Skip Heitzig - Acts 1
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So turn in your Bibles to the book of Acts, Acts chapter 1 and we'll get started. Yeah, all right. Let's pray and we'll get started.
Father, thank you for the word of God that does the work of God in the hearts of the people of God. We come, Lord, tonight and we bring ourselves. We bring our attention, our minds, to engage in the words that we hear, the words that we read, the thoughts your Holy Spirit is going to give us, the questions we're going to be wrestling with, some hopefully that will be answered. And as we bring ourselves, we do so, Lord, because that's our reasonable service. That's the smartest thing to do. It's the wisest thing to do. Because we remember Paul wrote, in view of God's mercies, present your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and acceptable which is your spiritual act of worship or reasonable service. Lord, here we are. We pray that you would feed us and teach us, but more than that equip us to be vessels to speak your word, to share truth, to encourage others, to have knowledge, but then, Lord, to act on it. For we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
So, my wife hates it when a movie gets suspended. That is, you go through a movie or a series, let's say it's, you don't know it's a two part. You just think it's a one part, and the characters are introduced, the theme is unfolded. You start following it, and then just at the climax of the story those three dreaded words appear on the screen, to be continued. It's like, oh, great. I got to wait a week or sometimes years, really, because they put out the sequel to the movie. Well, we sort of get that feeling as we go through the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus. I mean, we are introduced to the Messiah of Israel, he's been predicted in the Old Testament.
He's introduced the main character. We see all the promises made in the old covenant, the Old Testament, are being fulfilled before our eyes. We see what he does. We hear what he says. We're getting into the story, but then this main character predicts that he is going to die. And so we go, oh, man that adds tension to the story. But then he says, but I'm going to rise three days later. So we go, OK, well that's, I'll hang for that. So we finally come to that final passion week when Jesus is handed over, betrayed, dies on a cross, but then is does raised from the dead. And it's awesome, it's so awesome. But then he leaves.
He, like, ascends into heaven. And the gospels close most of them with the idea that, and he vanished out of their sight the end. So we look at that and go, now what? OK, that was an amazing thing that happened, but what's going to happen next? And so we have the sequel to the gospel accounts in the book of Acts. In fact, the Gospel of Luke is Volume one and Acts is volume two of Dr. Luke's, I'll explain that in a moment, Dr. Luke's two volume series, part one and two of the origins of Christianity and the development of the early church. Volume 1 was the Gospel of Luke, it parallels the gospel of Matthew and the gospel of Mark. John is its own entity, as we saw, very different from the three so-called synoptic gospels because of their similarity.
But the sequel is in the book of acts, because it says in verse one, the former account that I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom he had chosen. Now you'll notice how Luke begins. And Luke is the author of the book of Acts. He doesn't really show up on the scene, , where you actually see him in the story until chapter 16. I'll explain that in a moment, but he is the author of the book of Acts. This is his second volume. This is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke.
You notice that he is writing to a fellow named Theophilus. So keep a marker here, and go back to Luke chapter one, Luke chapter one. Gospel of Luke chapter one, verse one: in as much as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who, from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, delivered them to us. It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account most excellent Theophilus.
Same author, writing to the same person. That you may know, verse four, the certainty of those things in which you were instructed. The question that scholars have wrestled with is, well, who is Theophilus? And because the name Theophilus is a Greek name that means lover of God or one who loves God, some commentators have said, well, Luke is writing to all people who love God. It's a general form of greeting to all lovers of God. And if you love God you are Theophiloi that's the plural of Theoophilus. So all you Theophiloi out there, this is written to you. That's one thought.
The other thought, the other idea, and I lean toward, this is that because that is an actual name he he's writing about or writing to and he seems to be writing to a person, rather than to a group of people generically, is that Theophilus was the master, the patron, the master of Luke. Now you say, no, wait a minute the master of Luke? I thought Luke was a doctor. See, he was. But 2000 years ago doctors were different than doctors today. 2000 years ago doctors weren't, you know, living in the nice big house. and because they practice medicine collect a larger income than a lot of folks. They were slaves 2000 years ago. They were owned by people.
So times have changed, right? Where doctors used to be owned by people, now you sort of feel like, well, my doctor sort of owns me, with the medical bills that I'm getting. But nowadays the doctors and the patients sort of feel like they're both owned by the insurance companies. But that's a whole other issue. I won't get into that. But Luke, as a doctor, very smart, very articulate. And one of the stylistic things I love about Luke's writing, he writes in a classical Greek. In fact, I will just say for the record it's a Greek that I have trouble understanding. I took some Greek, and we started with a simple gospel, John. Actually we start started with first John, and then I read the Gospel of John. That's easier to manage.
