Jesus’ resurrection is the moment in history where everything changed. This week in The Story, we look at the beginnings of what we now know as “Christianity.” There are major questions that have bounced around my head for years with the beginning of Christianity. One major one is: Why would a group of Jews who regularly kept the Sabbath (Saturday) all of a sudden shift their holy day focus to Sunday? The resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection is central to life and practices of the early church. The Followers of the Way, as they were called early on, used to gather on the first day of the week at sunrise to celebrate the rising of the Son. Their whole reason for coming together was the celebrate that Jesus was resurrected and encourage one another to live out the resurrection in their lives. Baptism is participation in the death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6). Receiving the Holy Spirit in Baptism is receiving the first parts of the resurrection (2 Cor. 5:1-5). They gathered around the Table for the Lord’s Supper on the first day because it was a celebration of the liberation they received from slavery in the resurrection of Jesus. This is a re-appropriation of the Passover (Matthew 26). Jesus’ death on the cross cleanses us and creates space for the Holy Spirit to take up residence in us. We participate in his death through baptism and in his resurrection through being raised out of the water and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts is written as an epic and covers roughly three decades but it isn’t solely to be read as “Early Church History.” There are a lot of questions unanswered in Acts like: What happens to Peter after ch. 12? What all is James doing in Jerusalem? What happens in the expansion of the church in the east and the south? Luke focuses mainly on the expansion of the Kingdom of God, the Church, under Paul. Why is that? Rome was the center point of the known world. Caesar was the ruler of all things Rome touched. In this small corner of the empire, a king was born, lived, died, and was resurrected. With the resurrection, Thomas gives the proclamation of all Christians since, “My Lord and my God!” When the early Christians say, “Jesus is Lord!” they are controversially declaring that Caesar is not! The life they lived in community were lived in demonstration that the ways the world was structured was not Lord but that Jesus is. They broke convention by meeting together in their homes, breaking bread together in fellowship, and shared all things in common. Luke’s Epic, we call Acts, traces the counter cultural movement from its little corner of the empire to Paul ready to stand before the emperor himself. What an incredible story!
Watch for how the Kingdom looks early on in Acts and the issues they quickly face as diverse groups of people begin to come together and try to be Family. How do they work through these issues? What does it take to function and live like Family? What do you see in individuals who lived lives transformed by receiving the Holy Spirit? When you look at Barnabas, who are you taking under your wing to guide them in the faith? Who are you allowing to be Barnabas to you? What group of people do you need God to come to you in a vision for and lower a sheet for you to make a point? How has the Holy Spirit made you bold? Has the Holy Spirit made you bold? Why/why not? What does it mean to rejoice because you had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name?