This is one of those passages that is I think why so many of us give up on reading the Bible. It’s weird; it’s not much of an actual story; it’s culturally specific; and it’s loaded with references requiring some knowledge of other Biblical events. At the same, this story has some real power in it.
What struck me, and probably what strikes most, I imagine, are these powerful words from Jesus to John the Baptist’s disciples: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them” (7:22). He doesn’t say “yes, I’m the guy”, but he essentially recites his mission from Luke 4:16-19. I believe that is the core of this story. Jesus is telling John’s disciples to simply tell John what they “have seen and heard.” Remember in chapter 6 Jesus taught the crowds that “each tree is known by its fruit” (6:44). It is not what someone says what they are that speaks to who they are, but what kind of fruit one bears in the world. Jesus is walking his talk here. He calls them to simply report to John the fruit they have seen from Jesus.
This is the kind of witness Jesus wants us to make about him. A witness, remember, is called upon only to speak to what they have seen and heard. They are not to speak to what they have not seen and heard. Biblically this is a “false witness”. Legally today we could call it perjury. When we tell others about Jesus, we are to speak to what we have seen and heard. That is, we should speak to our experience with God’s activity in our own lives. Do not testify to what you haven’t seen, heard or experienced; it only breeds trouble. But do speak to what you have seen and heard. The question then becomes, what have you seen and heard when it comes to the activity of God in your life? Have you ever taken time to reflect on that? I believe it to be one of the most important spiritual exercises one can practice. Take time to wonder about and reflect on how God has worked in your life, all the way back to before you can even remember. Take some real time to do this and perhaps even write it out. A good way to start is to simply start writing a brief autobiography. Start telling your own story to yourself and watch for God’s activity in your story. You might be surprised. What have you seen and heard?