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Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 23: October 5, 2009, Acts 1.1-26

Day 23: October 5, Acts 1.1-26

My commentary is below the text. 

Acts 1

1In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

15In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said, 16“Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— 17for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18(Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20“For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his homestead become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it’; and ‘Let another take his position of overseer.’ 21So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” 23So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. 24Then they prayed and said, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen 25to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.

Commentary:   Luke begins the Acts of the Apostles just as he did his Gospel with a dedication of sorts to one Theophilus.   Notice that as the disciples gather around Jesus they still don't seem to understand just what Jesus is about.  "Is now the time that you will restore the kingdom to Israel," they ask.   They still haven't figured out that the kingdom of God is unlike any other kingdom they've known.  The kingdom of God is like a mutard seed, or a women rejoicing over a lost coin, or when forgiveness takes hold.  They are still looking for an earthly kingdom which is dominated by 'greatness.'  The Acts of the apostles will show that the kingdom of which Jesus is Lord will be based on 'service' and will extend well beyond Israel.

I love the two men in white (angels?) who show up and they can't help but make us think of the two men in white who confronted the women in the empty tomb.  In the tomb they ask the question:  Why look for the living among the dead.  Here at the ascension of Christ they ask another question:  Why are you starring into the sky.  Christ will come again, and when he does you won't be able to miss it.  So in the mean time stop starring into heaven and get to work.  Get to work being his disciples, being the church, spreading the good news of Jesus.  How often in the church do we need a nudge to get about our Lord's work.  Here's an interesting thought:  Where is heaven?  Is it up?  Or is it in a totally different dimension or realm of being?  I think God is good to us in that God often works in ways that we can understand.  For the disciples Jesus is taken "up" into the sky and that fit their understanding of the universe.  For us, heaven is not so much 'up' as it is that place in which God abides.

Notice how the brothers of Jesus are introduced.  They must have had some experience of the resurrected Christ as well.  Before this time they seem to be on the outside.   Finally what do you thnk about 'casting lots' in order to replace Judas?  Is this faithful or superstitious?  Would you be comfortable 'casting lots' in making your major decisions?   By introducing us to Matthias, Luke puts us on notice that the work of the disciples is not over, but is about to enter a new chapter.  They are at a full complement (12) and awaiting what might happen next.

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