Today’s readings are Judges 17-18, Psalm 21, and Acts 1.
I’m excited today as we begin to read through the book of Acts which was written by Luke who also wrote the Gospel of Luke. Although I’ve been a Christian my whole life, I must admit I did not know much about the book of Acts until we moved to Bloomington-Normal, IL in 2011 and shortly thereafter our new church home, Eastview Christian Church, preached through it for many months. As we just celebrated Easter this last Sunday, I must also say there are few things that convict me more about the truth of the Resurrection and the Good News of the Gospel than the behavior of the disciples as told in Acts.
As far as we know, John is the only disciple who was near Jesus at the cross, as he is the only one specifically mentioned. We are told some of his followers were in the distance (of which we know he had many), but it does not specifically say any of the other 12 disciples, nor any by name. At best, the disciples were in the distance and not near Him, presumably because they were scared. We know Peter denied Jesus three times just as Jesus said he would, and we know when Jesus appeared to the disciples on Easter evening they were in a locked room. Why were they in a locked room? John 19:19 tells us they were fearful. They had just seen what the Jewish leaders had the Romans do to Jesus who they thought was the Messiah and would be their earthly king restoring Jewish power and control. And why wouldn’t they think He was their earthly savior after seeing all the miracles He had done? Now, He had been brutally killed for all He had done and said. Would they be next?
In Acts 1:3, we learn Jesus appeared to them multiple times in the next 40 days telling them about the Kingdom of God. He also tells them He will send the Holy Spirit and to spread the Gospel to the ends of the Earth (Acts 1:8). What did the disciples do? They did exactly what He told them, so that you and I would know Jesus and the Good News of His Resurrection today. Most historians agree every one of the disciples, and even Paul, who Jesus appeared to and who wrote much of the New Testament, were all martyrs or killed for their faith in Jesus either directly or indirectly with John being cast away and imprisoned dying on the island of Patmos.
We will read later in Acts 4 where Peter and John go before the same Jewish Council who sent Jesus to the Romans to be crucified. While being threatened to stop speaking about Jesus, they said in Acts 4:20, “for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Powerful when you think of what could happen to them for this. Why the behavior changes from running scared and locking themselves in a room to this? Why would they risk and ultimately give their lives? To me there is but one answer, they saw Jesus alive after being killed just as we are told in the Gospel and here in Acts. Well, I guess there is a second answer, we will read they will soon receive the Holy Spirit as Jesus tells them in Acts 1.
We know we are told many times in the Bible the Holy Spirit who Jesus tells of in Acts 1 also lives in us now as believers (1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 2 Timothy 1:14). Sadly, there are few times in my life where I have been more on fire for the Lord and desiring to tell others about Jesus more than when we studied the book of Acts in 2011. I pray that as we read through the book of Acts in the upcoming weeks we remember the Holy Spirit within us and we have the desire, courage, and boldness to tell others about Jesus just like the disciples in Acts.