Journeys to the Darkest Places on Earth

January 7, 2009
Even though its just going to be a quick note today, as time is limited, I couldn’t help sharing something I saw in Luke-Acts as I was preparing for a recent message over here.  
First of all, thank you Paul Jones for the sweet N.T. Wright article on Acts, which first tipped me off to the Jesus-Paul parallel in Luke’s two volumes.  The basic idea Wright introduces is that Jesus and Paul’s journey’s, which dominate the latter part of both works, are related and parallel each other.  
While I only have time to add some references, here at least are some of the similarities I’m seeing (as I listen to Sufjan Stevens thanks to Cam).  
Both Jesus and Paul, resolved to go (Lk 9:51; Ac 19:21), sent messengers ahead (Lk 9:52; Ac. 19:22), were rejected (Lk 9:53-56; Ac. 19:23-41) warned of plots on their lives (Lk. 13:31; Ac. 20:3), warned of coming difficulties (Lk 9:57-62; Ac. 20:22), taught and encouraged people (Lk 9-22 throughout; Ac. 20:7, etc.), were plotted against by the Jews, healed people through the laying on of hands (Lk 13:13; Ac. 28:8), were provided for with supplies (Jesus w/Donkey, Paul with a ship, etc.), faced trails before the Sanhedrin and Gentile courts, were to be killed by soldiers, were covered in darkness. 
Finally arriving in Rome, Paul meets up with the local Jews and recounts the suspiciously Christlike situation he finds himself in.  Compare Paul’s words to those of Pilate.
Paul: Acts 28:17-18
“After three days Paul called the local Jewish leaders together.  When they had assembled, he said to them, “Brothers, although I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, from Jerusalem I was handed over as a prisoner to the Romans.  When they had heard my case, they wanted to release me, because there was no basis for a death sentence against me.”
Pilate: Lk 23:13
“Then Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people.  When examined him before youI did not find this man guilty of anything you accused him of doing…”
Strangely similar.  Now, enter the “last day” of Luke and Acts both.  Even though we know the time between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to be 40 days (Ac. 1:3), Luke seems interested in not giving us any definite temporal markers that would indicate the events of Luke 24 took place over a time period longer than one day. 
Why would he do that?  Here is my thought: Luke is drawing together the two ends of his two volume work through the parallel journeys of Jesus and Paul, which both end in a single day (Lk. 24 and Ac. 28).  Here are the similarities I see between the two days: 
Both take place from morning to evening, are filled with testimony about Jesus, have people leaving in disagreement, allude to the Fall and its power to keep people from encountering Jesus, have the Scriptures opened to show how Jesus fulfills prophecy and declare that Gospel is going out to the Gentiles, finally ending with an exalted view of the King whose Kingdom cannot be stopped as it marches out to reach the ends of the earth!

Ascension In Luke/Acts

December 20, 2008

During my study for tomorrow’s message on Acts 28 I got to thinking, “Why does Luke tell us about Jesus’ ascension in Luke ?  Is it a creative exit?  A mere historical retelling?”  So, with a firm belief that Luke is interested in neither I dove in.  Here is what I found.  

  1. The disciples rejoice at Jesus’ ascension (Lk. 24:52)
  2. Jesus ascends “during the blessing he left” (Lk. 24:51) 
  3. Luke is also careful to tell us (through some angels) that Jesus will return “in the same way he went up to heaven” (Ac. 1:11) 

Here is my conclusions:

Luke includes the Ascension in his Gospel story (both parts no less) in order to portray Jesus as the generous (it appears he continues to bless and give even as he is going, cf. )exalted King who’s rule we now live under till he comes at the defeat of his enemies (Ps. 110:1) to reclaim what is rightfully his.  Peter essentially lays out this view in Ac. 2:34-35 (a fun discovery).  

Secondly, Jesus is the reigning, exalted King who engages with his creation as well.  I say this because of the two times Jesus shows up in the text: Stephen’s martyrdom (when Jesus stands to receive this first faithful martyr) and Paul’s conversion (when Jesus–the “light brighter than the sun”–speaks to him and knocks him off his donkey).  

Last of all, Luke tells us about the Ascension because in it he also sets us up to understand and expect our Lord’s second coming.  As the angels declare in Ac. 1:11 Jesus will return as he went up.  How did he go up?  “He was lifted up until a cloud hid him from their sight” (Ac. 1:9)  So, the one who went with the clouds will return “with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man was approaching.  He went up to the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him.  To him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him.  His authority is eternal and will not pass away.  His kingdom will not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13-14)

Far from a creative way to direct the movements of his characters, Luke has orchastrated his story so that the careful reader might find these sweet nuggets!  How awesome is that!