Acts 28: 17–31: The end of the beginning.

“17 Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: ‘My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. 19 The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20 For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.’  21 They replied, ‘We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.’  23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: ‘The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:                                                                                                                               26 ‘“Go to this people and say,                                                                                                                  ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;                                                                     you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’
27 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.”                                                                                                     28 ‘Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!’  30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ – with all boldness and without hindrance!” NIV UK

It is with a feeling of sadness that we come to the end of the book of ‘Acts.’ It is such a spiritual tonic. However (and I’ll return to this thought in a moment) there is a sense in which this book will never come to an end before Jesus returns. A famous missionary statesman would often say, when he got up to speak, ‘Please turn to Acts 29.’ After a moment or two, he would follow this up by saying, ‘You are Acts 29!’ So if this is the end of ‘Acts,’ it is really only the end of the beginning.

The final frames of the film show Paul once again trying to reach the hearts and minds of fellow Jews. Once again the outcome is a divided response. Once again there is an emphasis on the outward movement towards the Gentiles, and a clear expectation that this will prove fruitful. In fact, we see something of this in the final two verses.  Here’s a thought: Is your home a place of welcome? Do you try to use it to share the love of Jesus with people who don’t know Him?

As we say ‘farewell’, for now, to this wonderful book (for we will all surely return to it again and again) consider these words from F.B. Meyer: ‘Thus, abruptly, does this fifth Gospel close. It has been well said that a close so abrupt suggests a continuance and a sequel. The curtain of silence falls when Paul’s life is not brought to a close, and his work at Rome is still in process; and does not this indicate the design of the Holy Spirit that we should believe that the book of the Acts of the Apostles is never complete, but is really conterminous with the present age? Thus every generation of life adds its own gold link to the chain…uniting in one glorious succession all in whom Jesus continues by the Spirit to speak and work.”

When the late Bishop of Ripon read of the labours and sufferings of John Williams in the South Seas, he laid down the narrative, exclaiming, ‘’This is the twenty-ninth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.’’ May we not rather say the five hundredth or five thousandth? Between the stories of Paul and of John Williams, you must insert thousands who have been recorded of God’s remembrance given angels alone, as well as those which are filling our shelves with missionary romance and biography, more interesting than novels, more wonderful than dreams.’ ‘Devotional Commentary,’ p.413.

PRAYER: Lord, please let me play my full part in the on-going story of your church