Witnessing in behalf of Jesus
Pentecost Sunday

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

At Jesus' Last Supper discourse - also His last will and testament -- He promised His apostles that He would not leave them orphans. Rather, He would ask the Father to send them an Advocate who would "be with you always" and who would "teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you" (Jn. 14:16, 26).

Jesus fulfilled this promise at Pentecost. As Luke vividly narrates, "Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim." (Acts 2: 3-4)

With the coming of the Holy Spirit, a new era has began. It reversed the divisiveness and disunity that the Tower of Babel signified (Gen. 11: 1-9). Before it, the descendants of Adam were one people and spoke one language. But as they became more prosperous, and to make a name for themselves, they decided to build a city and a tower "with its top in the sky." But God would not allow them to have another monument with which to bolster their pride some more. Thus He confused "their language, so that one will not understand what another says."

At the Spirit's descent, a large number of people, on hearing the noise, gathered near the place and the apostles spoke to them. The crowd asked in amazement, "Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language?" With this, the reversal of the curse of Babel had begun. And the Holy Spirit was responsible for it. But the story did not end there. The Spirit still had to come as Advocate (lawyer is the term we now use).

Lawyers are needed when there's trouble. And there was a lot of lawyering needed after the initial success of the apostles' preaching at the first Pentecost. For as they continued to carry out their mission, accusations and charges, court trials, sentences and persecutions awaited them.

It is in this context that we, following the presentation of Denis McBride, Seasons of the World, will develop one of the fascinating characteristics of John's gospel -- presenting the story of Jesus as a lawsuit between God and the unbelieving world. The case at issue then as it is now is: Is Jesus the Messiah and the Son of God?

For the defense, God's witnesses are His Word in Jesus, John the Baptist, the mighty works of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the apostles and after them, we, the believers in Jesus. For the prosecution, there are the unbelieving Jews and the unbelievers in our day, who bring their own testimony against Jesus' claim.

The first case took place at Jesus' trial. His accusers were invited to bear witness regarding the evil that He was alleged to have committed. Jesus boldly challenged the officer of the court: "If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?" No one took up the challenge. According to John, Jesus won the most important lawsuit in history -- Pilate declared Jesus innocent three times. Yet He was condemned to be crucified. Jesus' trial is considered as the greatest travesty of justice ever: it was the innocent who was condemned. What we celebrate at Pentecost is the coming of the Advocate, the one who enables the apostles to be witnesses to Jesus' claim. Before the coming of the Spirit, they were unable to exercise this function. They were frightened men, too hurt and confused to act as effective witnesses. But with the Spirit, they were graced with a new courage. Their courtroom was the market-place of the world. Before these, they testified to the truth of Jesus' claim to anyone who would bother to listen.

We know that the lawsuit continues, that the case is not closed. There will always be opposition to face and a jury to persuade. But the Spirit continues to be the Advocate, calling on all generations of Christians to come forward as witnesses in the case. In our own generation, we are called to be the witnesses on behalf of Jesus. The disbelieving world still looks to Jesus' witnesses to make our case -- by the quality and courage of our lives -- the primary witnessing we have to do.

Because of our failure as witnesses, the world may be dying from not having life in Jesus' name. To reverse this frightening development in our day, the Advocate challenges us to stand up and be counted -- as witnesses. This is the challenge posed by Pentecost on each one of us.

The case on behalf of Jesus continues and will continue for all time. But the Advocate will always be there to call new witnesses. Now is our time.

Witnessing in behalf of Jesus

At Jesus' Last Supper discourse - also His last will and testament - He promised His apostles that He would not leave them orphans. Rather, He would ask the Father to send them an Advocate who would "be with you always" and who would "teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you" (Jn. 14:16, 26).

Jesus fulfilled this promise at Pentecost. As Luke vividly narrates, "Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim." (Acts 2: 3-4) With the coming of the Holy Spirit, a new era has began. It reversed the divisiveness and disunity that the Tower of Babel signified (Gen. 11: 1-9). Before it, the descendants of Adam were one people and spoke one language. But as they became more prosperous, and to make a name for themselves, they decided to build a city and a tower "with its top in the sky." But God would not allow them to have another monument with which to bolster their pride some more. Thus He confused "their language, so that one will not understand what another says."

At the Spirit's descent, a large number of people, on hearing the noise, gathered near the place and the apostles spoke to them. The crowd asked in amazement, "Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language?" With this, the reversal of the curse of Babel had begun. And the Holy Spirit was responsible for it. But the story did not end there. The Spirit still had to come as Advocate (lawyer is the term we now use).

Lawyers are needed when there's trouble. And there was a lot of lawyering needed after the initial success of the apostles' preaching at the first Pentecost. For as they continued to carry out their mission, accusations and charges, court trials, sentences and persecutions awaited them.

It is in this context that we, following the presentation of Denis McBride, Seasons of the World, will develop one of the fascinating characteristics of John's gospel -- presenting the story of Jesus as a lawsuit between God and the unbelieving world. The case at issue then as it is now is: Is Jesus the Messiah and the Son of God?

For the defense, God's witnesses are His Word in Jesus, John the Baptist, the mighty works of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the apostles and after them, we, the believers in Jesus. For the prosecution, there are the unbelieving Jews and the unbelievers in our day, who bring their own testimony against Jesus' claim.

The first case took place at Jesus' trial. His accusers were invited to bear witness regarding the evil that He was alleged to have committed. Jesus boldly challenged the officer of the court: "If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?" No one took up the challenge. According to John, Jesus won the most important lawsuit in history -- Pilate declared Jesus innocent three times. Yet He was condemned to be crucified. Jesus' trial is considered as the greatest travesty of justice ever: it was the innocent who was condemned. What we celebrate at Pentecost is the coming of the Advocate, the one who enables the apostles to be witnesses to Jesus' claim. Before the coming of the Spirit, they were unable to exercise this function. They were frightened men, too hurt and confused to act as effective witnesses. But with the Spirit, they were graced with a new courage. Their courtroom was the market-place of the world. Before these, they testified to the truth of Jesus' claim to anyone who would bother to listen.

We know that the lawsuit continues, that the case is not closed. There will always be opposition to face and a jury to persuade. But the Spirit continues to be the Advocate, calling on all generations of Christians to come forward as witnesses in the case. In our own generation, we are called to be the witnesses on behalf of Jesus. The disbelieving world still looks to Jesus' witnesses to make our case - by the quality and courage of our lives -- the primary witnessing we have to do.

Because of our failure as witnesses, the world may be dying from not having life in Jesus' name. To reverse this frightening development in our day, the Advocate challenges us to stand up and be counted -- as witnesses. This is the challenge posed by Pentecost on each one of us.

The case on behalf of Jesus continues and will continue for all time. But the Advocate will always be there to call new witnesses. Now is our time.

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