What happened after Easter?
Up, up and away...
Sequels to movies aren't always as good as the original. Sometimes they're just cashing in on the success of the first one. Other times, they're amazing and from what I can tell, they're usually good when they're planned. Harry Potter... Star Wars... I'm sure you could add a few more that were awesome. And some that were not.
Today we're going to start to read through the book of Acts. This book is the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Sometimes it is referred to as "the Acts of the Apostles". But it is much more than a good follow up story. It is a necessary follow up story. This is the story of what happened next:
1In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
Luke sets himself up as a determined historian - eager to share the facts. Eager to tell his readers just exactly what happened. And he chooses to start with this:
4On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.5For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”6Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”7He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Luke begins the sequel with the mission. Like any good movie, the plot is all-important. What is the purpose of this book? What is the big idea? Where are we headed? And the direction is - everywhere.
Up until now, the work and ministry of Jesus had been fairly restrained geographically. Jesus was probably never really more than about 3 days' journey from where he started. But now, the work of Jesus and his disciples expands:
First, to Jerusalem - right here and now - the Jews.
Then, to Judea and Samaria - a little bit further - all of Israel - north and south
And finally, to the ends of the earth - yeah, everywhere. This is the whole lot.
First to the Jews, then to all Israel, then to every single person on the face of the earth.
But just as you think - "How would this be possible?", we realise the answer is already there in verse 8 as well: by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is no accident that our vision as a church is to reach all of Eastwood, Ermington, and a little bit more. We have a responsibility. And every follower of Jesus shares this responsibility - to fulfil the mission of Jesus, given right here in Acts chapter 1, we need to go to the ends of the earth. We need to start with our neighbourhood and keep going. Into our suburbs, into our schools, our communities, our hospitals, our state, our country and beyond. There is no limit to the work of the Holy Spirit and no end to the need for the gospel throughout the world.
It is not beyond us, because it is the work of God - through his Spirit, and by his agents... us.
As Luke shares the mission of Jesus with his readers, you'll notice not just how committed they are to the work, but also how afraid they are, how many mistakes they make, and how often they seem to fail. Yet you will also notice how powerful God is - and that real change comes through his hand, even when he chooses to use us frail and feeble humans.
Heavenly Father, as we reflect on Easter, please help us to look forward with purpose to the days and weeks and years ahead - help us to take hold of your mission - to reach all of Eastwood, Ermington, and a little, or a lot, more - in your name and for your glory. Amen.