Many of the best dramas and documentaries on TV and radio are spread over series of installments. Good episodes leave us wanting to know more, whether this be a “cliff hanger” in a thriller series, or a simple hint of what’s to come at the end of a serious documentary.
St Luke who is described as one of Paul’s “fellow workers” (Philemon 1:24), and as “dear friend and Doctor” (Colossians 4:14), was a very educated, scholarly man, and a brilliant, methodical writer. If St Luke was writing today his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles would start a great TV series.
Of course, this would require careful research and preparation. We know St Luke carried this out, because he commences his Gospel with these words. “I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3-4)
The good news about the life and ministry of Jesus ends with Luke telling us that Jesus has “gone away into heaven”. So we might expect an air of uncertainty and sadness in the followers. On the contrary, they are full of joy because they know that something wonderful will follow. “Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” (Luke 28:53).
This is a good way of ending the first episode because it leaves us thinking “so that happens next?”
Jesus may have “left them and been taken up into heaven” (Luke 28:51) but look at the very first verse of Acts.. “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that JESUS BEGAN TO DO and to teach” (Capitals mine). The implication is that what Jesus had begun when he was physically present in this world in person, would now be continued personally in his disciples through His Holy Spirit.
Like any good presenter, St Luke starts his second work with a very short summary of the life of Jesus which he has already set out in his Gospel. The Acts of the Apostles is a natural continuation of that work. Throughout Acts, Luke gives great prominence to the work of the Holy Spirit,. starting of course with his detailed account of the events of Pentecost.
Like the Gospel, there is no formal conclusion to the Acts of the Apostles, and there are several theories about why this should be. Whatever the reason, we are left, as we were at the end of the Gospel, asking the question “So now what happens?”
Jesus said at the end of St Matthew’s Gospel that he is with us always, but He is Lord and he can choose how and when we may experience his presence. By giving our lives to Jesus we are submitting to his Lordship. Luke’s “second Gospel” is about how this works out in practice with the Holy Spirit as a key factor.
The good news of Jesus working in Christians through his Spirit is eternal. As we marvel at the great work of St Luke and his writing, we must never forget that it is now our opportunity to write our personal part of the eternal Good News of Jesus Christ, we are part of yet another Episode, of the Lord Jesus Christ’s saving work.