By the time you get to Luke's gospel, he writes in a higher form of syntax and grammar. And it's like, oh my goodness, who is this guy? He's a smart guy. And he writes as a smart guy, but he will describe things. He'll notice things. He'll observe things, especially about the healings of Jesus, that only a doctor would notice. Yet he reveals just by his style of writing that he has a medical background, that he is predisposed to medical terminology. Because some of his terminology is ancient medical terminology.
Back to Theophilus, Theophilus was probably the wealthy, master patron that owned Luke, employed Luke if that is easier for you to get your head around, but that Theophilus came to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, as master. And though Doctor Luke was working for Theophilus, Theophilus released Luke to become a friend and traveling companion with Paul. And so in Acts chapter 16, we're going to read how that the narrative changes from the third person to the first person. Now, I'll tell you why this is important, because in Acts 16 Paul gets a vision of a man from Macedonia. All the doors are closed. One night he gets a vision, doesn't know which way to go. The man from Macedonia says, come over to Macedonia and help us.
So Paul wakes up the next day and says, I think God wants us to go to Macedonia, because I had a vision from a man from Macedonia. So he goes. And the story doesn't show that he finds a man, he finds women meeting at a river in Phillipi. Lydia, the Lord opens up her heart, she gets converted, the philippian jailer gets converted. But immediately after that in the Book of Acts chapter 16, instead of saying they did this and he did that, suddenly right after that incident it says, and we went here and we went there and we did this. And from that point on, Luke includes himself in the writing in the first person, not the third. So because of that, some scholars have come to believe that the man from Macedonia that Paul saw in the vision is Doctor Luke.
Certainly it fits the timing of the narrative. We don't know for sure, but it's an interesting and fascinating thought. That it was Luke who was saying, come over to Macedonia and help us. Now, Luke was a Greek physician, and he probably met Paul at least in Philippi if he wasn't the man from Macedonia. But Theophilus said, you're released from service. What I want you to do is follow Paul around, help him out, and I want you to write to me a full account of the history of this movement.
And so he's filling him in. He's not sitting down going, today I'm going to write scripture. He's writing one dude, his boss. But the Holy Spirit used it to give an accurate account of the life of Jesus, the Gospel of Luke, and then the account of the early church. So that's a little bit of background to Luke. That's important in verse one.
The former account that I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus, key word here, began to do and teach until the day he was taken up, after he through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom he had chosen. The word, began, suggests that the work of Christ is not over. This is what Jesus began to do and to teach that's the Gospel of Luke, this is what Jesus continues to do and teach. Well, how does he do that? He left he, ascended into heaven. He's out of here, he's gone. How can Jesus continue to do and teach anything if he left in the ascension into heaven? Answer, the Holy Spirit that he promised. I'm leaving. It's expedient that I go, because if I don't go I can't send the helper to you.
If I send the helper he's going to teach you all things. He's going to instruct, and he's going to be another helper, as we mentioned the last three weeks, just like I have been to you. He'll be another helper, one like I have been. So the implication is that the book of Acts is not a closed book. When we get to chapter 28 and the book closes, that's fine. But it's still going on, because Jesus is still working throughout history in the lives of his people. The Holy Spirit is still present, infusing us, indwelling us, empowering us.
So I love the thought that the book of Acts is what Jesus continues to do, continues to teach, through the apostles. Now the book is called the Acts of the Apostles. That's what it says on the top of our bibles, though the title is not mentioned. That is not the title in verse one, it's the title that has been given to the book. It's a good enough title, I suppose. But I prefer looking at it, not as the Acts of the Apostles, but rather as the Acts of the Holy Spirit.
Because it says, which he began to do and to teach until he was taken up after he, through the Holy Spirit, had given commandments to the apostles whom he had chosen. So the finished work of Jesus was on the cross. The unfinished work of Jesus continues through the new generation. This one, and then the next one, and then the next one, all the way down to our generation.
So you become those, we become those through whom the Holy Spirit in dwells and empowers. To whom, verse three, to whom he presented himself, that - his apostles, to whom he also presented himself alive after his suffering by many infallible proofs. Being seen by them during 40 days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
Now, here's a bit of information Luke or Matthew or Mark or John does not include. They just say that Jesus took them to the Mount of Olives. He blessed them, and he ascended into heaven. And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. But now we're given a little more coloring into a time period, a 40 day, actually you find out it's a 50 day time period, because between the Passover and the next feast, Pentecost, there's a period of 50 days.
But 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead until the time he ascended into heaven, he is teaching his disciples. He continues teaching them, and speaking to them about things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. And being assembled together with them, he commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father. Which he said, you have heard from me.
