Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he himself believed, along with his whole household. – John 4: 46b – 53 NRSV

There are a number of different contexts into which we are placed to be witnesses. One that I’ve noticed is what I’m going to call “intentional witness.”

What do I mean by intentional? Well, I look to the story in John 4 as an example. This royal official set out specifically to encounter Jesus….in this case, “he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.” This was no chance encounter…..he knew what Jesus might do, as he had undoubtedly heard about this amazing man. How else would he have known to go? And how might he have heard that Jesus had come back to Galilee from Judea? In hope and purpose, he set out to find him, meet him and beg him for his son’s life.

There appeared to be a ‘pause’ in Jesus’ response. His initial reply, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe”, didn’t even slow the father down! He reiterated his plea on behalf of his son. Jesus spoke the healing to him (notice that he had come for Jesus to accompany him back to his son…this spoken healing was NOT what he had expected…). He believed him and headed home. On his way, others came to him and told him what had happened…HIS SON LIVED! How mind-boggling that might have seemed….so much so that he even time-checked the healing. He was expecting that the word of healing to have been the fact but asked for just that last little bit of faith-building verification. And it was so….

It was so….

It was so…

He son was alive…

It was so…

Nothing else is written about this man and his family, but one can well imagine his responses to anyone who asked, “So, how’s your boy?”

He had set out to find and meet Jesus.

He did, and he made his heart-filled plea to him about his son.

Jesus healed this man’s son. No doubt about it. Even checked the time, just to be sure…

He became an intentional witness to the power of God and his mercy.

So, as you consider your life and those things through which you’ve lived, can you identify those times when you specifically set out to meet God with an urgent plea? In His response, you experienced God in a way that was real…maybe not quite what you expected, but totally real. This has become part of your story and has further established you as a witness. Consider this witness as you approach God in trust for other requests and as you are given the opportunity to companion others in their journey to find and meet God in ways that are life changing.

Witness As Being

Image by Alex Carabi

While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. – Acts 1: 4-9 NRSV

When I carry forward what I wrote about earlier on what “witness” means in various contexts into this text, something jumps out at me: the phrase that I used to hear when I was much younger, “Let’s go out witnessing!” seems misplaced…

Being a witness isn’t an activity I set out to do or accomplish. I am a witness by virtue of experiencing God’s Spirit and power in my life. Jesus didn’t say “y’all go out witnessing to the world!” He said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (emphasis is mine)

The text above mentions receiving power in the Holy Spirit twice before then telling the disciples that they will be witnesses. Certainly this doesn’t mean that NOW God will start to work in their lives, NOW God will start to demonstrate His power……God’s been working in their lives for quite awhile! The Holy Spirit living in Love and Power through and from them into the world around them heightens their awareness of what they have experienced. The Spirit gives them the loving insight into what that might mean to those around them, and the wisdom to recognize the dire need for God’s Grace in each and every one about them. They each learn how to express their experience, both in love and in restorative justice, that allows their witness to show, not themselves, but our loving and graceful God to that person.

Being a witness isn’t something we train up to do. We are witnesses. There are things we can learn from our community, from spiritual friends and others that can lead us to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s work, and perhaps, more wisdom about being the witness that God has placed us in this life to be, right now, with this person……but the central experience is your experience with God in your life.

Prayerfully consider your rich relationship with God, and present that as an open book through which the Spirit breathes grace for others.

Witness Existence

Verb or Noun?

I have spent a lot of time lately studying and pondering the role of a witness in our world. I watch a lot of police procedural shows on TV (think “Law and Order” for example…) and so I thought I’d develop my own definition first before heading over to Here’s what I came up with:

A witness is an individual who has seen and/or experienced something about which someone else wants information. Despite the differences any number of witnesses might have in individual perceptions, strength and reliability of memory, and the ability to clearly express themselves, it is expected that, from “honest” answers, a clearer picture of what really happened develops. The picture builds greater certainty in what this “something” is/was.

So then, if only out of curiosity, I went over to and compared what was there with mine:

verb (used with object)

  1. to see, hear, or know by personal presence and perception – e.g. to witness an accident
    1. to be present at (an occurrence) as a formal witness, spectator, bystander, etc. – e.g. she witnessed our wedding

verb (to be used without object)

  1. to bear witness; testify; give or afford evidence


  1. an individual who, being present, personally sees or perceives a thing; a beholder, spectator, or eyewitness
    1. a person or thing that affords evidence
    1. a person who gives testimony, as in a court of law

…and so on. You get the idea.

The first thing I noticed is that, generally, a witness is first and foremost, someone who actually experienced something and then can share that experience. The witness’s story is what gives the event credibility in the eyes of others. As others (the “cloud of witnesses”) tell their stories and these stories lend further credibility to an event, the more likely those who are trying to find out what really happened (the event….) find the event believable for themselves.

So the idea I arrived at is that you don’t set out to become a witness.

You are a witness, by virtue of the experiences you have. Others are more interested in your story than in a lecture, especially in these days when “words are cheap” but living experiences are real.

Consider your experiences of God, what that relationship does in your world, and how God’s love is lived from you into this world. Witness.