Acts 1 : 1 - 11 ( NRSV )

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning (1) until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.(2) After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days1 and speaking about the kingdom of God.(3) While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father.2 "This," he said, "is what you have heard from me;(4) for John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."(5) So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?"3(6) He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.4(7) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,5 in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."6(8) When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.(9) While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.(10) They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven".(11)

Comment

     A summary of the life of Jesus which provides a smooth transition from Luke's earlier gospel to this second work of reporting the "good news" in the activities of Jesus' apostles. The ascending of Jesus is mentioned. The same narrative that completes the account of Jesus' ministry in the gospel now serves to launch an account of the new stage of the community's life.
     The Christian church began with the community formed by Jesus with his disciples. But in the present, the community lives with the absence of the historical Jesus. Jesus' former mode of presence has ended. A community of disciples must recognize Jesus' presence in a new way - and assume responsibility to continue the risen Jesus' mission (v.8).
     In Luke's theology, the ascending of Jesus (v.9) serves to explain the community's life and mission. The forty days, during which the risen Christ instructed his disciples (v.3) evokes the formative forty years the Hebrew people sojourned in the desert; and Jesus' forty days of testing. Jesus had told his disciples not to leave Jerusalem - but to await there the Father's promised Spirit (v.4a). Jesus had cautioned the disciples against any preoccupation with the exact timing of the restoration of God's reigning (v.7).
     The geography of the disciples' mission is mapped out(v.8) and there follows a symbolic statement of Jesus' going away (vv.9-10). Thus Luke states the ending of Jesus' missionary work was not His death - but His departure from history as a living person. The prospect of His return (v.11) introduces a healthy tension into the community's life as the disciples move towards completing God's new reigning.
 
footnotes:
Acts 1:1-26 This introductory material (vv.1-2) connects Acts with the Gospel of Luke, shows that the apostles were instructed by the risen Jesus (vv.3-5), points out that the parousia or second coming in glory of Jesus will occur as certainly as His ascension occurred (vv.6-11), and goes on to list the members of the Twelve, stressing their role as a body of divinely mandated witnesses to his life, teaching, and resurrection (vv.12-26).
1. [ v.3 ] Appearing to them during forty days: Luke considered especially sacred the interval in which the appearances and instructions of the risen Jesus occurred and expressed it therefore in terms of the sacred number forty (cf Dt.8:2). In his gospel, however, Luke connects the ascension of Jesus with the resurrection by describing the ascension on Easter Sunday evening (Lk.24:50-53). What should probably be understood as one event (resurrection, glorification, ascension, sending of the Spirit -- the paschal mystery) has been historicised by Luke when he writes of a visible ascension of Jesus after forty days and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost. For Luke, the ascension marks the end of the appearances of Jesus except for the extraordinary appearance to Paul. With regard to Luke's understanding of salvation history, the ascension also marks the end of the time of Jesus (Lk.24:50-53) and signals the beginning of the time of the church.
2. [ v.4 ] The promise of the Father: The holy Spirit, as is clear from the next verse. This gift of the Spirit was first promised in Jesus' final instructions to his chosen witnesses in Luke's gospel (Lk.24:49) and formed part of the continuing instructions of the risen Jesus on the reigning of God, of which Luke speaks in Ac.1:3.
3. [ v.6 ] The question of the disciples implies that in believing Jesus to be the Christ they had expected Him to be a political leader who would restore self-rule to Israel during His historical ministry. When this had not taken place, they ask if it is to take place at this time, the period of the church.
4. [ v.7 ] This verse echoes the tradition that the precise time of the parousia is not revealed to human beings; cf Mk.13:32; 1 Th.5:1-3.
5. [ v.8a ] Just as Jerusalem was the city of destiny in the Gospel of Luke (the place where salvation was accomplished), so here at the beginning of Acts, Jerusalem occupies a central position. It is the starting point for the mission of the Christian disciples to "the ends of the earth," the place where the apostles were situated and the doctrinal focal point in the early days of the community (Ac.15:2, 6).
6. [ v.8b ] The ends of the earth: For Luke, this means Rome.


 

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