"Dear Theophilus, in the first volume of this book I wrote on everything that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day He said goodbye to the apostles, the ones He had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. After His death He presented Himself alive in many different settings over a period of forty days. In face-to-face meetings, He talked to them about things concerning the kingdom of God." Acts 1:1-3 (The Message).
It is fitting that we continue the story of Jesus as Luke did to his friend, Theophilus. We are indebted to him for his meticulous record. Without it we would never know the sequel to the Jesus-story and how the first disciples took on the Roman Empire and, through the promised Holy Spirit, so securely planted the message of the truth about Jesus that it infiltrated the known world of their day and still continues to change lives through their writings.
Luke made sure that Theophilus understood that Jesus spent forty days with His disciples after the resurrection, tying up all the loose ends so that they would know exactly what to preach and teach after He left them. His theme was the kingdom of God. There was no doubt that He was alive and that He would continue to be fully involved with them as they carried out His instructions and lived out His life in a hostile environment.
Unlike so much of current preaching and teaching which ignores the bigger picture and makes the gospel all about us, He put His life and death into the perspective of God's realm and rule in the lives of people. It was not about them. It was about Him, His purpose for coming and their on-going mission to proclaim Him to the world.
He would have warned them that their task was a dangerous one. Like Him they would have to face the hostility of the Jewish leaders who had put Him to death as well as the Caesars whose claims demanded the worship and allegiance that was due Him alone.
These arrogant Roman emperors, in particular Caesar Augustus, "believed that he was god incarnate on earth, the prince of peace who had come to restore all of creation...His priests offered sacrifices and incense to rid people of their guilt. One of his popular slogans was "There is no other name under heaven by which men can be saved than that of Caesar." Another phrase they used was "Caesar is Lord." Throughout the Roman Empire, the Caesars called on people to worship them as the divine saviours of humankind..." (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, Zondervan 2005, page 162)
The implications are obvious. Into this world came the "Jesus movement" in a remote corner of the empire that was giving them no end of trouble. These people claimed that their leader was a rabbi, that He had announced the arrival of the kingdom of God, that He had been executed by the Roman authorities for treason, and that His followers claimed that He was alive. Now they were claiming that He, not Caesar, is Lord!
Their opposition would be ruthless ad relentless but the message had to go out. The apostles had to know it, be convinced of it, believe it and proclaim it not matter what the consequences. This was the final mission of Jesus before He returned to the Father. For forty days He instructed them until He was sure that they were ready to take on the world!
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