I Testify

The one who existed from the beginning is the one we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ, the Word of life. 1 John 1:1 (NLT)

This is what eyewitnesses do. They testify about what they have seen and heard and experienced, with their own eyes and ears and hands

I have been called to be a witness, and I, too, testify that

I have heard His voice calling my name. I have heard Him say to me, “You are mine!”

I have looked, while in the spirit, into His eyes like unending pools of molten love, like perfectly pure liquid gold, purer than anything here on this earth

I have felt His Presence, very near, right beside me, instant in need, comforting, cheering me on, relentlessly offering me this Hope, pointing out the Way

I have experienced His unstoppable power and authority, taking my breath away, healing, redeeming, restoring, bursting bonds, kicking down doors, bringing me out into that spacious place

I have experienced this power in me, in my heart, in my mouth and in my hands, working through me sharing this love, this healing, this redemption, this new-creature, new-way-of being, new Life

I have known the power of His Truth repairing the twisted, mangled parts, the mind-blowing revelation of His Word, changing my thinking, switching the track, crumbling unscalable walls, blowing away the chaff

I testify, with my own ears, with my own eyes, in my own life, with my own hands

He is Jesus Christ, the Word of Life

 

Image in the Public Domain, by Brad Shorr

The Brokenhearted

Jesus’ heart was broken to bring life to the world. We follow in His brokenhearted footsteps.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

I received this verse three times in two days recently. My sister sent it to me as a comforting prayer. A favorite blogger wrote about the verse the next day. The third time I heard it was later that day at the funeral of a young mother, taken too soon. She was only 39. She leaves behind a grieving husband and two small daughters.

Jesus applied these verses to himself in Luke so we can see them as prophetic words of the Messiah. This verse was quoted by Jesus when he got up in the synagogue to read the scroll. But when he read the passage, he left out some parts. For one thing, He stopped at “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” and left out “the day of vengeance of our God.” He came the first time to proclaim favor, the Good News, the freedom of captives and release of prisoners. The day of vengeance would come later when he returns the second time at the last day. I understand that.

But I’ve always wondered why the part about binding up the brokenhearted was left out. We are brokenhearted down here. We need – so many need – binding up. But the passage in Luke leaves out the promise to the brokenhearted. Why?

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:16-19 (NIV)

Commentators and theologians have argued about if this omission was a mistake, added back in by scribes later, or was in the original. Many later manuscripts include the phrase “to heal the brokenhearted” but in the earlier, important ones it is lacking. I don’t think it was a mistake, though I can understand wanting to put it back in. I want to put it back in. But I think Jesus left it out on purpose, just as he left out the “day of vengeance” part. This world that we are in is a place of broken hearts, of too-early deaths, tragedy, a place of tears and trouble. That will not change until Jesus comes back.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33 (NIV)

For some reason we are “filling up the sufferings of Christ” (Colossians 1:24). Jesus’ heart was broken to bring life to the world. We follow in His brokenhearted footsteps. Somehow our brokenness is like that broken alabaster jar filling the house with fragrance (Mark 14:3), and like the life-giving springs bubbling up in the dark valley.

When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs, where pools of blessing collect after the rains! Psalm 84:6 (NLT)

Those other brokenhearted ones, who come after us, receive life and comfort from our brokenness if we keep walking; if our broken hearts, all our broken hopes and dreams, are squandered on him as fragrant offerings.

Ann Voskamp has conjectured that maybe we are made to be broken. It sure seems like it. “We are made in the image of God. And wasn’t God’s heart made to be broken too? Wounds can be openings to the beauty in us. And our weaknesses can be a container for God’s glory.”[i] A container for the fragrant, precious, glory of God. But it seems that the container must be broken for the glory to be shared.

I think we have to wait for the binding up part, but it will come. Someday, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4 NIV) and he will show us how all of those bottles full of tears that he has been collecting (Psalm 56:8) became pools of blessing.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.   2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV)

Image of tear under a microscope: “Psychic tear: This tear is harvested after an emotional response,” by Maurice Mikkers, https://medium.com/micrograph-stories/imaginarium-of-tears-10263c866ee1

 

[i] Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life.

Deliberately

She fell to her knees in terror thinking she was going to be punished. But instead, she was healed, she was loved. She was exactly what Jesus was looking for.

As Jesus went with him, he was surrounded by the crowds. A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”

But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” Luke 8:42-48 (NLT)

The Greek word translated “touched” in these verses is haptomai. It is not an accidental brushing up against or jostling in a pressing crowd. It means to attach one’s self to, to fasten one’s self to, adhere to, cling to. I like how Jesus puts it in the New Living Testament, “Someone deliberately touched me.”

In all that jostling crowd, there was someone who was deliberately out to touch Him, cling to, fasten themselves onto Him. Not just be part of the crowd, part of the movement, part of a cool thing – Jesus has been summoned by the synagogue leader; maybe we’ll get to see a miracle-show!

No, this woman wasn’t focused on the show. She wasn’t after goosebumps; she was focused on Jesus. She was deliberate. She was pushing past, not only the pressing crowds, but also what people might think. The fact is, that in that culture and time, she was “unclean.” She was not supposed to be touching anyone, least of all this rabbi, this prophet. When Jesus turned and asked who had touched him, she fell to her knees in terror thinking she was going to be punished. But instead, she was healed, she was loved. She was exactly what Jesus was looking for.

Over and over in the life of Jesus we see him offending people, seemingly on purpose. Just when he gets this big crowd of followers, he goes and intentionally scandalizes most of them, and they turn away. Just a day or two before this, after his very first recorded reading of the word and sermon in a synagogue, he offended those attending so severely they tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:23-30)! Later, another encounter is recorded:

Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:25-26 (NIV)

These are hard words, but Jesus has a purpose in mind. As J.D. Walt has written, “… Jesus is working to separate the wheat from the chaff, the crowds from the converts.”¹

John 6 records Jesus weeding out another crowd following him because he miraculously fed them bread and fish. He tells them that if they want to follow him, they will also have to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Well, that did it. John 6:66 (NIV) records, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” But when he asked those who were left if they were going to leave too, the answer was:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. John 6:68-69

They were clinging to Jesus. They were fastening themselves onto him, adhering to him with the glue of faith. They weren’t there for the miracles and the bread; they might not understand everything yet, but they knew Him, the Holy One of God, and they were staying for Him. They were deliberate.

Jesus found that deliberate woman in the crowd and said, “Your faith has saved (saved, made whole, healed, delivered, preserved) you.” That word for faith is pistis, and means conviction of the truth, “belief with the predominate idea of trust or confidence … a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah.” Jesus is still searching through the crowd for the converts.

Lord, I want to be a convert, not just part of the crowd. I am deliberately setting out to touch you, to know you, to cling to you, the Holy One of God, the Messiah. Miracles or not; bread or not. Even healing or not. You.

 

¹J.D. Walt, Conjunction Junction: And or Or? https://www.seedbed.com/step-25-conjunction-junction/