Dear Theophilus, in the first volume of this book I wrote on everything that Jesus began to do and teach
until the day he said good-bye to the apostles, the ones he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven.
After his death, he presented himself alive to them in many different settings over a period of forty days. In face-to-face meetings, he talked to them about things concerning the kingdom of God.
As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but "must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me.
John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon."
When they were together for the last time they asked, "Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?"
He told them, "You don't get to know the time. Timing is the Father's business.
What you'll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world."
These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud.
They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared - in white robes!
They said, "You Galileans! - why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly - and mysteriously - as he left."
So they left the mountain called Olives and returned to Jerusalem. It was a little over half a mile.
They went to the upper room they had been using as a meeting place: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas, son of James.
They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included. Also Jesus' mother, Mary, and his brothers. Replacing Judas
During this time, Peter stood up in the company - there were about one hundred twenty of them in the room at the time -
and said, "Friends, long ago the Holy Spirit spoke through David regarding Judas, who became the guide to those who arrested Jesus. That Scripture had to be fulfilled, and now has been.
Judas was one of us and had his assigned place in this ministry.
"As you know, he took the evil bribe money and bought a small farm. There he came to a bad end, rupturing his belly and spilling his guts.
Everybody in Jerusalem knows this by now; they call the place Murder Meadow.
It's exactly what we find written in the Psalms: Let his farm become haunted So no one can ever live there. "And also what was written later: Let someone else take over his post.
"Judas must now be replaced. The replacement must come from the company of men who stayed together with us
from the time Jesus was baptized by John up to the day of his ascension, designated along with us as a witness to his resurrection."
They nominated two: Joseph Barsabbas, nicknamed Justus, and Matthias.
Then they prayed, "You, O God, know every one of us inside and out. Make plain which of these two men you choose
to take the place in this ministry and leadership that Judas threw away in order to go his own way."
They then drew straws. Matthias won and was counted in with the eleven apostles.
When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force - no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building.
Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks,
and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world.
When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck.
They couldn't for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, "Aren't these all Galileans?
How come we're hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
both Jews and proselytes; Even Cretans and Arabs! "They're speaking our languages, describing God's mighty works!"
Their heads were spinning; they couldn't make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: "What's going on here?"
Others joked, "They're drunk on cheap wine."
That's when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: "Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight.
These people aren't drunk as some of you suspect. They haven't had time to get drunk - it's only nine o'clock in the morning.
This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:
"In the Last Days," God says, "I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes, I'll pour out my Spirit On those who serve me, men and women both, and they'll prophesy.
I'll set wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
the sun turning black and the moon blood-red, Before the Day of the Lord arrives, the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for help to me, God, will be saved."
"Fellow Israelites, listen carefully to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man thoroughly accredited by God to you - the miracles and wonders and signs that God did through him are common knowledge -
this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you. And you pinned him to a cross and killed him.
But God untied the death ropes and raised him up. Death was no match for him.
David said it all: I saw God before me for all time. Nothing can shake me; he's right by my side.
I'm glad from the inside out, ecstatic; I've pitched my tent in the land of hope.
I know you'll never dump me in Hades; I'll never even smell the stench of death.
You've got my feet on the life-path, with your face shining sun-joy all around.
"Dear friends, let me be completely frank with you. Our ancestor David is dead and buried - his tomb is in plain sight today.
But being also a prophet and knowing that God had solemnly sworn that a descendant of his would rule his kingdom,
seeing far ahead, he talked of the resurrection of the Messiah - 'no trip to Hades, no stench of death.'
This Jesus, God raised up. And every one of us here is a witness to it.
Then, raised to the heights at the right hand of God and receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he poured out the Spirit he had just received. That is what you see and hear.
For David himself did not ascend to heaven, but he did say, God said to my Master, "Sit at my right hand
Until I make your enemies a stool for resting your feet."
"All Israel, then, know this: There's no longer room for doubt - God made him Master and Messiah, this Jesus whom you killed on a cross."
Cut to the quick, those who were there listening asked Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers! Brothers! So now what do we do?"
Peter said, "Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away - whomever, in fact, our Master God invites."
He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, "Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!"
That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up.
They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.
Everyone around was in awe - all those wonders and signs done through the apostles!
And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common.
They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met.
They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful,
as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.
One day at three o'clock in the afternoon, Peter and John were on their way into the Temple for prayer meeting.
At the same time there was a man crippled from birth being carried up. Every day he was set down at the Temple gate, the one named Beautiful, to beg from those going into the Temple.
When he saw Peter and John about to enter the Temple, he asked for a handout.
Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, "Look here."
He looked up, expecting to get something from them.
Peter said, "I don't have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!"
He grabbed him by the right hand and pulled him up. In an instant his feet and ankles became firm.
He jumped to his feet and walked.
Everybody there saw him walking around and praising God.
They recognized him as the one who sat begging at the Temple's Gate Beautiful and rubbed their eyes, astonished, scarcely believing what they were seeing.
The man threw his arms around Peter and John, ecstatic. All the people ran up to where they were at Solomon's Porch to see it for themselves.
When Peter saw he had a congregation, he addressed the people:
The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his Son Jesus. The very One that Pilate called innocent, you repudiated.
You repudiated the Holy One, the Just One, and asked for a murderer in his place.
You no sooner killed the Author of Life than God raised him from the dead - and we're the witnesses.
Faith in Jesus' name put this man, whose condition you know so well, on his feet - yes, faith and nothing but faith put this man healed and whole right before your eyes.
"And now, friends, I know you had no idea what you were doing when you killed Jesus, and neither did your leaders.
But God, who through the preaching of all the prophets had said all along that his Messiah would be killed, knew exactly what you were doing and used it to fulfill his plans.
"Now it's time to change your ways! Turn to face God so he can wipe away your sins, pour out showers of blessing to refresh you,
and send you the Messiah he prepared for you, namely, Jesus.
For the time being he must remain out of sight in heaven until everything is restored to order again just the way God, through the preaching of his holy prophets of old, said it would be.
Moses, for instance, said, 'Your God will raise up for you a prophet just like me from your family. Listen to every word he speaks to you.
Every last living soul who refuses to listen to that prophet will be wiped out from the people.'
"All the prophets from Samuel on down said the same thing, said most emphatically that these days would come.
These prophets, along with the covenant God made with your ancestors, are your family tree. God's covenant-word to Abraham provides the text: 'By your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed.'
But you are first in line: God, having raised up his Son, sent him to bless you as you turn, one by one, from your evil ways."
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)