When he starts writing Acts, Luke tells us that his first volume (the Gospel of Luke) he “wrote about all that Jesus began to do and preach…” In other words, Jesus is not finished working. Some suggest that we should call the book commonly known as “the Acts of the Apostles,” “the Acts of Jesus.”
Perhaps Luke would prefer us to combine the two: “The Acts of Jesus through the Apostles”.
Luke underscores his desire to connect Jesus and his people in many ways. In addition to Acts 1:1, and the obvious emphasis on the Spirit, there are three other verses that bring this theme home to roost:
Jesus asks Saul the persecuting Pharisee “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4, 22:7, 26:14).
Luke 6:40: A disciple is not above his teacher; but when fully trained he will be like his teacher.
Acts 14:11: “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”
Luke 6:40 foreshadows the host of fully trained men and women in Acts, especially the apostles, who do a great many things that Jesus does. The rest of Acts, with its emphasis on God’s Spirit on and in his people, suggests that the Lystrans are not totally wrong. Paul and Barnabas are not gods, but men. But-ironically-the living God is certainly visiting Lystra in them.
(Of course, there is a negative way in which God works through humans. The apostles make the astonishing claim that God and humans are both responsible for the death of Jesus [Acts 2:23; 4:27-28]. It is not either God or humans at work in planning the execution of Jesus: God planned what humans schemed and accomplished, and their work accomplished God’s purposes. Humans can be held responsible for what they do even if they are working out God’s purpose. This perspective adds fresh—if confounding—layers of meaning to Paul’s citation of Epimenides: “in him we live and move and have our being” [Acts 17].)
In the next post, I will post a list of connections between Luke and Acts, Jesus and disciples, which suggest that passages like Luke 6:40, Acts 1:1, 14:11 contribute to a framework for understanding Luke-Acts as a literary and theological unified work.