Luke-Acts

Transitions

The month of May here in Florida is all about transitions. Fledglings (baby birds) start falling from the nests by the thousands. They can’t fly yet, but the nest is either too small or they lose their balance and take the plunge. Out of the safety of the nest for the first time, the fledglings are experiencing a transition, the most dangerous period of their lives.

Last week, a fledgling Blue Jay fell from its nest in a Live Oak tree and landed in our backyard, unable to fly, and easy lunch for hawks, raccoons, snakes, or crows. So, I brought the little Jay inside, cleaned it up a bit, took a picture of it, and took steps to help this cute fledgling survive the transition.

Transitions.png

“Due to God’s goodness, we are not uncertain or anxious. We are confident in this time of transition for the same reason that readers of the transition in Acts 1 could be confident.”

A new marriage, a new position in a company, a new baby, a new house or school, death of a spouse, a child going to kindergarten, the kids leaving home for college or military service — these all involve the normal feelings of uncertainty and fear that accompany transition.

We Are in a Transition

We are in a transition. We have been led by Jesus’ Spirit to begin a new congregation. It certainly wasn’t our idea. A year ago, the concept was unthinkable. We had no such plans, desires, or dreams.

But as events unfolded, the prompting from the Spirit about starting a new congregation emerged slowly but clearly. The concept grew and was confirmed in multiple ways by Jesus’ abundant provision.

Transitions Can be Messy

Transitions can be messy, marked by uncertainty and anxiety, especially when there are no designated leaders. But due to God’s goodness, we are not uncertain or anxious. We are confident in this time of transition for the same reason that readers of the transition in Acts 1 could be confident.

Let me explain.

Jesus’ redemptive program was in transition. He was preparing to depart and ascend up to a royal throne in Paradise as the Davidic King (at His ascension; Acts 1:1-11). But His hand-picked apostles could not accompany Him on the upward journey. They would stay behind and carry out the task of proclaiming repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24: 45-49) on the basis of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

To establish confidence in us (as readers) about that transition period, Luke provides us with evidence, which all focuses on what Jesus did for His apostles, His designated successors, during the transition period.

Evidence for Certainty

For His fledgling church, Jesus hand-picked men who had His full support and showed leadership credibility. He intentionally presented Himself alive to these men, the men He had chosen (Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:2). Over a period of 40 days, Jesus provided them with many convincing proofs that He—the same Jesus who had discipled them for three years—was indeed alive after His death on the cross (Acts 1:2-3). It was Jesus who gave them orders[1] through the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:2). He shared a meal with them,[2] something a ghost could not do (Acts 1:6).

So, why does Luke record the efforts on Jesus’ part to persuade them that He was alive?

Well, any doubts or uncertainty on the part of Jesus’ apostles (quite expected for folks who’d never witnessed a resurrection) that He was alive—and not just a ghost or apparition—would be replaced with certainty and confidence.

Jesus knew that His apostles needed to be absolutely persuaded that He had indeed risen from the dead. Their task as His witnesses and the message of forgiveness of sins depended entirely on their being persuaded.

Without certainty for the claim of His resurrection, they would hesitate, perhaps even refuse, when facing threats and danger to boldly proclaim the message of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. And without the message of forgiveness of sins, there was no Christianity.

If these men had not been convinced beyond a doubt that Jesus was alive, Christianity would have collapsed and died in the transition of leadership. This explains Jesus’ multiple, intentional efforts to persuade His hand-picked apostles that He was alive after His passion. Jesus’ efforts described in Acts 1:1-3 establish certainty in our hearts about His full support of His designated successors during transition.

The Credibility of Successors

These men didn’t sign up for the job—they didn’t volunteer. They also didn’t win an election or a popularity contest. The apostles did not choose themselves and the choice was not left up to the fledgling church.

It was Jesus Himself who wanted them. Jesus chose them for the task and deliberately went out of His way to present Himself alive to them. They were convinced.

So, Acts 1:1-5 is all about persuasion, providing proof to us of the credibility of the men Jesus chose as His successors.

