“Who Told You?”
1 John 5:9-13
Sunday, May 13, 2018
Rev. Mark M. Vickers-St. Timothy’s UMC
1 John 5:9-13 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
9 If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. 10 Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God[a] have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
This Sunday we are rapidly approaching the end of the Easter Season. Next Sunday is Pentecost and the birthday of the church. We have struggled as Easter people through seven weeks of trying to figure out who we are as people who believe in a resurrected Jesus! According to the liturgical calendar, we will have succeeded under the will of God as the church is formed next week.
However, the text this morning is a text that is perplexing at best and yet absolutely pivotal to the understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For you see, the writer of 1 John is paralleling a great part of the Gospel of John, proclaiming the notion of the resurrected Jesus in order that people have eternal life. The message is quite clear in this text that in order to understand the plan of salvation, one must have a clear and concise view of what God’s plan was for you and that you needed to relay that plan to others as you encountered them throughout your time as a Christian. The writer here is clearly concerned that a public proclamation concerning the faithful narrative of what God has given you is laid out for the community and others to hear!
When I was growing up in Northern Indiana I had a friend who was a very active participant in his church. A strong Black Baptist church on the south side of Gary, Indiana. I remember visiting with Artie several times for worship. A powerful, upbeat and progressive church, the one thing I remember most was a statement by their preacher right in the middle of the sermon, especially if he thought people were drifting, and that was “Can I Get a Witness?” His claim in his culture of preaching was to call the people to attention concerning the understanding that they had heard and understood what he had and was saying! Would they “testify” to the message that was being proclaimed and the Gospel preached! A ramification that God had promised you something and in turn you understood what was being said to you.
In the text this morning, the word “testimony”(or proclamation of truth) appears 6 times in the first three verses. The “human testimony" is compared to the “testimony of God.” Thus, if the word of the individual human is true or if it is only gossip, why would we deny the word of God, the ultimate truth, the ultimate proclamation for hope and salvation.
One of my favorite shows growing up, was Perry Mason. A show about a lawyer, who through all the ups and downs, always won his cases. Filmed in the late 1950’s and early 60’s, you had 30 minutes to see the crime, solve the crime, and prosecute the crime! One of the things that always struck me as interesting is that when it came time for the court scene, every witness was shown to be sworn in! Placing their right hand on the Bible and asked, “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? So help you God?”
My friends, that is the type of witness that the writer of 1 John is requiring of his believers. For according to the scripture there are those who are masquerading as false witnesses, those that have “cut corners” in order to spell out the truth. The writer here is concerned about who is actually doing the telling and laying out the plan for you and those who believe.
However, if we look at this text closely, we see that those who are being addressed by this claim and asked for “a testimony” are not conventional questioners either. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God,” says John, “so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
This is not a proclamation to find and convince new believers, it is a writing to remind those who already believe that this promise of eternal life is a sure thing! That this is the rationale, the promise, and the completion of a new Easter life.
Do you remember the first time someone told you about eternal life and the promise of Jesus? Think about that for a minute. We have all lived lives that are perplexed and construed with truth and deception. When was that moment of truthful proclamation for you? When was that proclamation of love and passion shared with you to change your life? What if those charged here and now with proclaiming risen Love were to try their hand at shaping Easter season sermons with such a strategy as the writer of 1 John uses?
There would not be any emotional manipulation or sentiment at all! It would be grounded in evidence- what one commentator calls, action evidence. Evidence that reminds us that this promise of eternal life through the belief in a risen savior is grounded in the witness that we share with the world. The witness that we share with others, friends, enemies, and strangers!
It becomes imperative that we, as believers, share our testimony with others in order that the world be transformed for the Kingdom of God.
So, Can I Get a Witness? Please don’t give it just to me! Share it with the world as someone told you!
AMEN & AMEN