The book of Acts, written by Luke, a first-century physician and follower of Jesus, is a sequel to the Gospel that Luke wrote. Luke’s Gospel conveys the story of the life and teaching of Jesus. Acts conveys the story of the first followers of Jesus after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Actually, it is more accurate to say, “after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.” Acts does open with an affirmation of the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection is critical. Just as importantly, Acts opens with an account of the ascension of Jesus to God’s right hand in heaven. The telling of the ascension in these verses is so succinct it is easy to miss the significance! Yet the ascension is critical.
Why is the ascension critical for those first followers? The ascension sets up all the acts in Acts. In two respects, it is the critical prelude to the character and behavior of the burgeoning community of Jesus-followers. (1) The ascension demonstrates that Jesus is savior and lord. Thus, Jesus takes his divine place as ruler of all creation. (2) The ascension opens the way for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes to shape those followers of Jesus after the mind and heart of Jesus. The Spirit makes them the Church – the body of Christ in the world!
What is the significance of the ascension for us? (1) It means Jesus is lord – lord of the cosmos, lord of you and me. Nothing is outside his love and rule. We need not fear. We can trust him. For through the Spirit, Jesus is present in all places and times. (2) If no area of life is outside of Jesus, we ought to give our whole life over to his love and rule. We can trust Jesus with all we are and all we can be. For through the Spirit, Jesus enables us to live faithfully in his love and rule. Through the Spirit, Jesus enables us to tell others the good news of his love and rule.
As told in Acts, this is the story of the first followers of Jesus after his death, resurrection, and ascension. It is our story, too!