I enjoy watching a good drama or mystery on TV. There is one thing, however, that can ruin the experience. Just as the plot is getting interesting, and the suspense level rises to a crescendo, the words “… to be continued” appear on the screen. Don’t you just hate that? I do! I don’t want to wait until next week to see how the story comes out. I want to know now. Who wins? Who loses? Who lives, and who dies?
Recently, after reading the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament, I had a similar feeling. The ending left me hanging in suspense. At the end of the book, Paul had completed his arduous and life-threatening journey to Rome as a prisoner. He had met with the Jewish leaders in Rome, and it was not productive. The Roman authorities had kept him under house arrest for more than two years. I longed to hear what happened to Paul after his ordeal, but the story ends abruptly with these words, “And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.” (Acts 28:30-31 NASB) Obviously, Luke did not finish the story.
I wanted to ask Luke, why did you leave us hanging? Why didn’t you finish the story? We do not know what happened to Paul. Did he ever get to appear before Caesar? Did he have his case tried in the Roman courts?
After I thought about this for a while, it dawned on me what the author was doing. Luke, the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, leaves the story unfinished for a purpose. I went back, looked at the first verse of the book, and compared it with the last verse. In these verses, Luke’s purpose is clear. He is telling us how the Jesus movement began, but not how it ended. He wanted to leave the reader in suspense. But why?
In Acts 1:1, Luke explains that his first volume, the Gospel of Luke, is a story about “all that Jesus began to do.” Just as the Gospel was only the beginning of what Jesus began to do, the Acts of the Apostles was only the beginning of what God would do through His followers. This story is ONLY the beginning! The disciples continued the movement Jesus began, and those who followed the Apostles continued what they began.
Seeing this takes everything to the next level. In spite of the incredible success of the first followers of Jesus, the movement is only beginning. In fact, the movement continues even to this day.
Luke wanted everyone who reads and re-reads this book, to understand, this is only the beginning! In a real sense of the word, this book is about “unfinished business.” It is a story ” …to be continued.” There is always unfinished business for those who follow Jesus, and everyone who reads and embraces this story is invited to join in the movement.
In fact, the story of how Jesus miraculously transforms lives, families and entire communities is repeated in every generation. In this way, Jesus and His teachings never die. This is not a story you memorize and repeat like history, rather it is a story you experience and live. This only happens through a personal encounter and a commitment to Jesus as Lord and Savior. It is the story of God’s love for us, revealed in the sending of His Son to die on a cross, a story of redemption through His death and liberation through His resurrection, and a story of grace and forgiveness to everyone who believes, even to those who put Him to death!
But most importantly, this is a story “to be continued.” It is a story that must be continued, and every person who becomes a follower of Jesus is expected to continue the story!
We are not called to finish the story, rather to continue our chapter. We are not asked to re-write it, or adapt it for our purposes, simply to continue what He began in us. In other words, we are to courageously and humbly pick up the story-line and faithfully carry it forward to the next generation.
The question therefore, for each of us is, how faithful have we been to continue the story?