Jesus’ church may have been in a transitional, fledgling stage of its life, but we can be certain that His designated successors weren’t fledglings. Jesus knew they could fly and could teach others to fly as well.

The risen Jesus supplied the fledgling church His choice of leaders, personally trained, hand-picked apostles who would carry on the task during the time of transition. This story of the passing of the baton establishes certainty in our hearts about the leadership of Jesus’ church after His ascension.

According to Luke, the credibility of leadership is foundational to the vitality and longevity of Jesus’ church.

We are Confident

We, too, despite being a fledgling congregation, are confident during our time of transition. Jesus has supplied us with credible leaders who have experienced the risen Christ in their lives, have been discipled and trained, who actually know the Scriptures, and can teach them accurately. They have endured trial by fire, persevered through it with grace and humility. They have credibility. They’re the kind of leaders that a fledgling church requires.

Leaders, established by Jesus with the foundation of credibility, build confidence in the hearts of men and women of a fledgling church. That is why we are confident in our time of transition.

And, by the way, I relocated that fledgling Blue Jay to a high but covered perch where its feathered parents could feed it and guide it to the stage of adulthood. The fledgling survived the transition period. Today, it’s a member of the noisy flock of Blue Jays in our neighborhood.

Thank you for reading.

Tim Cole

NOTES:

[1] Probably referring to His order to remain in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit. Saul of Tarsus is also told to wait for further instructions (Acts 9:6).

[2] The Greek word is συναλιζόμενος, literally, “sharing salt.” This is undoubtedly a figure of speech (a metonymy) for sharing a meal together.

Peter: Jesus’ Twin

Peter: Jesus’ Twin

There are three people in Luke-Acts who look like triplets. The triplets repeat the same patterns.

For example, all three are raised from the dead. All three people give the Holy Spirit to believers. These same three people all heal a man, lame from his mother’s womb. Strikingly, the same three men raise people from the dead. All three are attacked and seized by mobs. All three are invited to the home of a Roman soldier. All three receive the Spirit from above. Patterns are repeated. Coincidence?

Jesus Prayed and the Sky Opened

Jesus Prayed and the Sky Opened

You can sharpen your inductive Bible study skills (accurate Bible study occurs when you carefully follow three essential steps: 1. Observe the text 2. Interpret the text 3. Apply the text, in that precise order), by asking a pivotal question: Who is doing the action in the verse? Is it the main actor in the story or is it someone else?

Take for example Luke 3:21-22: “Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized. And while he was praying, the sky was opened.” Observe the phrase “was opened” άνεωχθήναι. It is a verb in the passive (not active or middle) voice. Who did the opening up? Who opened up the sky?

In Greek, the “voice” of the verb reveals who is doing the action. In this case, the verb, “opened up” is in the passive voice, not the active voice. If it was in the active, it would read, “and Jesus, while he prayed, opened up the sky.” But “opened” is in the passive voice. Two letters in the verb are a signal of the passive voice: θή. That means we must translate the verb as “the sky was opened up” (by someone else’s hand). Jesus didn’t open up the sky when He prayed. He prayed, but His hand was not on the sky’s door knob. It was someone else. The passive “voice” requires the translation, “was opened.”

Who, then, is that someone else? Luke used the passive voice of the verb “open” to teach us that it was God who opened up the door of the sky. God was doing the action. God was doing the opening up of the door. God was the door-opener. Jesus prayed and God His Father opened up the door of the sky.

Practice your observational skill. Observe the word “baptized” in the same verse. Is “was also baptized” in the active or passive voice? Did Jesus baptize Himself? Or, did someone else do the action?

Jesus was doing the praying (active voice). And God His Father was doing the opening. Jesus prayed. And God opened up the sky in response. Read Luke-Acts and observe the repeated pattern of how prayer is always linked to the word “open.” Jesus prayed and the sky was opened. Other people prayed and other types of “doors” were opened. It’s a pattern in Luke-Acts. Have fun exercising your inductive Bible study skills.