Summary: We’re called to witness where we are, but not stay where we are.
Rev. Brian Bill
September 21-22, 2019
Sermon Bumper: Tell Me
A witness is simply someone who speaks from personal experience about what is true. How are you doing at telling people the truth about Jesus? A first-hand witness reports what was personally seen, heard and in some cases, touched.
A week ago Beth and I witnessed an event that we will never forget and if you give us enough time, we can talk about it for hours on end. Our daughter Emily and son-in-law Matt gave birth to Ruby Beth and we were there as witnesses (not in the delivery room but shortly afterwards). Ruby joins her cousins Pip and Ezra as our third grandchild. Since a witness is called upon to furnish evidence, I brought some with me today [show pictures].
In order to establish the veracity of something, there are six questions called “reporter’s questions” that are often asked – when, who, how, what, where and why? A witness is one who can testify when something happened, who was involved, how it unfolded, what happened, where it took place and why they think it happened.
We’ll see each of these elements addressed in Acts 1:6-11: “So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’”
We could sum up the sermon this way: We’re called to witness where we are, but not stay where we are.
1. Perspective. The first thing a witness establishes is when something occurred. While the disciples were focused on the future, Jesus wanted them to be fully focused on the present. We see this in verses 6-7: “So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.’”
The tense of the disciples’ question indicates they repeatedly asked about the timing of the kingdom. For a long time I thought it was wrong for the disciples to ask this but I realize it was a natural question. Jesus often talked about the coming of the kingdom in passages like Matthew 19:28: “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Their question actually represented a strong faith in Jesus as the Sovereign Lord who would one day rule and reign as king over His kingdom. They were also eager to see God’s glory fill the earth and wanted to know if this was the time it would happen.
Jesus doesn’t rebuke them for their question but instead tenderly redirects them. He tells them they don’t need to know about the timing because it’s time for them to take up the task He has for them.
2. People. The disciples’ perspective was locked into when God was going to inaugurate His kingdom and now in the first part of verse 8 we see Jesus telling them who He was going to use to accomplish His work: “But you…” The word “but” is a term of contrast suggesting a “change of direction.” They wanted to talk about prophecy but Jesus wanted them to focus on proclamation. The word “you” shows this is a personal command for every follower of Christ. J. Vernon McGee says, “It’s our business to get the Word of God out to the world.”
Verse 8 contains the last recorded statement of Jesus in the Bible. This final command must become our first concern because Jesus continues His work today through individuals and the institution called the church. I like what David Platt says in this regard: “The church is not a building to see or a place to sit. The church is a movement to join.”
We’re called to witness where we are, but not stay where we are.