According to Dictionary.com, Witness is derived from the Old English word wit. It generally referred to having knowledge and/or understanding. We’ve heard of people said to have a quick wit, meaning that they are mentally sharp, or “amusingly clever in perception and expression.” So, a witness would imply someone who has knowledge of some fact. In this age of crime TV, we think of a witness as someone who saw something and testifies of what they saw.
Enter the disciples.
After the resurrection of Jesus, the remaining 11 disciples, in fulfillment of the prophetic Psalm 109:8, “…may another take his office!” (ESV), appropriately set the qualifications for becoming the new 12th disciple. “So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when hew was taken up from us–one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22, ESV emphasis mine).
John opens his first letter with these words, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life–the life was made manifest to us–that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-3, ESV emphasis mine). The disciples set a precedent that, what they had experienced in Jesus, would be testified to the world so that others could know Jesus.
These days it’s politically incorrect to talk about Jesus. Telling someone about Him can, remarkably, see you accused of hate speech. Ignoring all of that, most won’t share their faith because it makes them uncomfortable. I’ve been on both sides of comfortable; I’ve risked the discomfort and shared Christ, and I’ve kept silent. I can tell you from experience that there can be equal discomfort in keeping silent!
I heard the following parable on a sermon cassette back in 1989; I can’t remember who the preacher was, but it was poignant and I’ll share it here.
Suppose that you were born blind. You had lived your entire life in darkness, and had tried everything imaginable to receive your sight. Then one day, while walking about, someone bumps into you.
He starts to apologize, and when he realizes that you’re blind, he excitedly explains that there is a man down the street who will touch you and you’ll be able to see.
You’ve tried everything else, and so you’re a little suspicious. But the thought of being able to see, at long last, compels you to seek out this man.
When you arrive, you explain to the man what you had been told, and he puts his hands on your eyes. Suddenly, you can see! You repeatedly thank the man, telling him that there are so many things you want to see outside, and head out the door.
Bursting with excitement you can now attach an image to the sounds you’ve heard. You experience grass, and flowers, and trees. In the rush of excitement you bump into someone and quickly realize that he’s blind.
Now, what kind of person would you be if you didn’t share your experience with the man who gave you sight?
I’ve used this parable dozens of times, since I first heard it, to remind myself that, though I was once blind spiritually, I can see because of Jesus. I remember what it was like without Him. I never want to go back.
In our daily lives we encounter many people throughout our day. We need to be willing to speak as we are led. And we need to pray that God will lead us to those who need to hear. Paul said that one plants seeds of the gospel in people’s lives, another waters those seeds, but God causes those seeds to grow. We need to be willing to plant seeds of faith with our testimony, our witness, and water those seeds with prayer and timely words.
When we became Christians we became subject to the same oath as courtroom witnesses. We swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us God!”
When was the last time that you testified?