Acts 1:4 (from the opening of the book of the Acts of the Apostles)
Acts 28:28–31 (the ending of the book of Acts)
Luke’s Gospel portrays Jesus as a universal saviour for all humankind. Gentile soldiers come to John to be baptized (Luke 3:14), and Jesus is shown associating with Samaritans (Luke 9:51–52). In the first of our passages above, Luke traces the lineage of Jesus back to Adam, father of humanity (unlike Matthew, who traces the line back to Abraham, father of Judaism). In our second passage, we see a Gentile singled out from a group of people healed of leprosy, and commended for his faith. Following this story, Luke juxtaposes the teaching of Jesus in response to questioning by Jewish leaders, that the kingdom of God can never be monopolized or pinned down to a location – wherever and whoever we are, it can be found in the midst of us.
Luke wrote the book of Acts too, and they are best understood as one two part work. It’s instructive to trace the movement of the gospel, carried like a torch from Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish religious world, to Rome, the heart of the secular Gentile Roman world, as Luke unfolds the story over the two books. In his Gospel, Jerusalem is central. He roots the opening chapters there; the first words we hear Jesus speak are in and of the Temple (Luke 2:49). In the wilderness temptation his order differs from Matthew’s in climaxing at the Temple in Jerusalem, and the parting from Jesus’ earthly ministry focuses on Jerusalem (Luke 24:52–53; Acts 1:3–14). We watch as Luke then shows us the gospel fanning out through and across the Gentile world to the triumphant conclusion (Acts 28:28): “God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”
What do you think it means to say the kingdom of God is in our midst? How do we find it? How do we realize it?
Luke showed the gospel moving from the heart of Judaism to the heart of the Gentile world, but also from the heart of the religious world to the heart of the secular and political world. What challenge might this offer to our own faith practice? How might we make a similar journey as modern believers?
If the modern-day church is the equivalent of the Pharisees and the Jewish people, who are the Gentiles and how might we reach them?
O God of the whole world, of all people and all creation, words cannot express how glad and grateful we are that your plan had room for us too. Help us remember that your gospel is for all people. Help us to live generously and openly, sharing and offering what we know of the life and love of Jesus in every way we can think of to everyone we meet. For we ask it in his holy name; Amen.