Testimony Is Evidence

Several years ago, when we lived in Ohio, I opened the mailbox and found . . . a jury summons.

Ugh. I had never been on a jury before.  It was a super busy month at the church where I was serving, and with my family, so the timing wasn’t great. But I wasn’t too worried . I had heard from several pastor friends that no one wants a pastor on a jury.  The day of the summons came and after just a few minutes of waiting they called my number to come to the jury box to answer a few questions.

What is your name? Megan.

Is it correct that you are a pastor? Why yes, yes it is.

Can you state the name of the church where you serve?  Sure.  No problem.

At this point I started gathering up my things, thinking about what was next on my schedule, now that I was almost done at the courthouse. 

But then they asked one more question: Is there anything about your role as pastor that would keep you from being a fair member of a jury? 

I paused. I thought about everything I could get done that day if they released me. Then remembered I was under oath.

And just like that, I was a juror for my first case.

I sat in a box just like this one.

I had watched a few courtroom shows over the years, so once the case got started, I noticed something different from what I had seen on TV.

In this particular case, there was no photographic evidence of the crime. No DNA. No hard proof.  All we had was one thing to go on, a testimony.  This got me thinking. 

Could we really decide something as important as a court case based on a testimony? It turns out, we could, and we did.

Testimony, you see,  is evidence. The testimony was considered evidence. It was enough.  

In today’s story about Jesus, we have one man who has a testimony to share. But no one wants to believe him. He has an encounter with Jesus that changes his life.  He is blind. Or at least he was.   

We’ll be reading his story in the gospel of John, Chapter 9:

As he (Jesus)  walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

For the disciples, they saw blindness as a result of sin, which is obviously not something we believe today. But this was a common belief then, so it wasn’t a question of is it from sin, but whose fault is it? The blind man for them was an opportunity for a theological debate on the origin of his affliction.

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes,  saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

As Jesus is answering them (and gently telling them they were wrong) he mixes up a strange balm of dirt and his spit and puts it on the man’s eyes. Just like that,  he is no longer blind. He can see.  But as soon as Jesus has worked in his life, people start doubting what he says happened.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”

They say things like “it’s not that guy who was blind. It’s just someone who looks like him.” But the text tells us he kept saying “I am the man.” Every time they doubt him, he says again that it really is him. This is the beginning of this man’s testimony. They don’t believe him, but he keeps insisting that he is the one who had an encounter with Jesus, that Jesus had changed his life.

But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”  They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.

I want to point out that this man is a model witness. Not only because he insists on his testimony (I am the man) but when someone asks him a question that he doesn’t know the answer to, he says those three important words, I don’t know. He says what he does know and the  is comfortable admitting that he doesn’t have all the answers. But they still don’t believe him. What evidence does he have? He tells them exactly what happened. Over and over again. But his testimony isn’t enough evidence for them. They keep questioning him, then they ask him where this Jesus is now.  So they call in the Pharisees, who are the religious leaders, the know it alls, the super righteous.

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind.  Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.”  Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.”

The religious leaders ask him again what happened. Again, he offers his testimony of his encounter with Jesus. He doesn’t embellish or explain. He simply says what Jesus did. I was blind, then this Jesus guy put some mud on my eyes, and now I can see.

But the religious leaders aren’t terribly concerned with the miracle. They are more concerned with who did it, and when he did. They start debating about who Jesus is, because it is the sabbath when he healed, and if he did something on the sabbath he must be trouble, because you aren’t allowed to do anything on the sabbath.

But if he is a sinning, sabbath working trouble maker how could he have done something like heal someone? Seems like that is something only someone pretty close to God could do.

When they can’t agree, they ask the one person who might know: the man who had been blind. That man calls him a prophet.  But still the man’s testimony isn’t enough, or they don’t like the answers they are getting. They go looking for more evidence. They call the man’s parents to confirm that this is actually their son, and that he was really born blind.

 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?”  His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.”  His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.  Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

In an actual courtroom, these would be the key witnesses you bring on the stand at the last minute, and point across the room at the blind man and ask, under oath, if this is, in fact, your son. It’s this big climatic moment that can make or break the man’s testimony. But the parents take one look at the group questioning them and hedge their bets, because they were afraid. They had heard that people who believed in Jesus were being kicked out of the synagogue. So they play it safe. It is our son, they say, and he was blind, and now he isn’t blind, but you should really ask him how that happened. He is old enough to answer for himself.

In other words, they throw him under the bus.  

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” (They’re referring to Jesus here, not the formerly blind man.) He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

This is an amazing part of his testimony because again, he never speculates. He never pretends to be an expert. He sticks to his own experience and tells it straight. That’s the kind of testimony that really counts. That’s the kind of evidence that points to the truth.

They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”  He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”

Boom.

Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses.  We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.

They call to the man again. He sticks to his story. But this time they call Jesus a sinner – and the man isn’t willing to agree with them on that. All he knows is what happened to him, and that what happened was only something God could do. Put this together, and Jesus must be from God. The leaders get really mad at this point, and they do exactly what his parents were afraid of and they send him away.

 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.”  Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.”  He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him.  Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

After he is driven out, Jesus goes and finds him. Jesus tends to make a habit of going and finding people everyone else has rejected. In these final sentences of the story the man moves from a simple testimony to what Jesus had done to a profession of faith in Jesus. He says “Lord I believe.”

The man’s testimony was so simple. He simply repeated over and over again what had happened when he met Jesus, how it had changed his life. It was the word of a man who had been blind. But his testimony was evidence of the truth of Jesus.  As we have been talking about truth, I defined my definition of truth for the purpose of this conversation as everything Jesus taught. If we are going to start from somewhere in figuring out what’s true, that’s a good place to start.  

But what evidence do we have of this truth, besides the Bible his teachings are recorded in?  We have testimonies.

Testimony is evidence. Sometimes, it’s the only evidence we have. That was the case for me on that jury several years ago, and really, it’s the case when it comes to our Christian faith. After all, that’s what the Bible is. It’s a collection of testimonies. Just like with the formerly blind man, people are always calling into question the character of the people who wrote these testimonies down. When it comes down to it, we can’t speak for them. But we are a part of the community that they started. Ultimately, like the once blind man, they can speak for themselves. So go read what they have to say. Decide for yourself if they seem trustworthy.  And if you have a testimony from your life, share it.

Your testimony of the way Jesus’ teachings have changed your life is evidence of their truth.

Or, to put it another way, you are a key witness for Jesus. Because if you spend time with Jesus for very long, you have a testimony. You have stories of how encountering Jesus has changed you. Maybe your encounter with Jesus has changed your behavior or your attitude. Or maybe your encounter with Jesus changed the way you see yourself, or the people in your life.  It doesn’t mean that you are perfect, and it definitely doesn’t mean that your circumstances are perfect. Even the man whose sight was healed was then kicked out of the synagogue.  But if you have encountered Jesus, you have a testimony of how it affected you.

Even when it seems like no one around you would believe it, that testimony is the evidence someone else needs to hear to make a decision in their own life. It could be the very thing that brings someone else to know and love Jesus too. It could be the evidence they need to believe Jesus’ teachings are the truth they have been looking for. Everyone around the man born blind doubted his testimony. But his story is still here, evidence for people over 2000 years later about the truth of who Jesus is. He couldn’t have known his story would help people generations later believe. All he did was share his testimony.

 

About the Author

Megan Collins is the co-pastor of Maitland Presbyterian Church near Orlando, FL. Find her on Twitter @pastormegan


 

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