Witnesses to the Resurrection
This summer we will explore the mission of God in the story of Acts. The first few posts will adapt some of our new Acts curriculum to show how Acts 1 helps connect the mission of God to Luke's purpose in Acts. Following our work in Acts 1, we will take a deep dive into Peter's Pentecost sermon, paying special attention to how he connects the Bible to his world, calling others to pursue all of life as ministry.
In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,
“‘May his camp become desolate,
and let there be no one to dwell in it’;
“‘Let another take his office.’
21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Finally, Luke helps us understand what we are to be doing as witnesses.
The Disciples Then
The fact that there were twelve disciples had great symbolic meaning for Jesus’ mission. His mission was to return Israel to right relationship with God, so they could become the light to the nations that God intended them to be. Judas’ betrayal and unfaithfulness to the calling Jesus had for him left the apostles with eleven. Peter, after spending time in Scripture and in prayer with many others, leads the people in restoring the number of apostles to twelve.
As they decide who will join them, they give a summary statement that defines the mission of these apostles. Their mission, stated in its shortest form, is to be witnesses to the resurrection. At the founding of the church, these witnesses to the resurrection are those who literally walked with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry all the way through seeing the resurrected body of Jesus. They are qualified to give eyewitness accounts of all that they have seen and heard. Throughout Acts, the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus is inseparable from declaring that Jesus has been raised from the dead.
But “witness to the resurrection” also aptly describes the ministry and mission of the people of God now. In everything that we do and say, we are an embodied testimony (as the body of Christ) to the resurrection of Jesus. We have been entrusted with the word of God to testify that in the midst of history God has raised Jesus from the dead and desires to bring us, and all of creation (Romans 8), from death to life. As we have been raised to newness of life and God sends us out on mission in the midst of a dying world, we have the opportunity to testify to the resurrected Jesus. This includes testifying to the resurrection in our daily work. Our present work is often done with great toil and struggle because of the curse. We testify to the power of the resurrected Christ as we find joy in what he has created us to do, as we love those with whom we work, and as we pray for our work to effect flourishing for those for whom we work.