How Many Witnesses Do You Need? (My Redeemer Lives 7:3)

When we were homeschooling, our entire family read Case for Christ for Kids.

Then we read Case for a Creator for Kids and Case for Faith for Kids. It’s fair to say that I now believe that if there is a kid’s book about something, it’s generally my preferred read over an adult book.

I love reading. I even love reading dense theological texts, long and detailed articles about how the nervous system works, thick stacks of data regarding community needs. Sometimes, though, you need plain speaking and simple explanation.

The thing I liked most about the Case for Christ for Kids (and the adult version) was the emphasis on eyewitnesses and what that means for the Gospel.

Even if we had little to no historical evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God would still be God and salvation in Christ alone would not change. Our faith would not have to exist in a vacuum. These books opened my eyes, by helping me open the Scriptures to discover for myself just how much eye-witnessing went on after Jesus’ resurrection. There wasn’t one disciple involved, or two, or twelve.

There were hundreds of witnesses to the resurrection reality of Jesus Christ.

The purpose of the study today isn’t to convince you of that reality. Lee Strobel and many others are available to help you open the Scriptures for that. Rather, today we’ll focus on something different—the Resurrection is intimately connected to witnesses and witnessing.

This changes everything about the place of faith in our life. Faith isn’t just personal and individual. It was meant for sharing. Faith, by its nature and connection to the Resurrection, is something we experience and communicate about together, as the people of God.

To convince you of the community orientation of the Gospel message, in our post-resurrection reality, read 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 and note, circle, or underline just how many witnesses you can find:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

This passage strikes me as fun for math people. It maps out as an upside-down pyramid of witnesses, with Cephas, also known as Peter on the bottom, the twelve disciples standing on his shoulders with their own witness experiences, and then 500 (yes, did you catch that…500!) witnesses of the Resurrected Jesus. Next came James, then more apostles/disciples, and lastly Paul had a supernatural Resurrected Jesus sighting during his conversation experience on the Road to Damascus, just in case we thought it had to happen a certain way. It doesn’t. Again, God is God and He bears witness, even when it may or may not fit into our should-look-like-this understanding.

Just how many witnesses does the world need?

We see quickly in the next segment of 1 Corinthians 15 the work of the church witnessing to one another, and that is where you come in, my friend.

Please read 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 below. Consider, what hope is at stake here for the people, for the church?

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 

Paul writes this while many of the original witnesses to Christ were still alive (1 Corinthians 15:6). A testimony of 500+ strong and they still needed to be reminded to hold on to the hope that Jesus did in fact walk out of that tomb. That hope makes their lives New. We are not people to be pitied. We have hope when things look hopeless. We have Life when there only seems to be decay. We have forgiveness, when every thing we touch feels a little bit dirty.

Christ lives. Christ is risen. This hope stands strong with us for life today and for a greater life tomorrow. Who has witnessed to you in your life? Who has shone that Hope in and Life in and Newness in when you needed it?

Who would miss the message of “He is Risen” without your witness? God works despite our failures, but He uses our witness when we don’t even know. I am positive that all 500 of those brothers and sisters in Christ did not understand that their witness would be written down for you and I to read 2000 years later, to encourage us and give us strength for this day and bright hope for tomorrow.

I don’t know how many witnesses someone needs to believe, but I want to be one of them. May the Holy Spirit work in and through us today in ways we can’t even begin to understand to bring the witness of Hope to whoever He puts in our path.

500, 600, 7,000, 3 million…and you.

 

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Meant to Be Told (My Redeemer Lives 7:2)

My children make me so happy and so incredibly frustrated at times.

I believe they would say the same of me.

The worst is when I have to repeat myself four or five times in order to accomplish the smallest task:

“Can you set the table?”

“The table…did you set it?”

“We are going to eat soon, so we need plates on the table.”

“Would you like to eat food? How about you set the table?”

“THE TABLE NEEDS TO BE SET OR WE WILL ALL GO HUNGRY AND OUR BONES WILL WASTE AWAY TO NOTHINGNESS AND IT WON’T BE MY FAULT!”

Yes, I have questionable mom moments.