Now, notice in those verses that we read that little phrase, many infallible proofs. The disciples were convinced that Jesus was who he said he was. That he was the Son of God, that he was God the Lord. Principally, because of his Resurrection from the dead, as well as what he claimed himself to be. But then after Jesus rose from the dead, they saw for 40 days infallible proofs. Things that they experienced subjectively, but because they were the only ones to see and experience them, they were objective, hence infallible. And what do I mean by that? You see, if one person experiences something, or claims to experience something, how do you know?
So if somebody says, I saw a banana flying through the sky and flowers growing out of it, interesting. Thank you for sharing. But you'll dismiss it out of hand, because those things don't happen. But if you get two and three and four and 12 saying, we saw exactly that at exactly the same time. You go, OK. Because if one person says he saw or she saw one thing you'd say, well, that could be a hallucination.
Now, psychologists will tell us that hallucinations can happen, but they can't happen to a group of people. A subjective experience, if everybody sees the same thing and experiences the same thing at the same time, it's not a hallucination, it's not the product of one's private imagination. Now you have something objective, because there are several eyewitness accounts.
So Jesus appeared and taught his disciples, but Paul said, not only that, but he appeared to over 500 after his resurrection at one time. So you can say, well, Peter saw a hallucination and John he saw a hallucination. But if all 12 said, I saw it, too. And then you get 500 that say, we saw him show up on this day at this place saying these things. Well, now you have something not subjective as much as objective. Infallible proofs.
So the infallible proofs involve the senses. Them seeing them, hearing them touching, them tasting. Example, on one occasion, actually on a couple of different occasions, Jesus showed up in the room they were meeting without going through the door or a window. He didn't crawl through a window, he didn't knock on the door, he just appeared.
They saw that together. On another occasion, he ate a meal with them. So they tasted what he gave to them. On another occasion he spoke to them. So they're hearing with their ears words that he is saying, and they're being corroborated because many people are seeing it and hearing it together. Thomas even touched the wounds of Jesus after the resurrection. These are infallible proofs.
Now John, the apostle John, was one of them. And this is what John refers to in first John chapter one, verse one when he says, that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled concerning the word of life. And what we have seen and heard, we testify unto you, said John.
So for 40 days Jesus showed up, taught them, ate with them, hung with them, et cetera. But one occasion is given in verse four, being assembled together with them he commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father. Which he said, you have heard from me. For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.
OK, stop right there. Go back in your mind. Go back in your knowledge. Go back in your thinking to the end of the gospel accounts. When Jesus said to his disciples go into all the world. Go into all the world, and and preach the gospel to every creature. So we call that the great what? Commission. The great commission is Jesus saying go.
Now, I just want you to put yourself for a moment in the disciples' sandals. For somebody to say, I've got an idea. I've got a mission. I've got a task I want you do do. I want you to go somewhere. You might say, well, I have a job. I'm busy. I have a wife. I have kids. I have plans. I can't just go. But if somebody who was dead that you loved is now alive after three days, and you see that person alive. And now you realize, oh my goodness, this is everything he claimed he said he was. He is God in human flesh. It is the living Lord risen from the dead, just like he said, controlling nature. When he says go, you're going to be pretty zealous to go.
Because now you have found a whole new way of life. You're going to follow him you're going to do what he says. There's nothing more exciting than following that guy. So you can imagine that when Jesus tells them, we're not over here yet boys. I want you to go to all the world, and I'm putting you on a mission. You have to imagine their excitement was at an all time high. They were ready to go. They were ready to conquer the world. Their zeal was over-the-top. However, with their zeal over the top, in all of that excitement they could be tempted to just bolt out the door and go do what Jesus told them to do in the work, in the energy of their own flesh.
So Jesus says, go, but don't go yet. You see, and that's what he says. But wait, he says in Acts chapter one. Verse four, being assembled together he commanded them not to go. Not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father which he said, you have heard from me. Now, why does he tell them, wait? For the Holy Spirit to baptize them in the body. Fill them with the boldness. Give them the necessary equipment to do the job. If you wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force, would it be silly if the Air Force said, OK, now that you've graduated from flight school you have to purchase your own jet aircraft.
You'd say, well, I can't. I didn't sign up for this, I kind of thought you would provide the equipment to do the job. Or if you're a soldier on the infantry and they said, you know, there's a really good deal on m-16s, but you have to buy them yourself and the body armor and helmets.
