Back to the Beginning – Acts of the Apostles…
“[Before the Ascension, Jesus told his disciples] … you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
All through the Easter season, we read from the Acts of the Apostles. This book is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke and tells the story of the early church. Each Sunday of Easter, we read a small snippet of Acts so it is challenging to get the context for each reading.
Here is some context for this Sunday’s reading:
We return to the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles as we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus. The Book of Acts was written by Luke and assumes that we have read Luke’s Gospel of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. He begins the story of Acts with the story of Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, His Ascension, and a call to mission. For the past several weeks, we have seen the effects of the Holy Spirit in the life of the early church. This week we return to the beginning and hear the promise of the Holy Spirit. We are always living “between” these two realities. The Holy Spirit has come upon the church and empowers us for the mission, yet we are always living in the promise of the Spirit’s coming even more. This tension is what moves us to cry out, “Come, Holy Spirit.”
Today’s reading lays out the mission of the church. As Jesus ascends to the right hand of the Father, He gives the disciples their marching orders (compare Acts 1:7-9 to Mt. 28:19-20). His final words to them send them out to “the ends of the earth.” In fact, Jesus’ description that they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit and then witness “in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” is the story of the Acts of the Apostles in miniature. The disciples receive the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem (we’ll hear about that next week) and Peter first witnesses to Jesus there. Then these missionary disciples move out and proclaim the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria as they are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Finally, Paul witnesses to Jesus in Rome, the gateway to the ends of the earth. We are invited to this same mission.
Stay tuned for next week…
Next week, we hear the great story of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11). As you prepare your hearts to receive the Holy Spirit anew, join in the prayer of the church for the Spirit’s coming: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.” Amen.
Parish Pastoral Leader