Relevant Passages: Mark 2, 9; John 1, 5
Effective personal witnessing requires giving of oneself over to the needs of another. The New Testament illustrates such effective witnessing in several significant experiences.
- Healing of the paralytic (Mark 2). In our individualistic culture it is easy for us to define witnessing in terms of the focus on a single person. One striking exception to that way of thinking is found in Jesus’ healing of the paralytic after his friends had let him down through the roof into Jesus’ presence. The Gospel account strikingly says that Jesus saw “their” faith and responded positively. To what extent does effective witnessing, effective service, involve corporate and communal effort, a church effort, instead of just the individual?
- The Bethesda Cripple (John 5). While Jesus healed many people during his earthly ministry, many more of the sick and infirm remained who were not touched by his healing presence. In particular, a host of miserable people were left unhealed at the poor of Bethesda when Jesus singled out one long-term tragedy for special assistance. In what way does Jesus’ attention to this one man provide a model for us in our outreach to others? Why would it be preferable to help fewer people, but help them more personally, than to help more on an impersonal basis? To what extent is Jesus’ “law-breaking” attitude toward the Sabbath suggestive for us?
- The First Disciples (John 1:35-51). The calling of Jesus’ first disciples illustrates the network effect of witnessing. In one chapter alone (John 1), the effect of word-of-mouth witnessing is dramatically portrayed: John’s declaration of faith in Jesus convinces two of John’s own disciples to seek Jesus; one of those two, Andrew, went and got his brother Peter. The next day Jesus called Philip and Philip brought his friend Nathaniel. How does the effectiveness of such witnessing compare with witnessing through the media? In our day do we tend to depend on media more than is appropriate?
- Father of the Epileptic Child (Mark 9). The story of the epileptic boy is both reassuring and potentially troubling. First, the disciples prove unable to help the father and his boy; then Jesus asks for a display of “faith”; finally he heals the boy when the father pleads for the gift of faith. To what extent does this story suggest that if we get it “right” we will have our requests granted? To what extent is the father’s prayer, “I believe, help my unbelief,” a universal model for us.