I have found that the best thing to do when I can’t get their attention is to ask them to look me in the eyes.

“Yes, hi, dear child. I am right here. Where are my eyes? Look at my eyes. Please go set the table.”

Voilà! Mission accomplished. Why I feel the need to turn into a banshee first never ceases to amaze me. The Old Adam Mom will always be with me, I suppose. But there’s grace for that.

In today’s reading from Acts 3, Peter has figured this life problem out. Please read Acts 3:1-5 first, to see God’s Spirit in action in a small way, before we go on to hear the rest of the story and see God’s Spirit burst out in a big way:

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.

I wonder if this gentleman had ever had someone truly look at him.

How often, do we long for someone to truly look at us? To know us and our pain, our heartache, our insight, our beauty?

I would propose that this is the first witness Peter and John offer to the man who was lame…

They looked.

As you walk around today, look.

Make eye contact with someone you may not usually make eye contact with, in weird situations, places, and spaces. People in our world are desperate for someone to see them, so much so that most of our natural response would be to look down, to shelter our eyes from someone’s gaze. It’s intimidating for someone to really see you, because we so often just don’t.

Continue reading Acts 3:6-10 and see the Spirit move again:

But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Peter was honest. We all have something to give, and that doesn’t always look like money or tangible things. A little bit of time, attention, and a great big message of hope is fiercer though, longer lasting, and always available. The language of Acts 3:7 is especially touching. God’s resurrection power, through the Holy Spirit heals. Acts 3:7 also tells us that it provides strength. I think this is vital for a broader understanding of healing, so that we don’t end up deeply disappointed when healing doesn’t happen in the way we would like it. Otherwise, we read stories like this in the Bible and equate the absence of a visual miracle to the faithlessness of God.

God is faithful and He brings healing and strength in many, many ways. Sometimes He gives us physical strength, sometimes emotional, sometimes strength poured through relationships, and sometimes only spiritual, clinging tightly to the Truth we know and pressing on. The witness of these various strengths speak to God’s work in our lives. His glory shines freakishly bright when we lay our stuff out there, and let people recognize us, really see where our Hope comes from when all is laid bare.

Ready for more witness, more glory, more resurrection? Finish reading the account of our now leaping friend in Acts 3:11-16:

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.  

People ran to hear Hope, and Peter was not going to miss the opportunity to shine the witness of Who Jesus Christ was for all people and His strength poured out for each and every one of them.

Really looking at one another—that is the work of the Spirit.

Giving Hope in Christ—that is the work of the Spirit.

Strength in the cross and empty tomb of Christ Jesus our Lord—that is the work of the Spirit.

Hallelujah. He is risen indeed. We are witnesses of His glory.

PS – My poor children have a hard time getting my attention on the first try as well. I tune out with my book, at my computer, on my phone, daydreaming, whatever. Here’s to children who have grace for their mamas too!

Grab the Scripture Cards for the week at this link:

Life Goes On…After Resurrection (My Redeemer Lives 7:1)

It confounded me when I was a young adult, someone newly interested in my Bible, trying to find the beginning and the end of it.

I could find the first page of Genesis and the last page of Revelation (sort of), but I didn’t understand how the middle fit. I didn’t get why so much happened before Jesus came and why so much happened after Jesus rose.

A whole new level of confounding came in when I would flip to the end of the Gospels and expect to find the resurrection. It seemed like every Gospel should clearly begin with Mary’s pregnancy or Jesus’ birth and end with an empty tomb and an angel proclaiming,

“He is risen!”

to which the disciples responded, “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

The End.

Tidy.

Instead, when we open the Gospel accounts we actually find more to the story.

We find a whole lot of life…after the Resurrection.

Feel free to open your Bibles to the Gospels with me as we go through an overview of the final chapters of each one — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — to see all the Life.

Matthew keeps it pretty neat. In the last chapter of Matthew, Matthew 28, we find a brief resurrection narrative witness. Then we get a little bit more in the form of an interchange between the Romans guards, who witnessed the resurrection reality that was Jesus of Nazareth, and the Jewish leaders who paid them to spread a lie that the disciples stole the body to make it look like resurrection. (Wow. Just wow.) Then Matthew also shares an account of the disciples receiving the Great Commission from the Risen Christ. So, it doesn’t really end with the resurrection at all. It concludes with a mountaintop, eleven guys worshiping, and the Resurrected Jesus teaching.

