The Second Gaze – Witness

by Rev. Ed Goode

“What did you see?”

“What did you hear?”

“What did you experience?”

These are some of the core questions behind someone who is telling about an event, someone who is a witness.

“Witnessing” can be a scary word for church folks, and for non-church folks too. It can conjure up images of the person shouting on the street corner or of the person with a judgmental streak knocking on your door at dinner, to try to find out if you’re going to heaven or to hell. I remember being asked decades ago, in a church setting, to count how many people I “witnessed” to each day; and it was used in some measure of how “faithful” I was. Not a healthy thing.

But there are three words that have helped me with this – Come and see. This simple phrase is used three times in John’s stories of Jesus. One by Jesus, then by a man named Philip, and the third by an unnamed woman who encountered Jesus at a well. The first comes when Jesus calls his first followers. Philip uses it when he hears someone ask derisively whether anything good can come out of Jesus’ hometown. Philip’s response was simply, “Come and see.” And then the story of the woman . . . after an encounter with Jesus, she goes to tell everyone and simply tells them to “Come and see” the one who she encountered.

“Come and see” is a simple invitation that is without judgment and is simply a statement of grace and welcome. It is a door opening. It is a witness.