Study 6: Resurrection Living: Christ’s Ascension and Promise
Sermon Date: May 28th, 2017
Readings: ACTS 1.1-14 (LUKE 24.36-53)
The Acts of the Apostles is really Luke’s sequel to his Gospel, a fact rather hidden by their separation by John’s Gospel wedged between the two parts of his narrative. In his Gospel Luke gives us Jesus’ story; in Acts he gives us the story of the beginning of Jesus’ Church that follows logically from Jesus’ ministry. The connection between the two parts is clear from their beginnings: Luke refers to my former book, both books are addressed to the same person, Theophilus (Luke 1.1-4 and Acts 1.1-2), both emphasize Jerusalem as the place to which salvation came; and Luke repeats in Acts 1.9 of his description of Jesus’ ascension into heaven in Luke 24.51 – just to remind us that the same event that was the climax of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry is now the basis of his continuing heavenly ministry.
In the Acts, Luke tells the story of the spread of the gospel by Jesus’ apostles and especially by Paul. His narrative is organized very deliberately and effectively around three ‘moments’, each of which marks a development in the story and each of which is marked by a ‘baptism’ in (by) the Holy Spirit. In the first moment the Spirit comes upon Jews (2.1-12, see v.5); in the second the Spirit comes upon half-Jews, the Samaritans (8.14-17); and in the third the Spirit comes upon Gentiles (19.1-6). In this way Luke captures with brilliant economy the spread of the gospel into the lives of all human beings.
The Acts reading has the following parts:
- vv.1-2 in which Luke summarizes his Gospel (v.1) and his ending to his Gospel (vv.2-3 - see Luke 24.44-49
Verses 1-9 essentially take us back to Luke 24.44-53, repeating the content of the end of his Gospel but also adding bits to it
- vv. 4-5 repeat his instruction at Luke 24.49 to wait in Jerusalem to be clothed with power from on high (the Gospel) = you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts, where Luke names this power specifically)
- v.6 where Luke inserts a question by the disciples which was not in his Gospel account. The question indicates that his disciples still retained the mistaken perception that Jesus was going to restore the Davidic kingdom of Israel
- v. 7-9 where Luke corrects their mistake and points to what will be the main theme of Acts: you will be my witnesses…, before he then ascends in heaven
Verses 10-11 bring us into the post-ascension world but connects it to Jesus’ death and resurrection in the two men dressed in white, which repeats Luke 23.4, and promises the Parousia (literally, the appearing) or Second Coming.
Verses 12-14 constitute the final part in which we are taken into a room in Jerusalem in which we see the disciples doing what Jesus had told them to – waiting in prayer
Possible questions for discussion
1. Reflect on the question of waiting
a. Imagine yourself as one of the disciples in the Gospel and Acts text set for this week. How would you have felt at such a time?
b. Do you find waiting easy – think of situations you have been in that have required you to wait? How have you felt? Do you find it easy to wait?
2. Luke shows us that the disciples have misunderstood the purpose of Jesus’ life and ministry (v.6)
a. Think back over your discipleship: what changes/adjustments have you had to make to your understanding of the gospel through the years (to develop new understanding, incidentally, is not a sign of failure but of the normal path of growth)
3. What does it mean to receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you?
a. Speak about your own experience in this connection
4. Consider all aspects of being witnesses to Jesus – what does this task/calling involve?
5. There is something, perhaps, a little humorous in v.10: who do you think the ‘two men in white’ are? Why are they staring at the stars?
Tim Long, 23/05/2017