Mark, who I like to call the fast-forward Gospel writer, doesn’t end with the resurrection either even though He likes to keep things relatively short and succinct. Mark’s final chapter, Mark 16, has the account of Christ’s resurrection, actually two accounts of Christ’s resurrection, then adds a very brief, two-verse, account of Jesus’ appearance to two disciples in particular, and his own witness of the Great Commission.

Luke does not disappoint with his last chapter, Luke 24, dedicated to Christ’s resurrection followed by the witness of the account of the Risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Jesus appearing yet again to teach His disciples, and the Ascension, when Jesus returns to heaven. If you didn’t have the crucifixion and death of Jesus in Luke 23 preceding, these accounts would look a whole lot like life as usual.

We can’t forget John, the beloved disciple. John blesses us with not one chapter of post-resurrection witness, but two. John 20 holds two accounts of the resurrection itself, followed by Jesus’ tender interactions with Thomas and His disciples, a proclamation that Jesus did way too much to even try to write down, and then John continues into John 21 with what I lovingly like to think of as “Life’s a Beach with Jesus!”

John ends his gospel with one of the verses that makes me particularly fond of him, John 21:25 —

 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

John wants to assure us that this isn’t the whole story, again. John is likely referring to the entirety of Jesus’ time here on earth, but because he repeats it twice, earlier in John 20:30-31 and here in John 21:25, I am prone to believe that he is also applying this to the Resurrected Jesus.

If life goes on after Jesus’ resurrection, with Jesus’ presence here on this earth, then what was He doing? Life goes on…but what for?

Jesus was eating.

There is a lot of eating after the resurrection if you ask me. Maybe I notice it because I like food, but there are definitely fish on the beach and breaking bread after walking to Emmaus.

Fun fact: there are sects of people who believe that Jesus didn’t eat, and some who don’t even believe He was in a physical body after the resurrection.

Not a fun fact: Do not let people steal your hope like that! This is what happens when we chip away at the Gospel and make it into what we want to hear. The Bible tells us that there is a feast with our Savior to come like we cannot even begin to imagine. The disciples had a foretaste of this during those 40 days, and we get a foretaste of it every time we take Communion at His altar together. Why would we want to miss the hope of a Savior who eats with us?

By Jesus eating with His disciples, and with us at the table of His Supper, we are filled with Hope that God has a plan for us and a big plan written with eternity in mind.

Life goes on and eating is part of life…after the Resurrection.

Jesus was teaching and talking.

The disciples were listening. I’m guessing they were so hungry for one more day with the Lord after they “lost” Him that they could hardly get enough.

We have the opportunity to gather around His Word too! Let us be hungry for it, for one more day in the presence of what He has to share with us. Let’s run to worship to learn and be taught. Let’s get in Bible study and grow through hard conversations and reminders of life and hope. Let’s go and teach and talk and have those same hard conversations in unconventional places to witness His Word to this world.

Life goes on and His Word goes out…after the Resurrection.

Jesus witnesses and gives witness.

Jesus witnesses to the disciples the truth of Who He is and what God is doing through Him. He tells the disciples what happened at points x, y, and z through the prophecies of the Old Testament to the fulfilling of them in the New Testament (Luke 24:27). He witnesses to them about love and about grace and what those things really are according to His Word and His Sacrifice. He prepares the disciples for what is to come for them and encourages, encourages, and encourages. He spends time with them, teaches, and shares more conversation with them, giving them more to share of His life-giving Spirit.

Life goes on, ministry goes on…after the Resurrection.

We remember the words of John again from John 21:25 —

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

The world can’t hold Him, our Savior Jesus—isn’t that glorious! But yet, we are each witnesses to all He does in this life that goes on in our time and place…after the Resurrection.

You can download this Scripture card and one for every day of the week at PureJoyCreative.com.

Don’t forget this week’s Bible margin to help you reflect as you study.

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Waking, Sleeping, and Sleepwalking

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