Newsletter May 2019
Witnesses of Jesus Christ
Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49)
After Jesus had risen from the dead he appeared to his disciples as they were gathered together. They saw Him and touched Him, and He showed them His wounded hands and feet and ate in their presence. There could be no doubt – He was alive! Jesus then explained to them from the scriptures the purpose of His death on the cross and commissioned them to proclaim to the whole world the good news of remission of sins in His name. However, to be effective witnesses they needed more than just to see and hear; He would not leave them alone but would send the Holy Spirit to live in them. That way His presence would be with them always, and He would guide them and empower them for the task that lay ahead. For this reason they had to wait in Jerusalem before embarking on their mission. Only by the power of His Spirit could they continue the work He had begun – to advance God’s kingdom, to bring His light into the darkness of a lost world.
Ten days after Jesus’ ascension to the Father, on the feast day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples, and immediately they began to preach the good news of the kingdom of God and demonstrate its presence through miracles of healing and deliverance. And the Spirit in them brought about a love and unity among the disciples that the world had never witnessed. Early Christian writers such as Justin Martyr confirm that it was the love the Christians had for one another that convinced others of their message. It was the loving community of the believers, as much as the miraculous signs, that appealed to people.
While Jesus was still on earth with His disciples He spoke much about love. The ultimate proof of His love for them and the world was His death on the cross, and this was to be the focus of their preaching and their lifestyle. It was as they centred their lives on the cross, trusting in His grace, that they experienced God’s forgiveness and love and so were able to love and forgive others and experience the unity that comes only by His presence manifested through His Spirit.
The message is still the same, and so is the path to true Christian community: the cross. It is at the cross of Jesus that we see ourselves and others through God’s eyes. It is when we recognise His infinite love and His undeserved acceptance that we are able to love and accept ourselves and others. The sacrifice of God’s Son teaches us how precious we all are in His sight. Fear of failure and rejection involve torment; but perfect love cast out fear. (1 John 4:18) In Jesus Christ, through His death on the cross, we experience perfect peace – within ourselves and with one another. That is why Paul’s answer to division in the church was the message of Christ crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2) The day that He encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-4) Paul realised his own deficiency and Christ’s sufficiency. That is why He could say with full conviction, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) That is why He could tell others with that same conviction that “the message of the cross … is the power of God.”
Have you truly encountered the One who was crucified and rose again? Has your life been transformed by the power of the cross? Does Christ live in you by His Spirit? Can others see His life in you? Jesus died and rose again! It is by His Spirit alone that we can know true life and be true witnesses of His resurrection.