Testimony of a Witness

I have heard from some in law enforcement that witnesses to a crime are the worst evidence. Scientific evidence is much more preferable because of the general inconsistency of your basic human. I, for one, am an excellent example of inconsistency. I totally spaced writing the entry for last week. 

Ironically, our Creator seems to prefer the inconsistent creature to the consistent scientific variety. Ever wonder why? I do, and I do still, so that’s not what I’m going to figure out here. Instead, I want to point out what we started out as witnesses of, the resurrection of Jesus.

Therefore, it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” (Acts 1:21-22 NASB)

When I was taught to write out my testimony, I was taught a format to use: what I was like before, what happened, what I’m like now. The idea being that I’m testifying to what Jesus did to me, and how I’m different, hopefully better. But what if you’re boring? What if what your Savior does in your life is so dull and interior that your testimony is a cure for insomnia? Wouldn’t it be cool to have a really cool, dramatic, gut-churning, testimony of what you have witnessed our Savior do? As it turns out, we do.

I heard Sunday, over and over, how great the name of Jesus is. The person using His name was trying to draw the people into worship, to focus us on Jesus, but there was this TV-Preacher feel to how she was doing it. It was focus on the name, and what He does for us rather than on Him. Not that this was necessarily the intent, it was simply the feel.

We all, every believer, every disciple, everyone believing God raised Jesus from the dead, confessing Jesus is Lord, all in that category have a testimony: Jesus is alive and active in my life. Rather than what I was like before, it’s far more important what He does. 

I talk to my wife every day, multiple times throughout the day, we do stuff together, we ask each other questions, we are close in ways that aren’t always obvious, and some that are. It’s not what I was like before she and I talked this morning, or over lunch, it’s that we talked, that we are together all the time, that we seem to share brain-cells, speak a weird symbiotic language made up of partial movie quotes and one-liners. 

know Jesus is alive because the very warp and woof of my existence is enmeshed in His existence. His Spirit dwells in me in this weird overlay over everything I do and think. I am permeated by my Savior. I wish that meant that I stopped doing stupid stuff, never went my own way, and he and I never had to wonder what the other was thinking. Technically, He knows, I don’t, sometimes I don’t what either of us are thinking, and He always does.

Those who read this and are married already know that perfection doesn’t describe human relationships. It doesn’t describe my walk with/before my Savior either. Not His fault, it’s entirely mine. But I walk with my Savior. The Creator of the universe lives within me, stays with me, and continues to relate to me because of the powerful transaction on the cross, the failure of His grave, and the continual intercession at the right hand of my Creator.

Was I saved from a life of terror, rampaging murdering and wonton destruction? Nope. Was I changed from a hopeless drug addict to a hope-filled evangelist? Not my story. My story is that I, frail, flawed, and fickle, walk with the Master of the universe. And that I do so because He invites me into this relationship, made it possible, and sustains it through His power. 

So, I too am one of those who know the story of Jesus, from the day of His baptism, through His ascension, and my “proof” is that He continues to walk with me to this day. It’s relational for me, as it was for them. I haven’t seen Jesus and shared a meal with Him like they had. I didn’t hear the voice of some Rabbi calling me to follow him, and leave everything to obey his voice. They did that. I’m not an apostle in any sense, truly. I’m simply a witness to my Master’s presence in my life.


Why A Twelfth?

When I was  a kid, it never occurred to me to ask why the disciples wanted to choose a twelfth man. Never. And then one day, later in my Bible learning days, I was part of a discussion where some guy claimed that the disciples were jumping the gun. His claim was that Luke’s point in Acts was that the disciples chose Matthias, but God chose Paul.

That had seriously never occurred to me. His reasoning was flimsy, somewhat. And I thought his definition of ‘apostle’ was lacking, or at least was more narrow than the biblical range of meaning. Yet, I didn’t have an alternate theory. It never occurred to me to ask. Honestly I still don’t have a great theory, and merely critique the views of others. That critiquing is so easy is one reason I haven’t come up with one myself.

If you use internal evidence, though, a theory may not be necessary. Let’s look at the reason(s) Peter gives:

“Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.” (Acts 1:16-17 NASB)

“For it is written in the book of Psalms,
Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” (Acts 1:20-22 NASB)

If you have never checked Peter’s references, he uses Psalm 69:25, and 109:8. If you decide to look those verses up, you find he didn’t use the entire verse (to be fair, the Psalms weren’t divided up into verses at that time). And if you check the context, you find one Psalm commonly thought to describe Jesus (Psalm 69), and another that certainly could (Psalm 109).

