The Story Begins

Acts 1:1-11

As I mentioned earlier, Luke begins his second book with a prelude, much like the one with which he began his gospel (1:1-3). Again, he addresses himself to a man named Theophilus. Sadly, there is no way for us to know for sure who this guy was; Theophilus was a rather common name at the time. It is important for us to note, however that it is a Greek name. This fact has resulted in the widely held belief that Luke wrote his account of Jesus’ ministry for a Greek audience, and of course it would seem reasonable to suggest that Acts was written as a second volume for the same audience.

He begins Acts at about the point where Luke leaves off; the gospel ends with the ascension of Christ and Acts begins just before the ascension as though Luke wished to remind his readers of where they had wrapped up with a short transition into the second part of the saga.

If you notice in Luke 24, the last things Jesus spoke to the disciples about was that they should remain in Jerusalem until they had received the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:46-49) and then He ascends. Luke’s Acts account begins:

On 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. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (1:4-5)

With these words, the first and second volumes of Luke’s message slide together nicely to form one larger saga that tells not only of “what you have heard from the beginning”, but what the result of the message turned out to be. The next few verses share a piece of that same conversation that did not appear in the gospel:

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But 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.” (1:6-8)


As unbelievable as it may seem for those of us who have the 20/20 vision of hindsight, the disciples seem to have believed that Jesus’ Messianic mission was to restore the glory of Israel… even after the resurrection. You’ll recall that over and over in the gospels, Jesus tries to disabuse them of this notion, for His work was far greater in scope and magnitude than simply restoring Israel to the pantheon of nations, Once again, Jesus sets them straight, telling them that such things are not for them to know. In a sense, he sidesteps their question and answers the one they should have asked in verse 8, and it is here that Luke tells us of the theme of everything that will follow; He ascends into heaven in verse 9.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (1:10-11)

He was gone into heaven, just as He and the prophets before Him had foretold; the only thing left for them to do was to wait, for the Holy Spirit of God was waiting in the wings and would shortly burst upon the scene.


About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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4 Responses to The Story Begins

  1. In my researh for my novel on Luke, I learned “most excellent” was used like we do “your honor” or “the honorable” today. It was a term for senators, or commoners who have been knighted for some act of favor. These were the governors, Legates, etc.

  2. jimbelton says:

    Like Paul and all of the authors of the new testament, Luke wrote in Greek. Greek was the language of the educated in the eastern Roman empire, and was widely understood in the cities of Judea. While Jesus and his followers almost certainly spoke Aramaic, the gospels were written years later (Acts was likely written about 20 years after the crucifixion).
    It is not surprising that the idea that Jesus was to be the cosmic judge, the Son of Man, was not held by all of his disciples. The Jews commonly believed that the messiah would be either a warrior king or a living prophet who would lead the Jewish people. The Christian idea that Jesus was the messiah, resurrected and exalted to the right hand of god, was a new one. In early Christianity, many of the churches, including the one in Jerusalem, led by Jesus’s brother James, held that Jesus was merely a prophet, and not the son of God. Over time, the Christian doctrine that he was the divinely ordained messiah became the dominant belief.

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