In a legal trial, a vital witness can make or break a case. A witness is someone who has first-hand knowledge of an event that has transpired. They come into a courtroom and answer questions about what they saw, something they may have heard, or share information they have learned about a particular issue. While all of that is awfully important, even more pressing than the testimony is the witness’s credibility. Can the witness be trusted to tell the truth? Is their version of events possible? Do they have something to gain by lying? Does the witness’s story line up with other evidence in the case?
Being a witness is no small matter as someone else’s life may be hanging in the balance.
But witnesses don’t only show up in court rooms. They’re also found within the pages of Scripture. God called His people “witnesses” (Isaiah 43:10-12) and after His death, Jesus affirmed that His disciples would also be His witnesses. (Acts 1:8). What’s more, if we have decided to follow Jesus, all of us are witnesses as well. But how can we be witnesses to something that took place 2000 years ago?
Let’s start by looking at Jesus’ words: “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 (emphasis added)
Jesus calling His first followers to be His witnesses is no accident of phrasing. After all, they had front-row seats to the most life-altering event in human-history—the resurrection of Jesus! However, their claims were quickly being rebutted by intellectual challenge and political opposition. And so the jury was out on if Jesus really was who He claimed to be. Consequently, the disciples had to take their job seriously as witnesses to the key evidence. The hundreds of original witnesses knew what they saw, and they knew it was news that was worth dying to proclaim.
In fact, many of them did indeed die to defend what they witnessed. How appropriate, then, that the English word “witness” translates the Greek word, martus — from which we also get the English word martyr. Martyrs die for what they believe and church tradition holds that all but one of the original twelve apostles died a martyr’s death. What a fitting word to describe those early believers.
The once timid disciples became Spirit-empowered newscasters, announcing the whole story of the Bible summed up in Jesus Christ the Lord by word and deed.
They took the hope of Christ with them everywhere they went, and the message spread like wildfire. Needless to say, many, many people were persuaded that Jesus truly was the Messiah who rose from the dead.
As exciting as all of this is, we would be missing out if we did not find ourselves as witnesses, too. But how can this be? Sure, we are not the original disciples, we didn’t walk with Jesus during His earthly ministry and witness His resurrection. But that does not discount us as being witnesses to this present generation. We are witnesses to what Jesus did 2,000 years ago through the trustworthy narrative of Scripture. However, Jesus is still alive and working in the present making us witnesses to God’s work in our time and in our lives.
Even more, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. As such, we also are reliable sources of testimony of what He is doing in our world today. Like the first followers of Jesus, we have access to the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit was and is the difference-maker; the game-changer; and the way-maker.
We are filled with His empowering presence. And so, we are all witnesses!
However, truth be told many of us need to reconsider what Jesus desires from us as His witness. All too often we think of the man on the street corner holding a picket sign that reads “Repent!” as he screams into a megaphone. Honestly, do we really think that guy to be the epitome of what a witness of Jesus is like? Hopefully not!
Sure, preaching and teaching have an important place in what the Church does. No doubt about it. But it is much more ordinary than that. Being a witness is like bringing dinner to an exhausted and emotionally hurting friend even though you don’t know what to say. It is like forgiving your co-worker when they wrong you even though they may not deserve it. Or like inviting your neighbor to your Life Group even though it may be awkward the first one or two times.
Above all, being a witness is all about embodying the teachings and presence of Jesus because the Spirit of Jesus is alive in you.
Being a witness is not limited to one thing, it could be expressed in many different ways! But at the heart of it is the belief that the Good News of Jesus is far too relevant to remain boxed into a private corner of our lives. The Gospel enhances every facet of our lives when we allow it to have its proper place.
Here’s your challenge: Think about how God has gifted you. What are the passions He has laid on your heart? Who are the people you have in your life? How has God been working in your life? All of these things work together in how we witness to the world.
But there is no reason to be intimidated, for we will never be alone.
Every time we respond to an opportunity to be His witness, we will find ourselves accompanied by the Holy Spirit.
“… for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” – Matthew 10:19