On the surface, if you don’t check those Psalms, or check the context of what Peter used, you may think Peter is merely proof-texting. But context sort of supports his use. That was my first surprise. But the other surprise was more important. Look at the last sentence. There, right on the surface, is the  reason for the twelfth man.

It wasn’t to ensure they had someone to judge the twelve tribes in Judas’ absence (at least one commentary had that one). It wasn’t an error, jumping ahead of God who wanted Paul, because he couldn’t be a witness to the entire life of Jesus. It wasn’t any other of a dozen other options…ok, maybe two others. Anyway, what Peter says is actually what makes the most sense.

The only record of the life of Jesus was in those who were there, those who ate with Him, who walked, literally walked, with Him. Only they could attest to the words and deeds of Jesus while He was among His human creatures. Consider the words with which John ends his Gospel, where he claims that not all the words and deeds were recorded because that wasn’t possible (John 21:25). We miss a lot because those witnesses are no longer among us.

But one question remains. Why twelve? There were obviously options among them who had been with Jesus in the period Peter describes. The people reduced the options to two, and God chose 1 of them to make 12. But why twelve? Maybe it was to round out the judges of the twelve tribes, but then, wouldn’t their tribal heritage be important? Maybe it was to correspond to the twelve tribes of Israel. Although that simply runs into the same problem. 

The truth, the reality we have, is that our Savior didn’t think it was important to tell us why. Maybe the people of that day didn’t need to be told, they had received that knowledge verbally already. Maybe it just sucks to be us, 2,000 years later, wishing we could be flies on walls of the early churches.

I think it’s likely that this piece of the information, while interesting, isn’t important to our Savior. He had His purpose, it was fulfilled in the choice, now move on. This is my theory. I don’t know if I’m right or not, our Savior doesn’t tell us. But there are a lot of other things He does tell us. I think I’ll move on to those.

Whatcha Lookin At?

Remember the scene in some movie: people looking up, shielding their eyes against the bright sun, trying to catch a glimpse of something there, squinting to catch just a bit more detail. And then, someone walks up, standing with them, glancing up to the sky, but looking more at the people than what the people are looking for. When they eventually get the sky-watchers attention, it turns out they were looking for the someone right next to them.

It’s a recurring scene idea, used in Indiana Jones movies, comedies, and Acts.

Imagine it, Jesus has spent 40 days with His disciples, providing “convincing proofs” of His resurrection, clarifying the Scriptures about Himself, and simply being with them. Luke is specific, that Jesus shares about the Kingdom of God. And finally, after these days come to a close, Jesus leads them out of Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives, one of His favorite places. They know He’s leaving, and figure now is as good a time as any to ask a question burning in their minds, one He has ironically not covered in forty days.

“Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6b)

I think (you may not) that it’s ironic, and part of Luke’s point to his audience, that Jesus speaks to them regarding the Kingdom of God, and they ask about the Kingdom of Israel. I think that difference is why Jesus answers as He does:

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8 NASB)

The message is supposed to go farther than Israel. The good news is for the world, not a single kingdom. And that’s not to say they didn’t understand that, but that they could not conceive of a mechanism to carry that message that wasn’t Israel. God had always worked through Israel. And He still would, but only to a point. Those eleven were about to become the “jumping off point” of a work of God the likes of which none of them could imagine.

And so they stood, looking into the sky where Jesus had disappeared into clouds. And these two guys walk up wearing shining clothing. I imagine the scene, like so many of those movies. “Whatcha lookin at?” And the resulting shock of those who hadn’t noticed them.

In a way, many believers are sort of stuck, looking at the sky, struggling to wrap their heads around God choosing a different method than what they had imagined and prepared for. Which is ironic to me because that is how I see God’s method throughout Scripture, the unexpected and unplanned for. Jesus’ birth, Jesus’ ministry, and His crucifixion were all completely unexpected. They were looking for a messiah, not God Himself. They were looking for a king, not the King of Kings. They were looking for a prophet, but not a High Priest and Prophet and King, somewhat like Melchizadek.

And then, after rising, He leaves. Just like that. How weird. Where’s He going? When is He coming back? Is He coming back? That’s what the two guys answer. “Yes, He’ll be back just like you saw Him leave.” Yeah, but when? Not our problem. Our problem is to obey until that happens.

So, we can get a crick in our neck, looking at the sky, or sore muscles working the harvest before us. Maybe it would be best to split our time between the two. You never can tell with God, He may just surprise us…again.