“This will give you an opportunity to testify.” --Luke 21:13
This past weekend, my wife, Terrie and I had the opportunity to hike a bit of the 250 mile long Ozark Highland Trail north of Fort Smith, AR. The part we hiked passes along the edge of Lake Fort Smith before heading up into the Boston Mountains. Along the trail, we passed by an old home site, long abandoned. All that is left of the home that once looked out over the valley (before the lake was dammed) is a stone fireplace (pictured), a lonely monument to the endurance of those who once lived there. As I stood before fireplace, I tried to imagine who they were. I didn’t know any of the details: how many lived there, their names, how old they were, what they looked like or when they occupied the homestead. But I do know a few things about them. I know that whoever lived there likely laughed and cried, rejoiced and struggled, had hopes and dreams, ate and drank and listened to the rain fall on the roof, wrapped up on cold winter nights, welcomed the springtime sun and did their best to endure… just like we all do. Because that is human life.
By the time Luke wrote down his Gospel story of Jesus many of the events Jesus talks about in this week’s lesson had already happened. The years between the Resurrection and the end of the First Century were tumultuous ones for Judea and Galilee. Insurrections were common. The devastating Jewish War (66-73 AD) killed tens of thousands and left Jerusalem and the Temple in ruins. Christians (along with Jews) living outside of Palestine were persecuted and put to death. Christians were often in conflict with their neighbors and even their relatives because of their beliefs. I could go on… but you get the idea.
Jesus tells the disciples that, in the face of all this tumult, the disciples would have an opportunity to testify. Really?! In the face of all that, I would think the impulse would be to hide and hope for better times! But, Jesus does more than point out the opportunity. He also gives the disciples a promise. He promises that he will give them the words and the wisdom they need to bear witness to the Good News he is sending them to proclaim. He gives them the encouragement they need so that they can endure. We know from the stories in Acts, the rest of the New Testament and other writings from the period that they not only endured, but thrived and, as they took the opportunity to testify, their little movement grew.
Humans are a resilient bunch. That fireplace standing sentinel on the shores of Lake Fort Smith bears witness to that. But, the promise of new life in Christ strengthens resilience into hope – even in the face of tumultuous times. In the two thousand years since Jesus described the tumult of the world, people have read his words and thought he was talking about them. And, he was. Because that is human life. But, now, as then, we need to look at what is going on around us as an opportunity to testify to the hope and promise we know in and through Jesus Christ. Now, as then, the people of our world yearn for Good News, and now, as then, we have good news to share.
How might the hope and promise of the Resurrection help you to endure? How might you share that story with others?
Thanks for reading!