No, that would never happen. They will give you the equipment to do the job they're asking you to do for your country. So Jesus is commissioning them to go out into all the world. But don't go yet, wait, he says, until you be filled with power from on high. The filling of the Holy Spirit, the necessary equipment to do the job. Therefore, verse six, when they had come together they asked him saying, Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? And he said to them, it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in his own authority. I love these guys. They're so human.
I don't know if you caught this or not, but in the normal flow of chapter one this is called an interruption. It's a non-sequitur. It's bringing an issue up that isn't related to the main subject that was being discussed. OK, I've told you to go into all the world, but now wait until you get filled with the Holy Spirit. Hey, let's set the date when are you coming again? When's the power thing going to happen? Are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel now? I mean, what does that have to do with anything Jesus is telling them? About this much, zero.
OK, so they're so human, and this is what I love about them. Because they're really good at interrupting, or non-sequiturs. They're really good at it. So like at the Mount of Transfiguration Moses and Elijah's transfigured with Jesus, and they're watching it. And Peter goes it's good that we're here. Let's build three condominiums right now.
And God the Father has to interrupt Peter's interruption by saying, this is my beloved Son. Listen to him. Be quiet and listen to him. But that's m and that's not the only time. There was the time Jesus mentioned that he was going to the cross to die on the cross. And so they asked him, who's going to be the greatest in the kingdom?
What? Were we talking about the kingdom and the glory? I thought we were talking about the cross. Yeah, but they're thinking the kingdom. So that's it. That's the interruption. That's the non-sequitur. And why I'm bringing this up is because I have a good friend who likes to say this, he goes, people change, but not that much. And so here you see the same apostles, yes, after the Resurrection. Yes, they are going to be filled with the spirit, but they are who they are. They're still growing. They're still imperfect. Does that give you a little bit of encouragement? I hope it does. These guys were far from perfect.
Now, having said that and having to sort of ditch them I have to say this, I understand their question. There's part of me that says I want to give them a break, and I understand why they would ask that. Because Jesus keeps promising that he's going to send the Holy Spirit. I'm going to send the Holy Spirit, that's the promise of my Father. That's the other helper.
He's been saying that before his death, and now after his resurrection. So in their minds, they're Jewish, they were raised believing that the messiah is going to come and establish a kingdom. There are several passages in the Old Testament that describe the kingdom, like Isaiah 35 and others, that describe the kingdom of Messiah on earth.
Incredible promises, but there are a couple in particular, Ezekiel 36, Joel chapter two, that talk about the coming of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the kingdom of Messiah on the earth. That he would pour out his spirit on the inhabitants of Israel. And so when Jesus keeps saying, the Holy Spirit's coming. I'm sending the Holy Spirit. Perhaps, I want to give him a little bit of a break, perhaps they're thinking actually of these two promises of scripture, Ezekiel 36 and Joel 2, and going, oh, Holy Spirit, kingdom of God on earth.
Are you going to now restore the kingdom to Israel? So in fairness I want to cut them a little slack. I don't know if they're just interrupting and doing their thing, or they're actually engaged as deep Bible students. Just from what I know about them probably the first, not the second, but maybe. But then comes the answer of Jesus. His answer is basically this. It's not about when, it's about what.
You're worried about when is the time. When is the kingdom going to be restored? I want you to forget the when, and I want you to think about though what it is I want you to do. I have a job for you to do. And that's been Luke's theme since the beginning in verse one. This is what Jesus began to do and to teach, but now he's going to do it through the Holy Spirit through the lives of the apostles.
So he says it's not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in his own authority. But, shifting gears, but you shall receive power. Dunamin is the word we talked about last time, or dunamis. When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, epi and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
So many of us do want to know what's next. And I just told you about that little Bible study on YouVersion version, What's next? What's next? What's next? It's good to be informed, but not so much that all you care about is information, and not the transformation that comes in your own life to do what God wants you to do right now.
You see, I came out of the Jesus movement. And some of us, frankly, thought Jesus was coming by tomorrow. I mean, if he didn't come by tomorrow or maybe next week, that's the latest. I mean, we expected Jesus to come at any moment. And I like that thought of the imminence of Christ, return of Christ. I still hold to that, but the danger was I saw a lot of my friends quitting their jobs, getting lazy. Jesus is showing up, you know, maybe a month, but not longer than that. And trying to set the date, but when Jesus talked about his return, his kingdom, he didn't expect his disciples to check out, strum a guitar, sit on a hill side, eat bird seed, and wait for Jesus to show up.
