Having reflected on Holy Week for more than half a century it's meaning has become more specific and on point in recent years. Three remembrances register more completely now than any of the other impressions. On the night of his betrayal he held and blessed a morsel of bread, announcing it represented his body broken for me, and that when I think of him, I should *remember this. Later that evening he washed his disciples feet and instructed them to *do this, that is, follow his example of servant leadership. After the resurrection he told them to *be this, his clear expectation that his disciples would be his witnesses to the waiting world. Luke wrote it two times---
You are witnesses of these things.
Luke 24:48, ESV
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
Acts 1:8, ESV
It's one of the warm, fuzzy concepts of modern discipleship, the ideal of being his witnesses. We've hedged it with comfortable language and cliches to make it more appealing and to be sure it stretches around most of our kingdom busy work. You know, we can use words when necessary and even move the activity to the mission field, that wide world outside the church door. This little light of mine, I'm surely going to let it shine because that's the stuff of being his witness.
That is, until I also remember the word Jesus used to define the *be this Holy Week truth. By now most of us know the word translated witness is the Greek root martus. It registers because it is also transliterated into English as martyr, defined in our language as a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion (see www.mirriam-webster.com/dictionary/martyr). In the New Testament the term was usually less abrasive and threatening, a word describing someone who can aver truth because of something seen or heard, perhaps a spectator, or even more, someone with a legal testimony. That the English language has used the idea of witness as someone willing to die derives from Acts 21:20, when the first martyr Stephen is referenced in a message being preached by the Apostle Paul. Luke wrote it this way...
And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed I myself was
standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed
There it is, Stephen "your witness", your martyr. That changed everything about being a witness.And, it's the third power thought of this reflection on Holy Week, the *be this truth, that Jesus expects his disciples to be his witnesses. Even more, that being his witness means more than attending the Easter parade or going through the motions with the church family every week or even allowing all the neighbors watch us drive off to church every Sunday.
I mean, right now, I wonder what *be this means to the families and fellow congregants of the 45 Coptic Christians killed in Egypt last week, or the couple who lost their bakery because they refused to prepare a wedding cake for people marrying outside of their decidedly Christian belief system, or the 215 million Christians who suffer a very high degree of persecution around the world daily. We've made being his witnesses an unoffensive, low cost expression of cheap grace when in fact it was his expectation that we'd do whatever was required to represent him in our alien world.
On this Good Friday these three impressions are heavy---*remember this, *do this, and *be this because our comfortable faith would prefer to remember the easier stuff, do what fits our lifestyles better, and be something less than one willing to do whatever is necessary to represent him.
*Remember this. *Do this. *Be this. Reminders of Holy Week.
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