When Jesus said, “You are my witnesses,” he also promised to give us the power to be light.
Jonathan R. Hein
Many pastors wake up in a cold sweat from this bad dream. It is Sunday morning, but they have not prepared a sermon. Being unprepared to preach—that is the stuff of nightmares for a pastor.
It may not have been a dream for you. When your coworkers failed to show up for work, your boss unceremoniously dumped their responsibilities onto your desk. You had never been trained to do their job. You were just tossed into a sink-or-swim situation. If someone asks you to do something that they know you are unprepared to do, at the very least, that demonstrates foolish management. At worst, it is just plain cruel.
Power from on high
Jesus is neither foolish nor cruel. When he asks someone to do something, he always makes sure they are equipped to do what he asks. Jesus empowers us to do what he asks. You see it throughout the gospels.
In Matthew chapter 14, Peter walks on water. How is that possible? Jesus is almighty God. Peter was an ordinary sinful man. So how could he walk on water? Simple. Peter asked Jesus to call him, and Jesus said, “Come” (v. 29). Jesus enabled Peter to do what he commanded: “Come!” If Peter had just jumped out of the boat without Jesus’ command, he would need to start dog-paddling. Same thing if Jesus had asked Peter to come but had not given Peter the power to do so. Splash! Jesus is neither foolish nor cruel, so when he told Peter to come, he also gave Peter the ability to do just that. Peter did not start to sink until he lost faith in Christ’s promise.
In John chapter 11, a noxious corpse reanimated and walked out of the tomb. How does that happen? “Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ ” (v. 43). Corpses are decidedly unqualified to walk. But Jesus’ command gave Lazarus the very life he needed to obey.
Those are two examples where Jesus empowered individuals to “come.” On Pentecost, Jesus empowered individuals to “go.”
Not long before he ascended, Jesus told his disciples what their life’s mission now was: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). However, Jesus is neither foolish nor cruel. He knew his disciples were not yet qualified or prepared. Thus, he also told them, “Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). He was going to give them the ability to do what he had asked of them.
What was the “power from on high” the disciples needed? “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). They needed the power of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. The Spirit enabled the disciples to speak in languages they had not studied.
However, the disciples needed more than supernatural linguistic skills. They required more ordinary spiritual gifts too. They needed courage to speak boldly in the very city where their leader had been tortured and killed not even two months prior. They needed confidence that their sins—including abandoning their friend Jesus in his time of need—did not disqualify them from serving in the kingdom. Scripture does not tell us everything the disciples needed to be bold witnesses on that day. It simply tells us that everything they needed, they received. Jesus is neither foolish nor cruel. When he asks someone to do something, he always gives them “power from on high” to do what he asks.
Power to be light
Jesus’ will for believers has not changed: “Go and make disciples.” Take that next-door neighbor who does not know Jesus well. Why do you think God made them your neighbor? So that you might go! Think about that sibling who has drifted away from church. What are you waiting for? If you don’t talk to them, then who will? Go! How about that friend who has toyed with Christianity but never taken it seriously? That is low-hanging fruit, friends. Go!
You might object: “I’m not qualified.” Do you think Jesus is foolish? Do you think Jesus is so incompetent that he would set you up to fail? Nonsense! On that first Pentecost, God let tongues of fire kiss the head of those first disciples. On your personal Pentecost, God kissed your head and heart with water and the Word. The results are the same. You are “filled with the Holy Spirit” and “clothed with power from on high.” When you are presented with an opportunity to witness, Christ promises you, “Do not worry about . . . what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say” (Luke 12:11,12).
You might respond, “But I’m scared.” Do you think Jesus is cruel? He knows full well how the gospel can often be met with resistance. Thus, he promises you that when you witness, you do not do so alone. “Surely, I am with you always,” he guarantees (Matthew 28:20).
Jesus is neither foolish nor cruel. He asks us to be zealous in our daily evangelism efforts. He also gives us the ability to do that which he has asked. Therefore, when our evangelism efforts bear fruit, Christ gets all the glory. When Peter walked on water, the disciples were astounded at Jesus’ power, not Peter’s. When Lazarus rose, people praised Jesus, not Lazarus. Likewise, when believers proclaim the gospel and that witness raises the spiritually dead to faith-life, Jesus gets all the credit. He empowered us to do exactly what he asked.
Jesus would not ask you to do something for which you were unqualified. The proof? He did not ask you to try and win your salvation by obeying the law. He knew that would be impossible for you. Instead, he placed himself under the law and kept it all for you. Nor did Jesus ask you to pay for your sins. Jesus knew that if he did, there would be no end to your payment. So, Jesus did that for you too. Because it was Christ’s holy, precious, divine blood that was shed, it did not take forever to pay for sins. Jesus could say, “It is finished.” Jesus did not and would not ask you to do something for which you were unqualified. Jesus is neither foolish nor cruel.
Thus, when Jesus does ask you to do something—to go and make disciples—you can be completely confident that he will give you absolutely everything you need to do just that: the opportunity to witness, the courage, and the powerful words of the gospel. And as you share the gospel with others, you can be confident that Christ will give them the ability to believe.
Jesus will get all the glory, but you will rejoice that the risen and ascended Lord let you play a part in his saving work.
Jonathan Hein, director of WELS Congregational Counseling, is a member at Trinity, Waukesha, Wisconsin.
This is the final article of a two-part series on the necessity of Christian witnessing.
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Author: Jonathan R. Hein
Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018
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