One of the earliest accounts about Jesus of Nazareth– his life, death and resurrection– was written by a man named Luke. We know it as the Gospel of Luke. But Luke continued the story in a second volume called the Book of Acts. It is all about what Jesus continued to do after his resurrection. Acts begins with the disciples, who are hanging out with Jesus, who has just come back to life. Which is mindblowing to imagine. Then for weeks the risen Jesus kept teaching them about his upside down kingdom, the new Creation that he launched through his death and resurrection. This is exciting stuff. The disciples are ready to go tell the world. But then Jesus tells them to wait, to stay in Jerusalem until they receive a new kind of power so they can be faithful witnesses to Jesus and his kingdom. Then he says that their mission is going to begin in Jerusalem, then move out to Judea and Samaria, and then from there out into the nations. It is like a road map for the whole book of Acts. Then, the disciples saw Jesus enthroned as king of all creation. So the disciples wait, wondering when this power is going to come. Then comes the time of Pentecost. This is an ancient Israelite festival. It is during the early summer. Thousands and thousands of Jewish pilgrims would come back to Jerusalem from all over the world. All these different languages and cultures are colliding in the city. The disciples are together in a house which is suddenly filled with rushing wind along with fire. The fire splinters off into tongues of fire hovering over people’s heads. What is this all about? Luke is tapping into a repeated Old Testament theme. When God’s presence showed up similarly at Mount Sinai, he made a covenant with Israel and gave them the Ten Commandments. Then later, when God’s glory came in a pillar of fire, it filled the tabernacle when He came to live among them. That was just one pillar of fire, not many. Exactly. Luke is making an important point here. This is God’s personal temple presence, God’s spirit that was foretold by Israel’s prophets. Now it has come to take up residence in the new temple of Jesus’ body, that is, his people. They have become little mobile temples where God now dwells. And they start to tell stories about Jesus. But they are speaking in languages that they didn’t know before. Yet all the visitors can understand them. What is this all about? Well, Peter gets up to explain that this is the fulfilment of Israel’s hopes, based on the Scriptures. God’s plan was always to use the unified family of Abraham to bring peace and justice to the world. But the tribes of Israel have been scattered because of the exile. Now, here at Pentecost, representatives from all of the tribes come back together. They are introduced to their Messiah, the crucified and risen Jesus. So, they can now become the restored people of Israel. Thousands of them start following the way of Jesus. Which brings us to Luke’s tale of two temples. So, you have got the temple that Herod built in Jerusalem where Jesus’ disciples worship, like the rest of the Israelites. But now there is also Jesus’ temple, which consists of people. This temple is meeting together in homes all over Jerusalem. And they were approaching life in a radical new way. Right. Think about it. Many of these pilgrims aren’t even from Jerusalem. So they form these new families. They are all depending on each other. Yeah, people would sell their stuff, provide for the poor among them. They ate their meals together. They said their daily prayers together. They were learning from the apostles what it meant to live as if Jesus is the true king of the world. It must have been exhilarating. But it wasn’t all fun and games. Being God’s temple is serious business, just like in the Old Testament. So, you might know about that strange story in the Book of Leviticus about two priests who disrespect God and the temple and then suddenly die. Well, Luke includes here a similar story of two disciples who dishonor God’s Spirit in this new temple and they suffer a similar fate. So, there is corruption in the community. But, the bigger problem is coming from the outside. Yeah, from the other temple. Its leaders are threatened by this new messianic movement. So they arrest the Apostles. They try to stop them. This brings us to the final story in the Jerusalem section of Acts. We are introduced to a new disciple, Stephen. Oh yeah, Stephen. He is on fire. He steps up as a leader among the disciples to serve the poor. He would go to the temple courts to teach people about the way of Jesus. So the temple leaders arrest Stephen. They find false witnesses to accuse him of dishonoring Moses and of being a terrorist who is threatening the temple. In response, Stephen gives this powerful speech about how predictable this whole situation was. Yeah, he retells the whole Old Testament story highlighting characters like Joseph, Moses and the prophets, people who were consistently rejected and persecuted by their own people. Israel has been resisting God’s representatives for centuries. So their rejection of Jesus and now of his followers is a rejection of God himself. They get angry, and they start to execute him by picking up rocks and smashing him to death. As he is dying, he commits himself to the way of Jesus, to suffer because of the sins of others. He even cries out ‘Lord, don’t hold this sin against them.’ This is basically what Jesus said at his death. Exactly. Stephen becomes the first martyr of the Jesus movement. There are many more to come. But this persecution contains seeds of hope, which is why Luke introduces us to a new character here, a religious leader named Saul. He stands over Stephen’s dead body, and even approves of the whole thing. Wait, Saul. You mean, the man who becomes the apostle Paul. Yes, Luke is showing how even this tragic murder cannot stop Jesus’ kingdom. So, many persecuted disciples scatter out of Jerusalem. Just as Jesus said, they head into Judea and Samaria. The story of what happens there, that is what the next section of Acts is all about.