Not the Message I Planned
1 Theophilus, the first scroll I wrote concerned everything Jesus did and taught from the beginning, 2 right up to the day when he was taken up into heaven. Before he was taken up, working in the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus instructed the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he showed them that he was alive with many convincing proofs. He appeared to them over a period of forty days, speaking to them about God’s kingdom. 4 While they were eating together, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for what the Father had promised. He said, “This is what you heard from me: 5 John baptized with water, but in only a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 As a result, those who had gathered together asked Jesus, “Lord, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now?”
7 Jesus replied, “It isn’t for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
9 After Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going away and as they were staring toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood next to them.11 They said, “Galileans, why are you standing here, looking toward heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you saw him go into heaven.”
What brought the writer of Luke and Acts to do all this research for a guy named Theophilus? We can only speculate. Most theologians believe he was, at least, a real person. (The name wasn't made up to symbolize a larger audience.) I focus on passages like this because they were the biblical scriptures no one told to me until I was in seminary. Well, OK, I've heard Acts 1, but everyone dropped verse 1. I'll admit, in my younger days I would have done the same thing. I wouldn't have known what to do with it, so I would have left it off. Anyway, what does the introduction have to do with the summary of Jesus' death and ascension?
Today, my attitude is drastically different. If we are going to understand the whole of the scripture as it pertains to us now, we have to be like detectives. It's not good enough to just read the scripture. We need to understand the context of the time it came from. The first sentence, at the beginning of Acts, tells us a great deal. The Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles go together. The Gospel writer, using secondary sources (see Luke 1:1-4), tries to tell Theophilus the story of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. It is because of this writer, we know there were once primary sources. (The reason I don't call the writer "Luke" is because we assume the writer was the Apostle Luke. However, from the first four verses of Luke we learn the writer is not one of those who were one of those primary sources. His name could very well be "Luke," but I choose not to call him that, to avoid confusion.)
Part of what makes the story of Jesus Christ so compelling, is knowing why Luke and Acts exist. People who were there, were sharing the story. It wasn't like some guy locked himself up in an attic, and crafted a story. I believe, the story was spreading enough it piqued the interest of someone completely unrelated to the initial event: The writer of Luke and Acts.
That is one of the reasons I am still a Christian. Years ago I thought I would be shunned because I wanted to ask the deep questions. Today, I realize the reason I'm in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is because this is a faith tradition that seeks those kinds of questions.