I saw a tweet by a relatively anonymous theologian the other day that he was going to write for something like 20 minutes per day for 20 days. I thought: there’s a good idea. I don’t write enough. I’m exhilarated by good, thoughtful, provocative writing, and I often wish I wrote like that but it’s a goal made more difficult attaining when one doesn’t put in the time.
What to write about? How about the book of Acts? We are still looking at “biblical marriage” in Sunday School, and this past Sunday I taught on Priscilla & Aquila. So that’s why Acts…
Luke is introduced as the author. He mentions to Theophilus that he’d previously written (Luke’s Gospel) about all that Jesus began to do and teach. In Luke’s Gospel he states confidently that his version of the events surrounding Jesus is the most complete and accurate version. As Pete Enns said, “Getting it right was Luke’s main objective.”
Luke says that Jesus had given his chosen disciples orders through the Holy Spirit, appearing to them and proving himself alive for 40 days after he’d risen. During these 40 days, Jesus continued to harp on the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is God’s rule and order. It’s not a place. It’s reality. When Jesus’s followers live(d) in light and in hope of this reality, the Kingdom draws near. Even here on earth? Yes, absolutely here on earth.
A subtle somewhat surprising feature we read in Acts 1 comes in verses 4 & 5: Jesus told the disciples (a group of around 120 at this point according to verse 15) to wait in Jerusalem so that they might receive what was promised by God through Jesus. He was talking about the Holy Spirit and he compares baptism by the Spirit to John’s baptism. What’s interesting is the disciples had been baptizing folks with Spirit baptism. According to John 4:1-4, Jesus’s disciples were making disciples and baptizing them, presumably in the sort of manner juxtaposed by all of the gospels comparing the baptism of John the Baptist and Jesus. That is, Jesus was to baptize with the Spirit while John’s baptism was one of water and repentance. The reason Acts says Jesus commanded the disciples to remain in Jerusalem was so that they might receive the Holy Spirit and that this would be accompanied by being baptized with the Holy Spirit which was to happen soon in Jerusalem.
I’ve often been puzzled by “the giving of the Holy Spirit” as it’s clear the Spirit was present in several places within the Old Testament. Perhaps the distinction should be made between how the Holy Spirit had operated in the past versus how he would now operate in the bodily absence of Jesus. But who knows? I bet some theologian claims to know…ha.
In verse 6, we find Jesus’s followers asking him (hoping) if he’s ready to restore the Kingdom to Israel. Here we have Jewish Messianic expectation. Notice, this has nothing to do with the afterlife. The Jews were ready to be rid of their enemies, and they’d hoped Jesus would be their liberator in the traditional experience. Jesus puts them off and again promises the powers that would come through the Holy Spirit. And this move by God would enable them to be Jesus’s witnesses.
After presumably a relatively short passage of time, the 120-ish followers of Christ in Jerusalem were gathered together in one place, praying together (noted as a sign of unity within the passage), and Peter gets up and attempts to make sense of how the Scriptures pointed to Jesus’s death & resurrection. David had pointed to this moment, and in fact David had written that someone would betray Jesus. David’s foreshadowing in Psalms 69 and 109 were proof positive that not only was this embarrassing betrayal and death predicted by David, the betrayer would kill himself after spending his wages on a killing field.
So naturally, the disciples drew straws among two candidates for the replacement of Judas Iscariot, and Matthias was sworn in.