Luke's two-volume work includes the Gospel according to Luke and the book of Acts. These two books account for almost one-fourth of the New Testament, and the book of Acts picks up where Luke ended his previous work. This book is a continuation of Jesus' work after the ascension as he uses the apostles, sermons, signs, and wonders through the Holy Spirit. Luke addresses Theophilus, which means friend of God or loved by God, and all who need clarification or encouragement. Jesus completed the work of atonement, but it was the beginning of a new work where he will build his church through the foundational work of the apostles in the power of his Holy Spirit. During the forty days between the resurrection and the ascension, Jesus taught the disciples, preparing them for their mission and leadership in the early church. Jesus not only showed the disciples that he was alive, but he also offered many proofs. Jesus gave the disciples a directive to stay in Jerusalem and to wait for the promise of God the Holy Spirit. Jesus reminds the disciples that John baptized with water, but they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The disciples are filled with joy after the resurrection, but they still have questions, and they don't quite understand the kingdom. They wondered if Jesus’ resurrection would immediately inaugurate God’s kingdom, but they were thinking in nationalistic terms. Jesus' kingdom is not political or geographic in the sense of nations and borders. The Kingdom of God is the place where God's will his done as it is manifest in the lives and actions of God's people. The disciples seem to be looking for political dominion and are either impatient or curious. Either way, Jesus corrects them, telling them that it is not for them to know what the Father has fixed by his authority. Instead, they should look for the promised Holy Spirit and give themselves to witnessing to the truth about Jesus and calling people to prepare for his appearing. The disciples would receive power, and they were to witness starting in Jerusalem but extending to Judea, Samaria, and the end of the earth. After Jesus finishes teaching these things, he ascends until a cloud took him from their sight. While they stand to watch, two angels ask a rhetorical question about why they are watching the sky when after all, Jesus who went up this way will also return from the heavens.
Numbered With The Eleven
The disciples were not far from Jerusalem, so they returned from the Mount of Olives to an upper room where they had been staying. Luke repeats the names of the apostles: Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James, the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. These men were joined by many others in this upper room where in unity they gave themselves to prayer. Peter stands to address the issue of Judas' betrayal and the need to choose another leader. Peter explains that this was a fulfillment of scripture and then Luke offers some of the gruesome details concerning his suicide. The place where Judas died was called the field of blood. Peter makes reference to Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8 to guide them moving forward. Peter proposes that they choose another apostle to take Judas' place among them. The replacement would be a disciple who had been with Jesus from the beginning of his earthly ministry to the end of his earthly ministry. He would need to be a witness to the resurrection and Jesus would choose him. Barsabbas and Mathias were the two men who met these criteria. They prayed to the Lord and asked him to show them which of the two men he had chosen to serve alongside them in ministry as an apostle in place of Judas. They cast lots to see who God would choose, and the lot fell to Mathias who was numbered among the eleven. It is important to note that lots are not cast again after the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Things To Consider:
- Why is it significant that Jesus appeared to the disciples and remained with them for forty days?
- Why do you think he provided his followers with many proofs?
- Why would the disciples want to leave Jerusalem?
- Why is the promise of the Father so important?
- Why are the disciples so concerned with an immediate inauguration of the kingdom of God?
- How do we get wrapped up in politics and nationalism?
- Why is it essential to recognize that the power for witnessing comes from Holy Spirit?
- What did the cloud represent? How do you know?
- Why do we need the reminder that Jesus is returning?
- Do you devote yourself to prayer regularly? Why or why not?
- Do you devote yourself to extended prayer with others regularly? Why or why not?
- What can we learn about the way Peter addressed the need to replace Judas?
- What are the requirements for an apostle?
- Are you terrified or comforted that Jesus knows your heart? Why?
- Why do you think there is no record of casting lots after the coming of the Holy Spirit?