He wanted them to be busy about his business. Occupy until I come, our Lord said. So once again he says, but you shall receive power. That's why you need to stay, until you get this power. When the Holy Spirit, the powerful one, has come upon you. And you shall be witness, now watch this, to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Please notice verse eight, Luke is giving us the words of Jesus. Jesus is providing for us the outline of the book of Acts. Luke will follow this as the outline for his entire book. So chapters one through chapter seven is the gospel witness going to Jerusalem. Chapters eight and nine, the gospel witness going to Judea and Samaria. Chapter 10 through chapter 28, the gospel witness going to the ends of the earth, all the way to the heart of the world at that time, Rome.
If you were looking for a theme for the book of Acts I can give it to you in one phrase, from Jerusalem to Rome. It's how the gospel message goes from the backwaters of the Roman Empire, Israel at the time, Jerusalem, and makes it to the very heart of the Roman Empire itself. So Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, unto the ends of the earth.
So the message of Acts is showing us how the powerful message of the gospel goes out in ever widening circles. That's the outline, and I see a pattern here. When it comes to how the Lord has operated in my life, he's operated the same way, in ever widening circles. It started with me getting saved. I tell my family, my friends, and then the Lord gave me a little more influence and a little more.
But even geographically, see I started and I was saved in California. That's my Jerusalem. Southern California is my Jerusalem, that's my hometown. But then the Lord moved me to what is, or was, my Samaria. New Mexico was like off the grid for me. I don't even know what that was.
But the Lord moved me from Jerusalem, through Judea, all the way out to Albuquerque, New Mexico, which was my Samaria. But now it's not my Samaria. Now it's my Jerusalem. And so from this point, this is our Jerusalem. In ever widening circles the gospel should go out from you, from us, in the same way. Thorugh parts of this state, through neighboring states, to the ends of the earth.
So I love the fact that many have left to start churches in different parts of the world. Usually, at first, just start starting with areas around here, but then widening out. And radio has taken the message in various places. So the Lord may move you to another place, that will become your Jerusalem. And you will be responsible before God to take the message to your Jerusalem, your Judea, your Samaria, and to the ends or the uttermost parts of the earth.
Now, if you think about Jerusalem as the starting point, the United States of America is about uttermost parts of the that you can get. We're about as far away from the original starting point of Christianity as you can get. Please remember that when your friends or relatives say, well, Christianity is a Western religion. Really? Do a little bit of historic research, and you'll find it's an eastern, oriented, oriental religion that has come by God's grace to the uttermost parts of the earth. So that was the starting point: Jerusalem, Judeah, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.
Something else to keep in mind. The book of Act records the events that take place during a 30 year period. Thirty years of church history in this book: AD 33 to AD 63, about 30 years. I bring that up because you can read through the book of Acts in a single setting, or a few days if you want to spread it out. But you're going to read about miraculous things that occur in this book. And you might be tempted to go, man, there are so many miracles in the book of Acts. We need to get back to the book of Acts, which in many cases I would agree with, some cases I wouldn't. Some cases we're already there, I'll explain that. We need to get back to the book of Acts, and we need to see the miracles they saw.
Listen, you're reading a period of 30 years of church history. The book of Acts records about 30 miracles, that's an average of about a miracle a year. It's important to remember that, because I think we see a miracle a year. So don't think, man, we're not seeing enough miracles. I need my daily miracle. They didn't have daily miracles. Miracles are the sovereign work of God in his own timing, and for his own pleasure.
So 30 years, 30 miracles, easy to average that out. Now verse nine. Now, when he had spoken these things while they watched, front row seats, man, he was taken up. And a cloud received him out of their sight. That really was out of sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel. Who said, , men of Galilee why do you stand gazing up into heaven?
So you can picture, right? They're just going, wow, that's awesome. You know, I think he's gone now. Yap. You see him? No, I don't. They're just, yeah, there he goes. He's gone. This is the last time they're seeing him, so their heads are upward. Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven.
Jesus Christ will return as he left. He will return personally. He will return visibly. He will return wonderfully. He will first come for his church. We call that the rapture, first Thessalonians chapter four, in which Jesus comes close to the earth in the clouds. Not all the way down to the earth. We will rise to meet him. So think of it as a near flyby of Jesus. But one day he is coming all the way back down to the earth. Revelation chapter 19, the second coming when every eye will see him. Every eye, not just the church taken up to meet him, every eye shall see him. And will come with him at that second coming.
Now, his return, according to these two men, is like his leaving. It's personal, it's visible, and Jesus left from, as we read down in verse 12, the Mount of Olives. When Jesus comes back, his second coming, he's going to touch down on the Mount of Olives. The same mountain he left on he's coming back to. Zechariah chapter 14 says that. It says, in that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, and the mountain will be cleft or divided into two and move, half of it to the north, half of it to the and a and huge valley will be produced in Jerusalem. That's Zechariah 14.
