Tuesday, June 2, 2009

“Book II: The Story Continues” (Acts 1:1-3)

S-1121 5/21/09 Asc. 3B Hymns: (O) #341; LSB 633; (S)#212 vv 1-4; L.S.#219; #221; (C) #212 vv 5-8

Texts Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

Theme: “Book II: The Story Continues” (Acts 1:1-3)

Question: “I have you ever read a sequel?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the book of Acts: “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3).

Saints in Christ, the British author C.S. Lewis wrote a children’s fairy tale called the Chronicles of Narnia. These seven fantasy books deal with the lives of 4 children living in England who are transported to the land of Narnia—an imaginary place. His series begins with the story of “The Lion, The Witch and the Word Robe.” And with each consecutive book, he follows their adventures. Like any good author, C. S. Lewis leaves his plot open for a sequel.

In the 1950s when C.S. Lewis wrote these books it was a rare occasion to have a sequel. But since that time, the movie industry has jumped on the wagon of sequels. We have some of the great movies with sequels. In the 1970s the Rocky Balboa series and Jaws movies hit the big screen. So far we had five Rocky movies. Then came Jaws I and two; and then in the 1980s the Trilogy of “Back to the future.”

A sequel connects people to what took place before and what will take place after. But C.S. Lewis was not the first one to write a sequel. In the Bible, we have the first sequel authored by Luke. In his first book that made it to the Best-seller list – The Gospel of Luke He told us all that Jesus had done. In this book (Acts) he continues to tell of the sequel to the first book.

This is how Luke continues book II: “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up” (v 1). You liked my first book, O Theophilus? Here is the sequel. The readers of Luke are longing to follow up with the sequel of what he has written before about the Nazarene who was dead and now raised to life.

This evening we look at the words of the text in Acts 1:1-11. They are the second book written by Luke the physician to someone named Theophilus (which means lover of God). You need to remember that Luke’s first book is the Gospel of Luke. In this book, Luke describes in details the life of the Nazarene Jesus Christ. This book of Luke (Book I) ended with our Gospel reading, shortly after Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. And yet, as Luke himself writes, his first book records only what Jesus BEGAN to do and teach. Like a master craftsman and a wonderful best-selling authors Luke was leaving his plot open for a sequel.

Luke’s Book II is the Book of Acts, but in a sense, his story continues far beyond his writing. If Book I is the story of what Jesus BEGAN, Book II is the story of how He continued to act through us. If Book I is the story of the Gospel, Book II is the story of how God continues to work through the people to spread the Gospel to every corner of the globe. We can’t read Book II, without first reading Book I. Luke wants us to see them as one unit. Even the original bishops, who met to put the orders of the books of the Bible, got it right. First the Gospel of Luke, then the “Book of Acts” the sequel followed.

Without the Gospel of Luke, Book II would have no meaning for us. Without the Gospel of Luke we wouldn’t know what Jesus did in His earthly life. Without the Gospel of Luke we wouldn’t know the players in the first century—Jesus, Peter, John and the rest. To be sincerely truthful, without the Gospel, the Book of Acts couldn’t have been written.

In the Gospel Luke tells us of the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Christ our Savior. In the Gospel we see Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In the Gospel Book I, we learn the great love Jesus has for us and the salvation He has won for us through His death and resurrection. With this message of the Gospel we have the sure and certain guarantee that Jesus has assured us of eternal life and deliverance from the grave and the devil.

But in this sequel Book II: the story continues Luke assumes we know and believe the truth about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. “He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God (v. 3).

This Gospel of Jesus, reported in Luke’s Gospel, is required reading in order to move on to Book II—the sequel. Without Jesus’ teachings, there would be no Word to proclaim. Without Jesus’ suffering and death, there would be no reason to speak and share what took place so long ago outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Without Jesus’ resurrection, there would be no hope, no heaven; and the story would come to an end.

And yet, without Book II, the meaning of Book I would have been forgotten centuries ago. The Gospel is not a volume of ancient history that can just sit on a shelf. It’s not simply a good book with which we can curl up in the living room. We can’t just sit back and let someone read it to us. We haven’t finished when we have read and believed Book I. In Book II, the story of Jesus’ works and teachings continues—and it continues through us! The ascension ends Jesus’ earthly ministry, but the ministry is far from over.

The story of the resurrection of the Savior continues in Book II: “He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God (v. 3). For forty days, the Savior appeared and confirmed to the disciples that His resurrection is real. His resurrection was not only an event in the past, a chapter in the life of the Man from Nazareth, but a living reality.

Soon He would leave them, but the ministry wouldn’t come a halt. He would equip them with power from on high to be His witnesses beginning in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the end of the earth. By the power of the Holy Spirit which the Savior sent after His Ascension, God used the disciples to change the world. Think of it 12 men went in every direction to proclaim that salvation is found in no one else except in Jesus Christ alone (Acts 4:12).

The same story continues with us. We’ve been baptized with the Holy Spirit too—in the same act of Baptism with water and the Word, many of us as infants and some as adults continue to live in this grace and the story continues to be written in our baptismal lives; and spoken by our tongues in multitudes of ways and in many different countries.

This evening as we gather in God’s holy house, we have considered Book II, in relation to Book I, the continuing sequel to the events that took place in the life of Jesus. And tonight we were privileged that the Ascension marks the crowning glory of Christ seated at the right hand of God the Father interceding for us. And this intercession will continue long past Book II of Luke.

But that is not the end of the story. As Paul Harvey would communicate to us saying, “This is the Ressssssst of the Story” (in Harvey’s voice). If you look closely at the text you see that it appears that Luke has a third Book in Mind. Even though there is not a third Book, we can glean easily that there might be one yet to be written. As the disciples gazed heaven-ward and Jesus was lifted up, two men dressed in white robes said to them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Here is the third Book, but that is for another story and for another time. And that story will never end. Amen.

Now the peace…

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