1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
(Observant followers of these devotions will notice that I have not used this past Sunday’s first reading for this devotion, that is because on Thursday of this past week we observed the festival of the Ascension – this is the account for that day.)
She had fallen for the scam once. Someone had offered her a great deal of money if she would just cash this one check and wire the money off. Of course, the check was no good. Her bank came back and took the money out of her own account, plus a bunch of fees. You would think she might wise up, and in a sense she did. When the same scammer came back again, she agreed, but this time had no intention of wiring the money off to the person who was scamming her. She intended to keep it and pay off the big hole in her account created by the first time.
Now she entered a whole other realm. She had been a victim, now she was a perpetrator. In doing this, she was trying to pass a bad check off to the bank, in this case a check cashing service, and pocket the money. Because it was over $1,000, in my state that was a felony. We, the members of the jury, considered the evidence and eventually were forced to find the woman guilty. The various witnesses and evidence, even the woman’s own words, simply left us with that inescapable verdict. She had done this. We urged the judge to leniency in her sentencing, but she had done this.
Jesus sends us out today as witnesses. If there are witnesses, there must be a trial. Who is on trial, you might ask? In a very real sense, it is the world which is on trial (John 16:5-10), but we are bearing witness not to the deeds of the world, but of God. Our world’s guilt, our own guilt, is beyond question and obvious. Just look at the broken children in Ukraine, peer into the eyes of a Holocaust survivor, listen to the lies and justification of lies which constitute our political discourse, or consider the suffering which goes on in the encampments which line our highways. They all speak to a world which has abandoned virtue and truth. But that is not really our witness. Our witness is to what God has done. We are Jesus’ witnesses. We bear a message into the world that Jesus has died for this world’s sins, all of them. His sacrifice of self on a cross was enough. God has raised Him from the dead. We have heard his voice and love him. We bear witness to the fact that God has dealt with sin, once and for all, and now forgiveness and righteousness have been given. Satan’s prosecutorial efforts have been thwarted by the strange and gracious love of God.