Summary: First, Jesus is alive. Really alive. Abundantly alive. Second, because Jesus is alive, a new community of people is formed-—people who demonstrate the reality and power of the risen Christ in their life together. Real life. Abundant life.
When Jesus walked the earth—teaching, and preaching, and healing—-strange things happened. Not strange as in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. More like strange as in counter-intuitive. Strange as in turning upside-down what everyone knew to be true about how the world worked—what was important and what was not, who was important and who was not, what made for success and what did not.
Otherwise responsible men picked up and left home—-left behind jobs and families, all that was familiar-—and followed him. Fishermen became evangelists. Tax collectors became teachers. Zealots became servants.
Lepers were cleansed. Paralytics were healed. Sinners were welcomed. Storms were quieted at the sound of his voice. Demons fled. Dead boys and girls were raised to life.
The greatest became servants. The proud were humbled. The outcast were welcomed. The conventionally powerful found themselves on the fringe. The last became first.
Wherever Jesus went, life happened. Real life. Abundant life.
Even when Jesus walked no more, and his body was laid in the tomb, life happened. On the third day he rose again from the dead.
Some six weeks later, on Pentecost, the church was born.
According to the Book of Acts, everywhere the church went, strange things happened. Or maybe I should say, wherever the Holy Spirit led the church, strange things happened. Strange as in turning upside-down what everyone knew to be true about how the world worked—-what was important and what was not, who was important and who was not, what made for success and what did not.
An uneducated fisherman from the boonies preached in the capital city, and thousands repented and were baptized.
A man who had not walked, ever, danced on the temple steps and praised God.
The chief persecutor of the church became its greatest missionary. Prison doors did not stay locked. Threats to personal safety did not intimidate people.
Wherever the Holy Spirit led the church, life happened. Real life. Abundant life.
The Book of Acts is the longest book in the New Testament.
Reading the Book of Acts yields all sorts of wonderful insights…about prayer, about missions and evangelism, about church history and church government, about leadership development, about cross-cultural interactions, about stewardship, about perseverance, about preaching, about deacons, about challenging the powerful, about reaching out to the weak, and more.
It can be a lot to keep track of. It can be almost overwhelming. Sometimes it can even be distracting. Have you ever wanted someone just to come out and tell you what the main idea is? You know-—not so you could skip reading the Book, of course, but just to help keep you focused while you read the Book.
When I was in 8th grade, I took confirmation class at my church—every Wednesday evening for months. For several of those Wednesdays, we traced the travels of Paul, largely by reading the accounts in the Book of Acts. It was quite interesting. It was informative. It was worthwhile. It was also really easy to get lost in the details.