Thursday, November 24, 2011

New Year: Acts 1-3 for Nov 16

If Jesus's coming was according to the four gospels, a legitimate question someone would have is "if all that was as it was described, what next?" Part of the answer is here in Acts 1-3. Luke gives us a hint here at the beginning: the gospels are only what "Jesus began to do and teach" (Acts 1:1).

As Luke continues his narrative from his gospel to here, Luke 24:49 and Acts 2:2-4 have a natural connection. How does Acts 1 fit in?

The Expositors Bible Commentary calls the comparison of Acts 1:15-19 and Matthew 27 the most difficult in the New Testament. It does not seem to be. Judas had acquired money (Jn 12:6) and died on his own property, the "Field of Blood" (Acts 1:19). Before he died, the "chief priests and elders" (Mt 27:3) got their coins back from him, with which they bought the "Potter's Field" (Mt 27:7). Luke reports the manner of Judas' death, explaining what happened by integrating what Matthew (27:5) had said (as Acts 1:18, "falling headlong") with what followed after that (1:18b), which gave that property its name.

"Pentecost" refers to fifty days in Greek. It is a period of about seven weeks, forty days of which (1:3) Jesus presented Himself alive many times, and spoke of the kingdom of God. Paul refers to these days and those who witnessed them in 1 Cor 15, about 30 years later, and cites that most are still are alive from those forty days in which they saw Him (1 Cor 15:6). After His ascension, then, what would ensue? The comment of the angels to the disciples (1:11) doesn't say anything about that, although it says great things!

There is the scenario of sameness, 1:14, 26, and a contrasting scenario of what is pointedly and miraculously not the same, 2:1 - 3:26. It can by symbolized by Peter drawing straws regarding one person, versus after the day of Pentecost, Peter speaking to thousands of the whole nation, explaining to them everything that happened, their role, their culpability mixed with ignorance, and what to do next! To this very people and leadership that had their part to put Jesus to death (3:15), though acting "in ignorance" (3:17!), Peter speaks directly of that which was for their forgiveness (2:38), including what they should know (2:36), and what they should do and what will be done to them (2:38) -- and how that will effect the whole course of history (3:20-21)!

What they were to know amounted to the kind of thing that the Lord had emphasized all along in His earthly ministry, that there was a "predetermined plan" and "foreknowledge of God" (2:23), and that God had done things (2:32) according to it (2:33). How things changed for Peter and the disciples from the times of Luke 18:34! Peter explains things very clearly now, and it was not that it was a secret plan (3:18), in any case! In Acts 3:17-26 Peter explains the significance of not only that time, which he calls "these days" (3:26), but that there will be certain days to come: the "times of refreshing" (3:19), and the "period of restoration of all things " (3:21).

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