MORE THOUGHTS ON ACTS 28: This past Sunday, I had so much to say and not enough time to say it. Right now you might be thinking, “How is that possible, Dave? You preached for 53 minutes last Sunday!” OK, you’re right. But in my angst to wrap the thing up, I left out something that is really important. And I really wanted to share it with you.
When you read Luke’s conclusion to Acts, at first glance it seems a little strange. “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ?” – Acts 28:30-31 NIV84
This ending does not make sense. Luke has spent more than half of the book of Acts focused on Paul’s ministry of taking the gospel to the world. Why doesn’t Luke wrap up the story and tell us about Paul’s death? Church tradition tells us that Paul was beheaded in Rome, not too long after the conclusion of Acts. So why doesn’t Luke tell us about that?
Over the millennia, biblical scholars have surmised many reasons for this abrupt ending. Some postulated that Luke died before he could write about Paul’s death. Some have guessed that Luke was writing a legal document to defend Paul in court, and Paul’s death simply hadn’t yet occurred. All of these guesses have the downside assuming that the conclusion to Acts was unintentional. But I think Luke concluded Acts in the exact way he intended – by talking about the Kingdom of God.
As tantalizing as the book of Acts may seem, Luke never intended for us to think that this was a book about the Apostles. After all, Luke didn’t title it, “The Acts of The Apostles.” Someone else did that. The book of Acts is not about Peter, James, John or any of the Apostles. And its most certainly not about Paul. Acts is about Jesus.
For Luke, it made no sense to conclude this account with Paul’s death. Paul’s story was never about Paul anyway. Paul’s story had always been, and would always be about Jesus. To bring this work to a conclusion with the account of Paul’s death would put all the focus on a dead man. But Acts is about someone who defeated death. The story of Acts is about Jesus. The story of Paul is about Jesus. Is the story of YOU about Jesus?
To be honest, I want my story to be about me. I like to talk about me. I like it when people are interested in me and my story. And I have plans for my story. I can imagine a grandiose conclusion to my story where, after my death, people talk about how great Dave was and how he impacted their lives in wonderful ways. We all want our stories to be about us. But our stories were never about us. God didn’t make us that way. God made us for His glory, for His pleasure. We are made for Him. When I try to make my story about me, I cheat God of what He deserves. AND I cheat myself, because I wasn’t made for me. I was made for Him.
Paul understood this, and so did Luke. In this abrupt conclusion Luke BEGS us to put aside our idolatry of self and join God’s story. The author is not-so-subtly calling out to us to join the work of God’s Spirit in declaring the power of the resurrection and the coming of God’s kingdom.
Acts is the story of how God’s Spirit is empowering the church to make their lives about Jesus and the kingdom of God. Every story needs a hero. The hero of Paul’s story is Jesus. Is Jesus the hero of yours?