· Reported what he knew of the Father and of heavenly things
· Reported what the Father continued to teach him and to instruct him to do

But I notice that Jesus was described in Revelations as a “faithful witness.” This suggests at least two things to me.
· He spoke with complete truthfulness
· He did not fail to speak what the Father wanted him to speak, at all opportunities.

And then here is one more thought about Jesus as a witness. The Apostle John, says of Jesus

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

Here John used terminology that shows that Jesus was the ultimate witness: he was, for us, the expression of God. He was God in visible form. By seeing him, we see God (see John 14:9). In other words
· He was the very thing that he was testifying about.

That simplifies for me what it means to be a Christian witness. It is to

· Share what we have experienced of Jesus. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard” (1 John 1:3).

· Remain in close contact with the Lord so as to know what and how to share. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

· Be faithful to share a word of life whenever possible. “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2).

And, most of all:
· Be what Jesus is—in character, in attitude, in behavior—so that people will grasp what he is like. “Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God's living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it.” (2 Cor. 3:2-3 MSG).

Do we feel inadequate for this? Well, Jesus' disciples, who turned the world upside down with the message of the gospel, did not become such powerful witnesses overnight. Jesus made it simple for Peter and Andrew:

"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I WILL MAKE YOU fishers of men" (Matt. 4:19, capitals added).

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