To begin the book of Acts (the sequel to the Gospel of Luke), Luke immediately lets us know that we’re picking up right where we left off. Acts couldn’t be a more organic overflow of where the Gospel of Luke leaves us. First, Acts opens with a lot of Spirit talk. “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:5) “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” (1:8) In his final moments of physical presence with his apostles, he wants to talk about their baptism. In addition to being immersed in the water, Jesus desires that we would be fully immersed, head to toe, in the Holy Spirit, the very fullness of God. The Spirit was already noticeably present in Luke’s Gospel. To receive the Holy Spirit is what Jesus assumes is our most pressing prayer request! (Luke 11:13)
Speaking of prayer, Luke also picks up where he left off by showing us that the first thing the apostles do after the ascension of Jesus (the first act of the book of Acts) is to pray. Not an act of organization or even service, but prayer. “Then they returned to Jerusalem… All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer.” (Acts 1:12-14) Back in Luke 11, Jesus had said that to pray is to ask and seek and knock at God’s door, and therefore to faithfully receive the Spirit. So now, as Jesus has so much to say about the coming Holy Spirit, the apostles know to enter into the posture of prayer. All of Jesus’ Spirit talk gets the apostles asking, “Is now the time when you will restore the kingdom of Israel?” (Acts 1:6) This could be a question about cosmic timing (is it time for the story of human history to draw to a close so God may usher in his new eternal age?) or this could be a question about power (will Israel once again be top dog?). Either way, Jesus answers that the power of the Holy Spirit is coming for them, to transform them and give them a job to do, to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (1:8) And what will happen next is nothing less than the most exciting, dramatic, and dangerous journey they could imagine.
Throughout Acts, the followers of Jesus are identified from time to time with a specific term: “the way.” More often than not, this is how outsiders designate and understand the first Christians (Acts 9:2, 22:4, 19:9, 24:22). “Way” could also be translated as road or path. These first Christians immediately gain a reputation as people with a love of adventure, ready to experience something new and challenging, pilgrims on the road to truth and transformation. And Jesus knows this perfectly well ahead of time when his final words to the apostles are words of adventure (“to the ends of the earth!”). The last thing Jesus says is to go have an adventure. Go meet people that challenge you. Go get into some trouble. Go have your heart broken. Go wherever the Spirit leads you.
That’s what we are baptized into. Jesus’ final invitation is into adventure. Let’s not waste that invitation.