So it's awfully awesome to stand on the Mount of Olives and gather believers together with open Bibles and think, this is where Jesus ascended into heaven. This is where Jesus is coming back to. The Mount of Olives is just to the east of Jerusalem. We call it the Mount of Olives, but it's really a hill. It's 400 feet taller than the valley. But before you go, oh, well that's how much of a mountain. I mean, have like the Sandia mountains, that's really a mountain.
Yes, but try walking up the Mount of Olives. I tried to bicycle up the Mount of Olives. I brought a bicycle there once, had it in the lowest gear. Kept lifting the front end of the ground. I just couldn't. You couldn't make it up. I had to carry it up, roll it up. It's so precipitous. It is so steep that it feels like a mountain. It's a hill, but it's that mountainous area of Judeah where it's just steep going.
But we always love to gather people, because it's a couple hundred feet taller than the Temple Mount. So you get a commanding view of the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Here's a funny thing though, I'll warn you in advance. If you ask people in the area, hey, where's the spot where Jesus ascended into heaven from? They'll show you three different places, depending on which church tradition you want to believe.
One church says it's in this spot. Another church says it's in that spot. One church has, I even saw this recently, a stone in the center of the church that they claim has the footprint that Jesus left when he launched. Before he launched, he stepped on that rock and it mysteriously and miraculously left a footprint. I've looked at it and go, that's a footprint. OK, maybe it just eroded over time, but they claim it is. The problem with all of these churches, you want to know what the problem is? They're all wrong.
You say, how do you know that? Well, this is the advantage of reading the Bible. Because when you read the Bible and you come to the Gospel of Luke, the author of Acts and Luke tells us Jesus took them as far as Bethany, and that's where he launched. Now Bethany is on the Mount of Olives. So there's the mountain, and there's Jerusalem over here.
So here's the mountain, he didn't launch from the very top, but just on the other side going down toward the east, toward the Dead Sea, is the village of Bethany. where Lazarus, Mary, and Martha lived. Where Jesus hung out. More of a private setting. And that's where he took his disciples, to the familiar place where Lazarus, Mary, and Martha lived.
And Luke says that's where Jesus ascended into heaven. So it's funny to listen to their spiel, and then they show the footprint. But you can walk away going, I don't need to see it or pay the money to go see it. So go to Bethany and check that out. Verse 12, boy, we're not getting far, then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olivette, or the mountain called Olivette, Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey. What does that mean? It means 2000 cubits or less, that was a sabbath day's journey. Now, you're listening to that going, well, that didn't help me, because I don't do cubits. I'm not into metrics or ancient metrics. So 2/3 of a mile is 2000 cubits, that's a Sabbath day's journey. You know the law of the Sabbath.
On the Sabbath, you were forbidden to work. You can't work on the Sabbath, it's the day of rest. You couldn't work, but you could walk. But you couldn't walk if you're walking turned into work. So you can't work, but you can walk, but you can't walk so far that it constitutes work. So they had to come up with a distance. They came up with 2000 cubits. Now, here's the tradition, I can't prove it it's just a Jewish tradition.
It is believed that the 2000 cubits for the Sabbath day's journey was established in the layout of the Tabernacle in the Old Testament. Remember the Tabernacle, the tents of Israel around the central sanctuary? It was believed that the farthest tent in the camp of Israel away from the Tabernacle in ancient times was 2000 cubits. And so that was the distance that the furthest inhabitant of the camp had to walk on the Sabbath to worship the Lord in the sanctuary.
So the idea of 2000 cubits or 2/3 of a mile has been established. Don't know for sure, that's just the tradition. So Jerusalem is a Sabbath day's journey according to that tradition. And when they had entered, they went into the upper room where they were staying. Peter, James, John, notice who's first on the list? Peter always is first on the list. Don't get mad at Peter for that, whoever wrote the names of the apostles in any of the times and places they're mentioned Peter is always mentioned first. And who is always mentioned last? Judas Iscariot, but he's not mentioned here because he's out, as we will see and have seen. Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philippi, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. Judas Iscariot is not mentioned.
Peter is mentioned, and Peter does have a leadership role in the early church. He's the guy on the day of Pentecost who preaches the first message. He is filled with his spirit. He speaks boldly. So he has a leadership role. However, Peter's leadership role is going to diminish throughout this book. You'll see Peter prominent at the beginning, but you will not see Peter as the first pope. Just got to warn you if you're looking for that, you won't find it.
