Being a Witness for Christ

Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1: 15-23; Lk 24: 44-53
Dc. Larry Brockman

You know, I experienced a kind of “aha” experience when I first read the readings for today.

When Jesus was alive and living amongst his disciples, his prayers and meditations and communications with God the Father were very much like our own are right now. Jesus was bound by the same limitations that all of us have as mere humans because Jesus was fully human. But over time, and with constant prayer and meditation, Jesus came to know God the Father and trust in him. His relationship with God became very close- much closer than ours. And Jesus came to know who he was- the Son of God and the Messiah. But still, he was like us, so his ability to communicate with the Father remained limited. As a result, there was a lack of clarity, of certainty, of completeness in his knowledge and in his words. Jesus’ ability to communicate God’s plan to us was thus limited. Notice that he even admitted that when he said that “Only the Father knows”.

But after the Resurrection, Jesus was fully divine, and had full knowledge of God and everything God the Father knew. And so, Jesus words after the Resurrection are powerful and direct messages to us, unfiltered and unencumbered by any of his former human limitations. That’s what makes the post Resurrection accounts in the Gospels over the last six weeks so special. The words convey important messages to us and they convey them in a manner that we can understand within the human limitations that we have. They are direct words from God. Such is the case for the Ascension.

In today’s account from Acts, Jesus finds the Apostles still in a state of doubt and uncertainty about what his role as the Messiah was all about. They wanted to know if the Kingdom of Israel was going to be restored right then. Jesus answer is very cryptic: “It is not for you to know”. You see, he is not talking about a worldly restoration of a Kingdom at all. Rather, he is talking about the Kingdom of Heaven. Then he tells the Apostles that they will be empowered by the Holy Spirit and that they are to be his witnesses over the entire world.

Do you know what it means to be a witness for Jesus? It means two things: First, it means that the events in the Gospel need to be retold, repeated, and remembered for all in the future. The promise of salvation and everlasting life needs to be repeated. But it also means that the way of life that Jesus admonished needs to be lived by his witnesses. His witnesses need to bear witness to both his testimony and his way of life.

The Gospel of Matthew says something similar. First, Jesus says that all power has been given to him on heaven and earth. This statement validates that Jesus is now fully divine and has full knowledge of God the Father and His will. Then Jesus says that the Apostles must go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This direction from Jesus is one of the most direct messages from God that we have received. It is after the Resurrection, after Jesus has been fully empowered and is no longer encumbered by human nature.

So, this is what all of us have been commissioned to do: To be Witnesses for Christ, and to convert the World by Baptizing all nations. And Baptism means confessing our sins, repenting of them, and dying to self. Through Baptism we are all reborn by water and the spirit to a new life dedicated to Jesus and the Church.

Now, all of us have this mission; not just some of us, but all of us. It is a life-long commitment and mission.

In the very beginning of his Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul commissioned the first Christians in Ephesus by blessing them and sending them forth to perform this Baptismal Mission. It was a beautiful blessing that requested that the Ephesian converts be given wisdom and knowledge of God,and that they work through the Body of Christ, His Church. All of you gathered here today are part of the body of Christ, his Church. You are the witnesses of both the events of the Gospel and the way of Christ for this community. You have been blessed with the knowledge and wisdom of Christ.

Many of your companions will be depressed, disheartened, or even despairing in the face of old age and physical or mental impairments. But your Faith as Christians can save them. You are the witnesses that they need to realize that God loves them and has an incredible future in store for them. You are their messengers of hope and a joyful future. Amen.

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