Good morning! Today we begin reading the book entitled “Acts of the Apostles”. As you may remember, one way to think about Acts is as the “second half” to Luke. The same writer continues on from the story of Jesus to the stories of the early church. Acts describes the gradual expansion of the Christ-following tradition in concentric circles out, from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria, “and to the ends of the earth” (1:8). These twenty-eight chapters largely follow the traveling ministries of Peter and Paul, but the activities of other female and male disciples also become clear. Today in Acts 1-2, we pick up in the immediate aftermath of the resurrection, with the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the first believers.
Luke ended with the ascension of the resurrected Jesus into heaven, and that is where Acts picks up. Jesus goes into heaven with the promise that “you will receive power” with the imminent coming of the Holy Spirit. Before that happens though, the eleven disciples choose at random one more to round out their number, replacing Judas. They seek someone who has been close to the travels of Jesus from his baptism by John going forward. Of the two possibilities and after seeking guidance in prayer, Matthias receives the lot.
Acts 2 rightly receives acclaim for its powerful depiction of the Holy Spirit’s arrival. Pentecost takes its name from the Jewish festival by the same name (still observed), but Christians use that term to describe “the birthday of the church”, when the Holy Spirit formed disciples into a powerful and organized body that witnesses to the risen life of Christ. Wind, flame and many languages are signs of the Spirit’s presence. Some commentators see this narrative in light of the Tower of Babel story: whereas many unexpected languages led to chaos and division there (Genesis 11:1-9), here the multiple languages are a means by which the message of God’s deliverance in Jesus Christ is given to “every nation under heaven”. Though the spectacle impresses many and they come to understand the message of Jesus, others dismiss the feverish and talkative band as drunkards. Dear Peter—who has come through his bumbling past to be a stalwart leader—does a masterful job tying together old (a passage from Joel about the Spirit coming upon all flesh) with new (what is happening there in the Jerusalem streets). Many are persuaded by his preaching and what their hearts experience—thousands come to believe in Jesus’ power over death. As the baby community grows dramatically, believers live with remarkable generosity. Their shared possessions, food and money have been taken literally as an example of socialist ideals. They also show the power of faithful experience to sets one free from too much care of material goods. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Acts 3-5. Thanks for reading!