Do You Know Your Lines?
When I was in high school, I was on the Junior Varsity drama team. Though we thought we were Oscar-worthy, it became clear one night why we were on JV. In an epic performance of a murder mystery, we arrived at our last act, and the unspeakable happened. Literally…the unspeakable happened—we forgot our lines. Seriously, all of us forgot our lines. Awkwardly staring at each other, we fumbled along, creating a story to reveal the true murderer. I’m just glad we all remembered who that was.
As ridiculous as it was to be on stage with no lines, we can easily do the same thing in real life. We live as if we don’t know what our role is and cannot remember our lines. Yet, you and I live in the last act before the end, and we have a role. When we remember the time in which we live and our part, it helps us remember our lines.
First, we must look back at the beginning of the Act in which we live. Here is where we find our instructions.
Act 3: Jesus is Risen
Terrified and confused, the disciples of Jesus gathered after his death. Some claimed he had risen, but many were still devastated that the man who they believed was the hope of the world had died.
Their terror only intensified when Jesus stood among them. He spoke of peace and belief, but shock and doubt felt more natural. Yet as Jesus talked, touched, and ate, the realization that he truly was alive began to sink in. If Jesus had risen from the dead, his body and blood were the sacrifice for their sin, just as he had spoken. He had beaten death. Nothing would be the same.
Jesus kept speaking.
Jesus reminds the disciples that this is exactly what he said would happen. I imagine they started to get red in the cheeks as they realized they knew this. Several times he had said he was going to suffer, be rejected, die, and rise. This is exactly as the Scriptures said it would happen.
Jesus said this was in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Each section of the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to him. The Bible told the story of the previous Acts of history. In Act 1, God had created all things right. In Act 2, God’s treasured people had rebelled against God, choosing their own false wisdom and receiving death and curses as a result. But Act 3 began instantly as God pursued his people with a rescue plan to offer forgiveness and restoration. Scene after scene of Act 3, people have faith and then fail. Yet, God’s faithfulness never failed.
Jesus opened the disciples’ minds to the history unfolding before them. Finally, they understood that Jesus was the pinnacle of all that God had told the world he was doing. Jesus was the rescue plan of God to save his people from their sin, corruption, brokenness, and rebellion. Thus, repentance and forgiveness could be proclaimed to everyone. (Luke 24:45-47) Jesus had done it.
Act 4: You are Witnesses
The forgiveness and freedom provided by Jesus must have felt transformative and overwhelming. And the “opening their minds to understand the Scriptures” was doubtlessly simultaneously disorienting and renewing. These men and women would never be the same. Grace had come.
But here’s the kicker: Jesus now had a role for them.
In the next Act of history, God would continue to pursue and save his people, but he would do it through his transformed people speaking. “You are witnesses,” he said.
Today we think of witnesses as someone who saw something. We use the term to refer to someone who witnessed a crime and has a choice of whether or not she’s going to testify before a court. Sometimes in the cheesy crime dramas I watch, she’s too scared, so she doesn’t speak about what she saw. That’s not what the word means here. It’s not someone who has seen. It’s someone who has seen and speaks. It is always one who speaks. A witness is a testifier.
So when Jesus tells his disciples that they are witnesses, he’s not stating the obvious that they have seen him. He’s giving them a role. This is their part in the narrative. They are people who speak about what God has done.
But He didn’t leave them alone to do this. This wasn’t by the power and might of humanity that this message would go forth, because, let’s be honest, that would fail miserably. Rather, God himself would come empower them. (Luke 24:49) The Holy Spirit, who has been promised to all of God’s people in the last days, was finally coming. He would empower them to speak. This is what God would do now in the next Act of history.
We Live in Act 4
Those same truths that Jesus told his disciples as they trembled on Resurrection Sunday he has also spoken to us.
- He is the rescue plan of God to save his people from their sin.
- He is risen.
- He is the pinnacle of all God has said in the Scriptures.
- You are witnesses.
- You are empowered by the Spirit of God.
While you and I were not there to stand before the risen Christ, we have witnessed his work in the Bible and in our lives. We know that the resurrection changes everything. We believe that Jesus is the rescue plan from all of Scripture. We were not there at Pentecost, but the Holy Spirit dwells in those of who know Jesus. And he is no less powerful than he was that day.
You know when you live; you live in the church-age when God is using his church to proclaim this good news. You know your role. And now you can remember your lines.
Now it’s time to tell the world.