The Acts of the Apostles

The First Christians

Luke and Acts

I occasionally come across someone who tells me they just can't get in to reading the bible. I give them the advice I got from a Billy Graham column I read years ago: find a modern translation and start with Luke and Acts. Starting any book two-thirds of the way in may seem awkward at first, but once they understand that the bible is a collection of books and they've just read two of them, it will often ignite the discovery process. Luke and Acts are also the perfect pair because they were written by the same author and they were written to the same recipient. Also, because Luke wrote them within a short period of his life, probably A.D. 59-64, there is a literary consistency. Both are easy reads.

The physician Luke researched and authored The Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles (Acts.) The Gospel of Luke contains considerable detail about the birth, life, and death of Jesus and the gospels would be incomplete without it. Combined with the book of Acts, you can get a good understanding about the extraordinary origins of the Christian faith.

Every Easter we gather to celebrate in the miracle that took place early one morning two-thousand years ago, but the events that unfolded over the next few days, weeks, and years were no less amazing. Jesus had changed lives; he had impacted the poor, illiterate, and disenfranchised as well as spiritual leaders and Roman citizens. He had affected them in meaningful ways; he healed the blind and the lame, he cured their leprosy, raised some from death, and he demonstrated to the outcast that they were valued. Jesus empowered his friends to do the same and these friends, the Apostles, would start a movement that is resonating to this day.

So Then What Happened

Cleopas and the other guy

The same day that the women had discovered the empty tomb, and encountered the angels, and Mary talked to Jesus (different gospels - Mark, John), and told the eleven, and Peter and John who went to the tomb to see for themselves; on that same day, about seven miles from Jerusalem, Jesus appeared to two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. One was named Cleopas.

Jesus appeared to them and walked along with them, but they did not recognize him. Divine intervention prevented them from recognizing Jesus. Jesus asked what they were talking about as they walked, and having already heard of the empty tomb, they began to recount the events of the previous three days. When they arrived at their village, Jesus began to continue on, but they implored him to stay since the sun would soon set. Jesus went in to their house to eat with them. As they were breaking bread, their eyes were opened and they recognized him and then Jesus disappeared from sight. When they realized what had happened, the immediately went to Jerusalem (seven miles, in the dark) to tell the eleven Apostles who in turn, told them that Jesus had also appeared to Simon Peter.

While they were standing around, discussing all of this, Jesus stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." The disciple's first reaction was that they had seen a ghost. Sensing this, Jesus spoke further, inviting them to touch him and pointing out that he was indeed made of flesh and bones and then he asked for something to eat. They gave him a piece of broiled fish that he ate in front of them.

Luke 24:45-49 45. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47. and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48. You are witnesses of these things. 49. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

Jesus goes out of his way to demonstrate that he is, in fact, flesh and blood even though he is moving about in a supernatural way; disappearing before Cleopas (and the other guy,) suddenly standing around with the disciples and eating with them. Jesus knows that they having trouble processing what they are seeing, and "opens their minds" so they can understand.

The other gospels, Acts, and First Corinthians, recount other sightings of Jesus after the resurrection, but this is the end of Luke. The final four verses in Luke's gospel tell of the Ascension.