Our testimony

“Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony.”

Thank you for joining us this Sunday as we testify to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

After a long, nearly three-year journey across Israel and Samaria, preaching the gospel, proclaiming the kingdom, teaching the apostles and disciples, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. He preaches in the temple precincts with the same message, these times tinged with the exigency of His coming arrest, suffering, death, and resurrection.

As Jesus teaches, people are commenting on the magnificence of the Temple. Indeed, it was the place to be, the place to meet God. We might speed by this comment about the way the Temple was adorned, but we should not set aside its overwhelming presence. Even from afar you could see it towering over Jerusalem. Its walls magnificent white with large gold plates. Sparking jewels and offerings on its walls. This – and it was still under construction. Indeed, it would not be completed until 63 A.D., seven years before it is destroyed completely by the Roman army.

Jesus tells of the Temple’s coming destruction. Now, when someone predicts something like this, especially involving something so magnificent and meaningful in the lives of the people who fill and journey to this holy city, we all want to know more, and the disciples take up our curiosity and ask: “Teacher, when will this happen?”

Certainly, our minds cannot help to think of what is to come. But, in the Gospels Jesus stresses something different no matter how much people persist in their inquiries about the end and His return.

In our own day there are those prophets of doom who say they represent Jesus (really only a shadow of Who Jesus is) and tell us the end is neigh. Our own flights of fancy go from Jesus’ return out of the rising sun in the East with trumpet blast and astride a white steed followed by all who had previously fallen asleep and the heavenly host of angels. Then we start thinking of ourselves, will I be a sheep or a goat?

Yes, there were those time I fed and clothed, visited, but then again, there were times I hoarded, fought, over-ate, and ignored. And we get a little worried – we should because it keeps us honest in our weekly confession. 

Jesus warns us today – do not get caught up in all that end-times stuff. If we truly are to be His disciples and Kingdom dwellers, then we have far more important work to do. There will be bad times; people will disappoint and betray us; storms, earthquakes, and other awful stuff will happen – and through it all, no matter what, we are to testify, to proclaim Jesus and His Kingdom because only His overwhelming presence matters, frees, and makes those who believe ever secure.

In the garden.

“He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that He is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Here we are, in this beautiful garden, standing in awe before an empty tomb.

I have spent a lot of time these days contemplating this garden, in my mind’s eye thinking that it closely resembles the nearby tomb where Jesus was laid.

Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there…

I watched as this was put together, the color and texture of the place, the scent of flowers where our beautiful Lord slept in death.

Picture, in your mind’s eye, the women, setting off to the tomb before daybreak on the third day, eager to attend to the remains of their Lord and Master. They loved Him and could not do otherwise.

Each of the Gospels differ slightly in the exact narrative, but they all agree that the first witnesses to the resurrection were the woman who followed Jesus. They all found the tomb empty and went or were instructed to go tell the disciples. 

Here we are, in this beautiful garden, standing in awe before an empty tomb.

The narratives describe the reaction of the women and the disciples as one of fear, a lack of understanding, or wonderment – all words for awe. Awe is defined as a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.

We too respect this garden, and we encounter it with fear and wonder. Certainly, we can picture the scene, we even physically sense it in feeling the petals of the flowers, the moisture of the green leaves, smelling the flowers and the scent of earth, touching the sharpness of the crown of thorns still resting nearby and the hardness of the rock. We can look up and see the cross still standing, but can we connect with the new reality this day brings?

Here we are, in this beautiful garden, standing in awe before the empty tomb. We still stand in awe because, like those women and disciples, we can hardly believe what God has done for us.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.

He gave His Son for us. His Son suffered and died for us. His Son rested in the tomb for us. His Son rose for us. For you. For me. Awe.

Here we are, in this beautiful garden – not just that garden, but the new Eden in which we dwell with God, no longer alienated or unreconciled, because of all Jesus did. So, affirmed now, let us go forth from this garden to proclaim, testify, and bear witness to our risen Jesus.