What have you been doing during this pandemic that has been different in a good way? At first you might balk at the idea of anything being “good”, but there have been some good things. For me I have read some novels. At first I watched too much news and found that that was not helpful so I decided to limit my news time and spend some time “in another place” through a novel. Has this ever happened to you, you get to the end of a novel, or a movie, and you say “no, don’t end here! What else happens…?” I feel like that is how the book of Acts ends. The early church has gone through all kinds of twists and turns, of successes and setbacks, of joys and sorrows and then the story ends. Well it doesn’t actually end, the writer just stops!
I have to admit, sometimes I experience frustration and disappointment at the ending of a story. I like things to be tied up neatly and nicely, and I am a big fan of happy endings. Life is so rarely like that though. As Christians we live in the reality of the “now “and the “not yet” of life. We are called to live in the now and believe in the not yet. We know God is working but we do not know what His work will bring forth. We see suffering and pain, and we believe in restoration and redemption.
23 So a time was set, and on that day large numbers came to his house. He told them about the Kingdom of God and taught them about Jesus from the Scriptures—from the five books of Moses and the books of prophecy. He began lecturing in the morning and went on into the evening!
24 Some believed and some didn’t. 25 But after they had argued back and forth among themselves, they left with this final word from Paul ringing in their ears: “The Holy Spirit was right when he said through Isaiah the prophet,
26 ‘Say to the Jews, “You will hear and see but not understand, 27 for your hearts are too fat and your ears don’t listen and you have closed your eyes against understanding, for you don’t want to see and hear and understand and turn to me to heal you.”’[a]
28-29 [b]So I want you to realize that this salvation from God is available to the Gentiles too, and they will accept it.”
30 Paul lived for the next two years in his rented house[c] and welcomed all who visited him,
“Some were convinced, …. while others refused to believe”. So Paul leaves them with what seems to be a harsh retort in his quoting of Isaiah “they will listen but never understand…if they would turn (to me) I would heal them.” Paul says in essence, you had your chance! I am going to go to the other people, the ones you don’t think God loves, the ones different from you and I am going to preach/teach them because God told me that they would believe…and we do believe, don’t we? We may be struggling, we may be doubting, we may be discouraged but in the end we believe! Lord help our unbelief! Help us to see that you are sovereign over all of the events in our lives, our families, our neighborhoods, our cities, our country, our world. Help us to trust you. Help us to trust that you are working things out. Help us to see that you are providing and sustaining us in so many different ways.
Paul did not leave right away. Luke tells us that he stayed “two whole years and welcomed all.” That’s you and me! God welcomes us to come and to keep learning, to keep searching with our eyes and our ears and to understand with our hearts. What was Paul teaching? The Kingdom of God was coming to us through His son Jesus Christ! This story continues then and now. Jesus is coming!
If we stitch together all the various parts of the New Testament, along with extra biblical literature, we know that Paul is released from prison in Rome and goes on to preach and teach in many influential cities throughout the known world before he is imprisoned again for the final time and executed. Like the ending of Acts, God’s story continues to go forth even after that, and we are living testimony of that in this day. We are the “gentiles” who “will listen.” Are you listening to God and hearing Him in these days? I pray that we each are finding Him and His goodness for each of us, His beloved children. I pray that you and I will catch glimpses of His work. I pray that we will hear His guidance and direction for us.
Like Paul, I pray that we will continue to reach out with boldness and without hindrance. May God give us all eyes to see and ears to hear so that our hearts can be moved toward His Kingdom now and forevermore!!