Title: You are my witnesses!
Text: Luke 24:44-53
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.
There’s a story of a man who prayed this prayer every morning: "Lord, if you want me to witness to someone today, please give me a sign to show me who it is." One day he found himself on a bus when a big, burly man sat next to him. The bus was nearly empty but this guy sat down right next to our praying friend. The timid Christian anxiously waited for his stop so he could exit the bus. But before the bus stopped and the man could get off, the big guy bursts into tears and began to weep. He cried out with a loud voice, "I need to be saved. I’m a lost sinner and I need the Lord. Won’t somebody tell me how to be saved?" He turned to the Christian and pleaded, "Can you show me how to be saved?" The believer immediately bowed his head and prayed, "Lord, is this a sign?"
- Richard Crow
The truth is that in this life Christ reminds us all that:
You … are my witnesses!
Our Old Testament lesson begins:
62 For Zion's sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
and her salvation as a burning torch.
Through the Prophet Isaiah, God promises to bring his righteousness and salvation as a burning torch. God’s salvation will not be limited but will bring brightness to this darkened world, illuminating the corruption of sin with the light of Christ.
From our epistle lesson we read:
11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Salvation is a gift for all and the Lord is the one bestowing his riches so that His name can be called on by those brought to faith by God’s Holy Spirit.
And then Jesus tells us in our Gospel:
“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, with no distinction beginning from Jerusalem. And He concludes: 48 you are witnesses of these things.
Being a witness is not always a comfortable thing. If you are the one who happens to see and accident, it may be important to tell what you observed to help determine who was at fault and how damages are to be paid.
It may be a more serious matter that would cause a witness to come forward to either see that the guilty party receives the punishment deserved or that they be found not guilty and released as one who had been saved by the witness of another.
I had to sit in at a hearing at the courthouse where one of our members gave an account, as a witness, in the trial of a man who had been accused of fraud. To be a witness is never easy but it is always important.
Jesus says to his disciples:
48 You are witnesses of these things. The disciples were eye witnesses of all the Jesus came to do. They saw and ate with him, they remember the accusations, the trial, His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection … and they have been called by Christ Jesus to preach that … “everything written about Jesus in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Calling to repentance and proclaim forgiveness to all nations. And then Jesus tells them, 49 and behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.
When the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ sent his only son into the world to redeem the world, the Father went with Him. As Jesus reminds Philip in the book of John Chapter 14: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” And when Jesus stood before His disciples in the locked upper room after his resurrection, “he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And where ever the Holy Spirit goes, so goes also the Father and the Son - one God in trinity and trinity in unity. The Spirit of our God will accomplish all that is the Father’s will to do, even through the weakness of His broken creation – to redeem the world.
Today we celebrate the work of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League or LWML and their efforts in witnessing the love of Christ to a broken world and all they do to bring this witness of Jesus Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins to those who need to hear.
Many in our congregation have been or continue to be Christ’s servants through this faithful ministry. But at times others, in our midst and in the world see the call to witness about Jesus and what he has done for them fall on deft ears. The work of the flesh, the world and the devil can bring to nothing what God intended for good.
Many opportunities are missed. Have you missed an opportunity? I have. The question always is, “Why did I forget to tell them about Jesus?”
John Newton, the former slave-ship captain, was so grateful for God’s gracious dealings with him that when the vicarage at Olney was refurbished he had two sentences from Isaiah 43:4 and Deuteronomy 15:15 painted over the fireplace of his study: 4 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life: 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today.
We must not live in the past but dare not forget God providential provision in life’s experiences and allow our sense of thankfulness to fade. One of the saddest moments in the Gospels is pictured in the words of Jesus when he said, ’Where are the nine?’ (Luke 17:17). He was asking as to what had happened to the nine men who had known such wonderful release from the misery of leprosy and had forgotten to come back and say, ’Thank you, Lord.’
Thank you Lord for the gift of being your witnesses!
49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Jesus will never leave you but He has cloth you with the power from on high and that gift is the gift of the Holy Spirit. As He comes to you and abides with you so do the Father and the Son. The Spirit intercedes for you in your prayers and Jesus mediates those prayers to the Father.
The Spirit points to what Christ Jesus has done for you and then gives you the words to say:
23 “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)
That same Spirit that empowered the disciples will also empower you to witness to the truth of the saving work of Christ.
Because you are my witnesses, Jesus says!
You have been give peace and reconciliation through the blood of Jesus Christ shed for the forgiveness of sins. This gift, won at the cross and given to you in baptism is God’s work and by the power of the Holy Spirit you believe. This same Spirit work in you as you remain connected to Christ through God’s word proclaimed, read and received in the sacrament of the altar which distributes the very body and blood of Christ given and shed - for you.
Ask God for a sign and He will point you to His table where he give you the gift of what He gave at the cross. Jesus died at that cross for you and now He distributes that very body and blood that He gave so that you receive forgiveness and strengthening of faith so that you can be his witness to a dying world.
You are Christ witnesses! Because He died for you.
May the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you now and forever.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.