Can I Get A Witness?

Text: John 1:19-28

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Contrary to what you and I might think, Christianity is not a belief system like other belief systems in this world. That is to say, Christianity is not dependent upon a bunch of theoretical concepts in the classrooms of academia. It is nor reliant on a bunch of theories that come to us through ideological think tanks from Washington DC. Christianity is not based upon a bunch of ideas that come about from the long talks of philosophers while they sip wine and eat cheese.  Indeed, Christianity is not based on something in the realm of the abstract or the realm of theories – some floaty ideas. No, Christianity is grounded in reality.  It is rooted in real things, real events, and real persons.

For example, when we consider our Gospel reading from this morning, we hear about John giving a testimony. 

Now, when the Bible speaks of testimonies, it isn’t a person sharing their personal-emotional-mystical-experiences or their own opinions on a subject.  A testimony is not the same as a theory, idea, or concept.  But instead, a testimony, according to the Bible, is a person witnessing to the truth. Like a witness on the stand in a courtroom who gives a testimony of a particular event and circumstance, when the Bible speaks of a witness, it is simply someone reporting and sharing what they saw and heard with their own eyes and ears. To give testimony or to be a witness is to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. 

And so, to be a witness or to give testimony is nothing more than speaking what is - to state the way things are according to reality.

This is all very similar to the word ‘confess.’  To confess is to declare, to speak openly, and to speak freely.  To confess is to say the same thing as someone else.  To confess is to openly speak the truth with a free tongue about what has been witnessed. 

To the point, though, this is precisely what John the Baptist was doing in our reading from the Gospel of John. You see, some priests and Levites, from the highest and the noblest class in Jerusalem, came to John the Baptist with questions. They began asking questions about John and Jesus.  And instead of giving them a bunch of theoretical concepts, ideas, or theories based in some abstract realm, John simply confessed – as a witness – to the reality of the way things were. 

You see, that is how it is with Christianity. We have witnesses in the past, such as the Apostles, who have recorded the events, details, and circumstances from long ago.  These Apostles have recorded their testimony and it has been compiled into what we know as the Bible.  And from the Bible, the truth of what happened for your salvation long ago is confessed into your ears. 

You see, that is the nature of the Christian faith.  Just as John the Baptist was a witness to Jesus and confessed to the religious leaders, the same is true today.

About 15 years ago, when I was fresh out of seminary, I served as a pastor in Southern California.  The church that I served in rented the east wing of a large commercial building filled with other various businesses.  There was a mortgage company, a land development company, and even a Muslim Mosque renting the other office spaces.  It was a fascinating culture to say the least.   

One day I met another Pastor who started to rent part of the facility as well.  Pastor Ezra Kang was from South Korea, and he wanted to move his church to the same facility so that he could continue the ministry of the Gospel to other Korean people in the Los Angeles area. 

Apart from learning that Korean Kimchi would put extra hair on my chest, Rev. Kang also taught me his profound wisdom and strategy for evangelism.  While eating breakfast in the city of San Dimas, Rev. Kang shared with me in his passionate and broken English the following:

"Young Pastor, I promise God when I ordained that I do three things each day.  I read one book of Bible.  I pray one hour a day.  And I tell one person about Jesus.  Do you know how I tell person about Jesus?" 

I responded,

"No, Ezra, please tell me." 

He responded with enthusiasm saying,

"O.k. I tell you.  I go up to person and say, 'Do you know Jesus?' And they say, 'No.' And then I say, 'O.k., sit down, I tell you what Jesus did for you.'"

I still smile when I think about Ezra and his approach to evangelism.  I smile because it is so simple. 

Part of me, though wants to say, "You can't make evangelism that simple Ezra!"  However, in Ezra's wisdom, he knew that evangelism is just that simple: confessing to people about Jesus and what He accomplished. No need for theories, sales pitches, bait and switches, or philosophical concepts - just confessing reality of what Jesus did in time, space, and history for all of humanity. 

That is how it works with Christianity, my friends. Christianity is based on the events, life, and person of Jesus. 

And so, when we are challenged like John the Baptist was, we do not need to run to theories, ideas, or concepts. We confess to the reality of what happened.

And what happened?

What happened is that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from thence He will judge the living and the dead. 

All of this happened in real-time, space, and history.  Therefore, we confess it because it is true.

And so just like John the Baptist, who points away from himself to the coming Christ, we as a church point away from ourselves to Jesus and what he did for us and the entire world.

And with these events, what did Christ do for you and me? Well, he redeemed you, a lost and condemned person. He purchased and won you from all of your sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. He did this so that you may be his own and live under Him in his kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness. He is risen from the dead, and He lives and reigns to all eternity. And someday He will come back to claim you out of your graves unto Himself for eternity. This is most certainly true.

Dear Baptized Saints, this upcoming week, we will celebrate and hear about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem long ago. Now, this story is not just some fairytale or myth that we sentimentally adhere to. But it is the retelling – the confession – of what really happened. It is also hearing from the witnesses from long ago. It is us hearing the confession of those long ago that the one born in Bethlehem was the Son of God who came in the flesh to redeem mankind from the poison of sin. Our ears need to hear this confession not because it is a theory, idea, or a sentimental fairytale, but it is the truth of what God has done for us.

Our Lord God was not content to leave us in our sin, and so he came for sinful humanity, marred as we are. 

And so today, hear the bold confession that Christ came for you. Hear the best confession that Christ died for you. Hear the bold confession that Christ is raised for you. Hear the bold confession of the Christmas story this week and rejoice in the good news of the gospel – unto you, a child has been born; God is with you, Jesus came to save you from your sins.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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