What you're going to find is Peter's submitting to James. By the time we get to Acts chapter 12, 13, 14, and 15, James becomes the leader, the spokesman, of the early church pre-Paul the Apostle. So Peter's the initial leader. James becomes the leader everybody looks to make the final call. James, interestingly, is the brother of Jesus. That James, not this James. In the lineup of apostles, there's a James who is one of the blood brothers of Jesus, the half brothers of Jesus.
He's going to become the first real leader that everybody looks to in Jerusalem. So Peter has a leadership role, his role is going to diminish. Then notice what it says, these all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication with the women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. Now, there's a lot there. I just want to touch on a couple of things. Mary is mentioned specifically. Rightfully so, mother of the messiah. Then says the women. What women? Well, you know don't you, the women who were there at the resurrection, and at the cross, and now with him in Jerusalem.
So there's Mary the mother of Jesus. There's Mary Magdalene. There's Mary the wife of Clopus. There's another Mary, and there's, as you can see Mary was a very popular name, they've got four Mary's going on, the other Mary was probably Mary and Martha-, because they were in Bethany and they were worshipping there. And a girl, a woman, named Salome, who is mentioned in the New Testament. At least those women were present in this upper room.
Then it mentions also his brothers. You read about Mary in this verse. Look at it and notice it well, because it is the last mention of Mary on the pages of scripture. After this, she fades away from holy writ. She's not mentioned by any other writer as living somewhere or doing anything. So all we have is tradition. Some say she died in Jerusalem, others say she followed John to Ephesus and died in Ephesus. We don't know.
But this is the last mention of Mary. She fades from the story. So evidently, the early church didn't venerate her like they did later on. Even Jesus didn't venerate her. When Jesus was teaching in a house they came to him and said, your mother and your brothers are here to see you. And he says, well, who are my mother and my brothers? That's a weird thing to say about your family waiting outside to see you.
He said, well, who are my mother and my brothers? Then he looked and pointed to them and he said, whoever listens to God's word and does it, the same as my mother, my brother, and my sister. On another occasion in Luke chapter 11 somebody came along and tried to worship Mary. They tried to venerate her. They saw Jesus and this person said, blessed is the womb they gave you birth. And blessed are the breasts that nourished you.
And you know what Jesus said to that person? He said, well, really blessed are the ones who hear the word of God and do it. That's what he said. So Jesus didn't give any undue adulation and worshipped her as the mother of God or the other traditions that develop later. Now, later on a tradition developed. I have to tell you this, because look at what it says in verse 14, with his what? Brothers
Well, who are his brothers? Well, if you were to read Mark chapter six four of them are mentioned. James, Joses, another name for Joseph, Judas, different than the other two Judases that are disciples, and Simon, the half brothers of Jesus. So after Jesus was born, he was conceived, she was a virgin, he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, when Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary had normal marriage physical relationships and they had children. At least four other boys, and then it says and his sisters.
They're not even mentioned by name, but a whole slew of kids Joseph and Mary had. And yet, in the 14th century, this weird doctrine developed called the perpetual virginity of Mary. And that is that Jesus was born, conceived in the womb of a Virgin. Mary had birth, delivered Jesus, and then she the rest of her life state of perpetual virgin.
There is even the belief within the Catholic church that when Jesus was born, he never came through any human open, any natural bodily opening. He didn't traverse a birth canal. So that was never even used in the process. That's just, I don't know where that came from, but it's a tradition from the 14th century. So here his brothers are mentioned. They're mentioned by name in Mark chapter six, These are the half brothers of Jesus, who was conceived by a virgin.
And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, all together the number of names was about 120. And he said, men and brethren this scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas. Who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. I just got to tell you. I know I get, I go slow through some of these things, but you notice a verse like this and you marvel at Peter.
This dude is just a fisherman, but listen to what he says concerning the scripture. Does not have a formal education. Does not have a learned education. A fisherman, a common person, but the things that he believed about the scripture, and not only that, how he used the scripture. He's going to quote from two psalms, Psalm 69 and Psalm 109, and take a portion of it and place it together to show that it has been fulfilled.
Now, where does he get that from? How was he able to do that? Well, let me suggest a couple of things to clear that up in your mind. Number one, in Luke chapter 24 after the Resurrection it says that Jesus opened their understanding that they might comprehend the scriptures. That would do it. Have you ever read something and all of a sudden you go, oh, I get it. Now I see it.
Well, Jesus did that for his earthly followers so that they could understand the Old Testament scripture and how it is fulfilled in Christ. So he opened up their understanding that they might comprehend the scriptures number one. Number two, Jesus had been hanging out with them 40 days teaching them stuff about the Kingdom of God. He's given them personal Bible studies. That would expand their knowledge a little bit.
