Who would give a good word at the funeral? That’s what we wondered the day we received a phone call saying my father-in-law had died suddenly.
It was a tough choice. Robert E. Lauterbach, had been a prominent Pittsburgh businessman for over 40 years. As a steel executive he had been a civic leader, but in his private life, especially after his retirement, he had used his influence to serve ordinary people who needed him. Who could represent the diversity of the crowd that had gathered to remember him?
The first to step forward was a CEO, who spoke briefly, followed by a college president who made a much longer address. After a dramatic pause, it was his own children who rose and walked to the podium, from oldest to youngest.
What qualified them to speak? They had not only worked with him or been served by him, they knew him. They knew the real man, the private man behind the public figure.
Not Allowed To Give a Good Word?
I’ve always wondered that. Have you? It wasn’t that their testimony was untrue. They nailed his identity, “You are the Son of God ” (Mark 3:11). They spotted him as the true Son and King, the one Psalm 2 pointed to, before anyone else saw it. If their testimony was true, surely it qualified as a good word. Instead “he strictly ordered them not to make him known” (v. 12).
Maybe it was because theirs was a testimony of defeat, not of deliverance. They fell down in terror, groveling and blabbering before the One who came to defeat their leader, the strong man. They had no choice.
A Good Word Prohibited
But remember, a few chapters earlier, Jesus silenced a leper, too, after he had delivered him (Mark 1:44). Did he command his silence simply to keep the news from spreading and drawing crowds? Or was there another reason?
Maybe he prohibited them because they merely had a testimony about what he had done, but not yet about him. They had received his gift, but hadn’t yet received the Giver.
By contrast, who didn’t he silence? The paralyzed man whose sins he had forgiven was simply sent home, without instructions (Mark 2:11). Finally, the demoniac in Mark 5 was actually told to give this good word: “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
A Good Word from The Forgiven.
Like the paralytic, our sins have been forgiven through faith in Jesus. Until our sins are forgiven, no matter what miracles we may have seen or even experienced, we have nothing to say. Forgiven sinners are asked to testify.
Forgiven sinners at the ones he asks to testify.
Unlike the demons, we have recognized the true King and bowed before him in obedience, not terror. By faith our eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit, and our heart has been changed from rebellion to glad submission. We want to do his will. Loyal subjects are asked to testify.
Unlike Jesus’ earthly family who thought he was crazy, we have believed his message. We have believed in him. Because of that we have become his true family. Sons and daughters are asked to testify.
Unlike the scribes who accused Jesus of being demon possessed, we are those who have been forgiven and are now “Spirit possessed” (Mark 3:28–30). The Holy Spirit is the one who testifies to Christ, enabling us to speak the good word about Him.
Those who have the Spirit testify–with the Spirit.
Motivated by Privilege, not Guilt.
This changes how I think of bearing witness to Christ. Like you, I can be motivated by guilt. When the pressure of my conscience builds up, I’m tempted to blurt a quick “good word” to some nearby unbeliever, and then sink back into comfortable silence.
But instead I’ve been tapped by the Master of the Universe to come to the podium and deliver a eulogy to the Living Christ. Not only that, but I stand at the microphone, inhabited by the all powerful Holy Spirit, whose Witness is true and whose name is Holy. My testimony and His are now inseparable. What a privilege!
What a responsibility, too. My testimony and the Spirit’s are woven together. Rejecting the Holy Spirit’s testimony, repeatedly and finally, is the only unforgivable sin. For if you reject the witness of the Spirit, you reject the Christ to whom he testifies. Without Him, there is no forgiveness of sins.
May God open our mouths to speak and our hearer’s hearts to believe.