The Story Continues

1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them 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. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.”  (Acts 1:1-5)
 

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  (John 20:19-22)
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The book of Acts is the sequel to the book of Luke. Both were written by a Greek doctor who had been converted to Christ in the pagan city of Antioch. Luke wrote both books for a man named Theophilus, and he begins the second book by explaining to Theophilus that his gospel was merely part one of the story of Jesus. It gave an account of “all that Jesus began to do and teach” during his three years of public ministry, before his death, resurrection and ascension back to heaven.

Take a moment to read those words from Luke again a little bit more slowly. Yes, that’s right. He explains that his gospel recounts what Jesus began to do and teach. The book of Acts recounts what Jesus continued to do and teach through the first Christians after his ascension to heaven. Jesus is still continuing his earthly ministry through his followers today. Yes, through you and through me and through our friends across our church! That’s pretty mind-blowing. Jesus wasn’t exaggerating when he told his disciples in John 14:12 that “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
 
The first group of Christians in Jerusalem had mixed feelings about this. They were a bunch of poor fishermen and farmers from around Lake Galilee. They were the first ever “lockdown church”, huddled together in an upper room in Jerusalem, with the doors firmly locked out of fear for the Jewish leaders. When Jesus appeared to them in lockdown and told them, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”, they felt elated but terrified. Perhaps that’s why Jesus felt the need to bless them twice – ”Peace be with you!” – before he commanded them to “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The first Christians found it pretty scary to step out of their lockdown and say yes to letting Jesus carry on his ministry through them.

How are you feeling as we step out of lockdown together? Do you feel as nervous about the threat of a virus as the first Christians felt about the threat of violence? It is going to take some of us a little while to feel comfortable about stepping back into the outside world in the name of Jesus. That kind of courage always starts, though, with our being very honest with the Lord about how we feel. Since he is the one who is sending you back out into the world, you can rely on him to strengthen you and protect you. Take some time to discuss with the Lord in prayer how you are feeling about the easing of lockdown.
  1. What are your biggest fears right now about the easing of lockdown?
  2. When Jesus says to you today, “Peace be with you!”, what does he need to say to you afterwards to help allay your fears?
  3. Most of us feel a mixture of excitement and fear when we hear Jesus says to us, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” So take a moment to reflect on your own reaction. Do you feel more excitement or more fear? Take some time today to express your heart honestly to the Lord.
Lord Jesus, I thank you that you appeared to the first church in Jerusalem in the midst of its lockdown. I thank you that you spoke peace to them and commissioned them to go back out into the world. Please help me to overcome my own fears, and please help me to encourage others who are feeling more nervous right now than I am. Amen.
Today’s Everyday Devotions were brought to you by Phil Moore, who leads our team of whole-church elders.

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