It had been such a whirlwind for the followers of Jesus and closest disciples from the day He rode into Jerusalem and palm branches were waving, to the shocking trial and pronouncement He would be crucified. He had talked about so many things, but it had never really connected. Even as the events began to unfold, it seemed surreal. Those days when He was in the tomb, they could barely hope they would see Him again and certainly they wondered if they would be hunted down and crucified now as well.
When they heard the news, He was alive and the tomb was empty, they were stunned and overjoyed. Little by little over 40 days many gained glimpses of Him and marveled at his appearance. Then He was gone with a promise to return and of all things He was leaving them to continue on without his day-to-day teaching.
They were to be his witnesses, to carry on spreading the words He taught them. Who would believe them? How could they begin to do all He asked of them? Had what they heard finally been ingrafted into their hearts?
What would happen to them if they told the truth? But telling the truth would never be enough. They would need to live it, live life as He had done if they were to be believed as authentic.
Hardest of all, they would need to love the way He loved.
How could they possibly do that? He demonstrated it every moment in how He touched others, listened to them so that He heard what was beyond the words they said. He looked into their very being no matter how many hours He had been up or teaching. He loved the weak, the children, the aged, and those who were from different tribes than his own family.
And who could forget that last meal in the upper room when He had taken off his garments, wrapped a towel around his waist, picked up a basin and began to wash their feet with the most tender care? He had served them more humbly than all the other times they had been together over these months since He called them.
And He had told them the truth up to the very end though it cost Him everything.
To witness now and tell the truth could get them killed, but how could they not tell the truth of this One who had given them everything including life eternal despite their flawed character and lackluster efforts so far?
Now all these centuries later as the excitement of Easter fades each of us who believes is faced with the same question, the same task. How will we live in the midst of a broken world as He calls us? What will our witness look like? Will others recognize Him in us because of what we say or because of how we live?
“The chief difficulty in maintaining Christian witness is timidity. The life of the world is gaudy, noisy, and assertive. The life of faith is modest, quiet, and unassuming. What can ordinary Christians say that will stand a chance in the brash shouting of money and pleasure and ambition? Or in the wailing laments of boredom and depression and self-pity? In a society in which the thesaurus of metaphor and symbol has been ransacked by cynical advertisers, faithless artists, and indulgent entertainers to condition us to maniacal but brainless devotion to me and now, how can the imagination be renewed so that we can say, honestly and personally, without necessarily raising our voices, who God is and what eternity means?”Eugene Peterson in Reversed Thunder
I wonder if we do it best in the ordinary moments of our day when we don’t look for how to share the message of Christ and instead become the message. It can be taking time to smile at the person serving us food or taking our payment and noticing their name, looking him or her in the eye and thanking that person. It can mean listening to that person tells us one more time a story we have already heard without impatience or frustration. It can mean slowing our steps and the pace of our life to notice those on a path of their own.
The possibilities are endless. Truth will not always mean confronting someone with it. Sometimes it will be living it out so they see it when they have never seen it before. Truth telling may not result in death on a cross, but it will still cost you something because it will require death to our own self-absorption so we can hear the Lord pointing out this or that next little assignment that will show Him to someone else. And that is where we often get stuck. We are far more self-absorbed than we would want to admit and for as much as we want to receive love from others and all that means to us, we are less enthusiastic about the cost we will pay by loving someone else with the same care we desire.
We often say we feel inadequate to live that way, share that way and guess what? We may well be but Paul answers that dilemma for us:
“Not that we are adequate in ourselves so as to consider anything as having come from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,”2 Cor. 3:5 (NASB)
Maybe we need to ask Him.