First impressions can be lasting.  Certainly Jesus had a lasting impression on some of the people he met, especially those who were fortunate enough to have personal interaction with him.  Some even experienced a miracle.  That certainly would leave an impact!  As we look further into the eyewitness accounts of those who interacted with Jesus, we consider the testimony of strangers.  

Paul (Also Know As Saul)

Paul will kick off our investigation of the testimony of strangers.  He never met Jesus prior to the resurrection. His first encounter with Jesus occurred on a trip to Damascus where he intended to persecute Christ followers (Acts 9). Paul is a compelling witness. He was well educated in the Hebrew scriptures and was initially convinced that Jesus’ claims were false.  His intent was to wipe out the new sect. He even offered his support of the stoning of Stephen. Once he met the resurrected Christ, Paul was driven to review the scriptures and authenticate Jesus’ claims. Finally convinced of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, Paul himself becomes a Christ follower and is even baptized.   This radical switch makes Paul’s testimony worthy of further investigation.

In His Own Words

Paul describes his encounter with the resurrected Christ in several places in scripture, including Acts 22, 26 and Galatians 1. Paul also outlines what he believes about Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15. These are his own words. And Acts 9:21-22 gives us a glimpse of the change in Paul and what others observed in him, “All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, “Is this not the one who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul (Paul) kept increasing in strength and confounding Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” Paul’s mission switched.  He went from persecuting Christ followers to proving that Jesus is the Christ.  

The Man Born Blind

The cumulative testimony of strangers builds a compelling case.  Jesus encountered many strangers who needed his help.  One such encounter is found in John 9.  The Jews had a hard time accepting the fact that a man born blind  could now see.  So, the questioning and attacks began.  The newly sighted man was confounded by their apparent ignorance, “The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is the amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes!  We know that God does not listen to sinners; but if someone is God-fearing and does His will, He listens to him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”  The Jews didn’t like his response and they kicked him out of the synagogue.  Later Jesus found the man, revealed his identity and the newly sighted man believed and worshiped Jesus on the spot.

A Royal Official

Jesus ministered to people of all walks of life and in John 4, we find him interacting with a royal official.  In an act of desperation, the official has approached Jesus on behalf of his dying son.   Jesus heals the son remotely.  The official, taking Jesus at his word, heads home and is met on the way by one of his servants. “And as he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was alive. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son is alive”; and he himself believed, and his entire household.”  Don’t you just love the fact that the royal official was curious enough to verify the time that his son was healed?  By making sure of the time, he has left us a piece of evidence to substantiate the miracle.  This one little detail solidified the royal official’s belief.

A Woman at a Well

The testimony of strangers had a great impact on the world as Jesus continued to demonstrate his divine power.  In one instance Jesus has a conversation with a Samaritan woman.  Here Jesus merely knows more than he should about her personal life.  That might not seem to be a very dramatic miracle, but it had an impact.  In the conversation, the woman begins to put things together and circuitously asks if Jesus is the Messiah. John 4 says, “The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.”  Jesus said to her, “I am He, the One speaking to you.”   Here Jesus actually claims to be the Messiah!  The woman goes back to her city and tells people, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is He?”  The people in her town react by coming to investigate for themselves. 

Many Samaritans Believe

Many people from the Samaritan town head back to the well to find out more about Jesus.  John 4: 39-42 tells us, “Now from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.” So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One truly is the Savior of the world.”    These people investigated for themselves because of the testimony of one woman and many came to believe.

The Building Evidence

I hope you are beginning to see that the Bible has very methodically and specifically made a case for us that Christianity is true. When we read the Bible through the eyes of an investigator, we begin to see a mounting number of eyewitness testimonies that  make a strong case.  Now that we have added the testimony of strangers we can turn to the unwitting testimony of hostile witnesses.   That will be our topic next week.

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