Since Jesus ascended into heaven, about 10 days since Pentecost, or it's about 10 days as this scene developed, they've had some time to search the scriptures for themselves. So Jesus opening up their minds, Jesus personally teaching them, searching the scripture has formed now for Peter, he has a theology, a theology of fulfilled scripture.
So to me it's impressive, because that's a short lead time for a fishing dude from Galilee. A simple man, a blue collar worker, to be able to get this. He wasn't Doctor Peter. He was just Peter, but he's Peter filled with the Holy Ghost, and post Resurrection of Jesus. So it's marvelous. And I just want you to notice in verse 16 how he regards the scripture.
Number one, the Scripture has to be fulfilled. This is Peter's saying, whatever scripture you find in the Old Testament it has to be fulfilled. Number two, it has human authors. David wrote a couple of Psalms. He says, David wrote these things. But a third thing he noted, it's inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit inspired, did I say Peter or David, David, that's what I meant to say, good. See, a senior moment right there.
So Holy Spirit inspired David, and the Scripture has to be fulfilled. So now he's quoting it. For he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry. Now, this man purchased a field, this is Judas, with the wages of iniquity. And falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and his entrails gushed out. Quite a speech Peter, thank you. TMI, too much information. Couldn't you just say he died? He committed suicide.
No, Peter's a fisherman. He's just like a man of the earth saying, yeah, did you hear what happened? Is guts gushed out. Some of the other guys, the other fisherman like James and John are going, awesome. That's so graphic, that was good. Maybe some of the women, Mary Magdalene and Salome go, oh, it's horrible. Now, do we have a discrepancy? Because the gospel accounts tell us that Judas went out and hung himself. Now he says that his guts, his entrails gushed out when he got slammed on a rock.
No, there's not a discrepancy he hung himself. The rope broke. The breaking of the rope caused the fall. The fall, the impact of the fall, caused the opening of the body cavity and his guts, his intestines were all over the rocks. TMI. And became known to all dwelling in Jerusalem. So the field is called, in their own language, Aceldama, that is the field of blood. For it it is written in the book of Psalms, he continues, let his dwelling place be desolate and no one live in it, and let another take his office.
Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when he was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection. And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
The early church, the first meeting that they had to deal with after the ascension, was the shocking report of Judas Iscariot. Shocking because they are dealing with the suicide of an apostle. Here you have a follower of Jesus, one whom Jesus chose to follow him closely, intimately. He had the opportunity that only 12 human beings ever had, and he was an unbeliever. He was an unbeliever. He is called the son of perdition. Jesus said, have not I chosen 12 of you, and one of you is a devil? For it says Jesus knew who would betray him. But now they're dealing with this, and they feel the need to replace Judas in his apostolic office. And a guy named Matthias is going to be chosen. Why do they feel the need to replace Judas?
I've often struggled with this, but I think I have an answer. Here's my take on it. Jesus made a promise in Matthew 19. He said, when the son of man comes in glory in the regeneration, you who have followed me will sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel. That's an important messianic kingdom promise. I think they're wondering, how is that ever going to be fulfilled with this guy who committed suicide who we find out as an unbeliever and a betrayer?
So that has to be fulfilled. That's a scripture promise. That's Old Testament, but that's also in New Testament, Jesus promised it. How do we do that? So Peter felt the need to get him replaced. And they proposed to, verse 23, Joseph, I already Matthias, mentioned Matthias, verse 24. And they prayed. And they said, you, O Lord, know the hearts of all, the hearts of all. Show us which of these you have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas, by transgression, fell that he might go to his own place.
And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the 11 apostles. Two things, was he the right choice? As the next apostle, was he the right choice? Number two, I forgot what number two was Ah. Yeah. Are there apostles today? Is the office of an apostle still a valid office? That's the thing.
See, now I'm asking you those questions and I'm noticing when I said, is he the right choice, so going, yes, some going, no. There's Paul the Apostle was the right choice. When it says the office of an apostle, is that still valid? Some are going, yes, some are going, no. But those are two important issues. Unfortunately, we're a minute over time. And so next week, I'm going to answer the question is the apostolic office valid for today, or did it end with the 12, and was Matthias the right choice or not? Fair enough? It's a cliffhanger.
Father, thank you for your word. Thank you for your Holy Spirit working through ordinary men and women in Jerusalem, going to Judea, through Samaria, all the way to the ends of the earth. Lord, thank you that we, too, can be filled with your spirit. The helper can work in and through us, and your word can go out in our community, in our Jerusalem, in our Judeah, our Samaria, all the way to the ends of the earth. May it be so. May you use us, Lord, as we go back out with our family, with our friends, at our workplace, at our college. In Jesus' name. Amen.