Telling the story of Jesus
Have you ever witnessed an amazing athletic feat? Were you there when a celebrity came to town? There is something exciting about “being there when it happened,” isn’t there?
I remember when our youngest daughter was playing basketball in the B.C. summer games a few years ago. She was part of the underdog team from Prince George, and we were the only fans who drove down to Vancouver Island. Good thing my wife brought a cowbell with her.
Against long odds, Ashley’s team found themselves in the bronze medal game, playing against the powerful (and heavily favoured, if you listened to their intense fans) team from the Fraser Valley. It was an epic game that went back and forth, and of course, it went into overtime. My wife Jennifer and I were standing, yelling and ringing the cowbell. (Yes, even me, the introvert, got caught up in the moment!)
Finally, as time had almost run out, our team hit the last shot and won the game! While the other team and their fans stood in shocked silence, we rushed on the court and celebrated with the team! Lots of emotion, lots of yelling, lots of memories! It was a great time.
And here I am today, telling the story again. Why? Because I was there. I was a witness.
Imagine if you and I lived during the time of Jesus and his first followers. Imagine the stories we could tell about “being there when it happened.” Imagine being a witness for Jesus.
“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).
Luke, the author of both Luke and Acts, uses the term witness 15 times. It seems that Luke has at least three ideas in mind.
Illustration by Colton Floris
Our stories flow from our personal experiences. I can tell the story of the basketball game because I was there. In the same way, you and I can be witnesses for Jesus because we have our own personal experiences with Jesus. And even if I am not a good storyteller, the authenticity of my personal experience will result in me being a credible witness. I know Jesus; therefore I can be a witness for him!
Our stories tell the story of Jesus. Whereas a testimony is a story about myself, a witness tells the story of someone else. Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8 get right to the point, “You will be my witnesses.” The stories we tell are the stories of Jesus.
Our stories are used by the Holy Spirit. When we live and act as witnesses for Jesus, not only are our words used by the Holy Spirit, they are also infused by the Holy Spirit. Something powerful happens when we become witnesses. Our spoken words break past our human limitations and in some mysterious way, God uses them for his purposes and his mission. Simply because we chose to be witnesses. Wow, let that sink in.
What about you and me? What about our churches? Do our words and actions flow out of our personal relationship with Jesus? Do our words and actions tell the story of Jesus? Are our words and actions dependent on the Holy Spirit?
As we start another new year, imagine what could happen if you and I embraced Jesus’ call to be his witnesses right where we are. Nothing fancy. Nothing fearful. Just a simple, ongoing decision to be an active witness for Jesus.
As you and I respond to Jesus, I believe that just like the first century, the world around us will be transformed by the power of God!
[Mark Wessner is president of MB Seminary. He lives in Abbotsford, B.C., with his wife and two daughters.