John’s insightful gospel hinders the clear connection Luke makes between his gospel story and its continuation through Jesus' followers in Acts. Luke shows the transition between Jesus being physically present to being present with his disciples through the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Acts the good news of God’s kingdom is manifested through God’s restored and reconstituted people. They are to be Jesus' “witnesses” and the Spirit would empower them after the resurrected Jesus ascends to be enthroned as the world’s true Lord (1:9–11).
In Acts, the second part of Luke’s gospel, the ascended Lord Jesus continues his kingdom expanding mission through his Spirit-filled church (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4). Those who looked to the coming Messiah were baptized in water by John (Luke 3:16), and now the disciples would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. After Jesus instructed them about the Kingdom for 40 days, the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (1:6). They had failed to understand Jesus’ crucifixion, and here we see their misguided focus on the national restoration of Israel. They wanted Jesus to throw off Israel’s foreign oppressors and to establish Israel as the world’s leader. While Jesus didn’t deny their hope, he turns their focus away from ‘times and dates’ to empowerment and proclamation. They were to begin in Jerusalem, then in all Judea and Samaria and the story of Acts goes on to Rome, but the kingdom mission of Jesus will extend throughout all the earth.
Jesus’ followers receive “power” through the presence of the Spirit to announce that the resurrected Messiah Jesus is the ascended Lord of all the earth. The church is empowered by the same Spirit who empowered Jesus. What the apostles needed was not timetables, but power to be Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth. After being instructed, they watched as Jesus ascended into heaven and were encouraged by the angelic visitors that Jesus would return as they had seen him go. (Acts 1:6-9) The story shows that Jesus was “taken up” into heaven in his resurrected body (9) and that “this same Jesus” (11) would come back physically and visibly as determined by the Father’s authority. Jesus ascends and they stare in amazement, but they needed to wait in Jerusalem for the fulfillment of the Father’s promise! Jesus had suffered, and showed himself alive with many convincing proofs and spoke of the kingdom of God. (1:1-3). Luke’s gospel sequel is about what Jesus would continue to do through his Spirit-filled church. He was crucified (1:3), he was resurrected, he showed himself alive (1:3), he spoke of the kingdom (1:3), and he ascended to be enthroned at the right of the God (1:2, 9–11).
The ‘outpouring of the Spirit’ inaugurates the Messianic age of the Spirit that will consummate at Jesus’ second coming. Luke alone among the Bible authors depicts the ascension of Jesus. The ascent of Jesus leads to the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2). Jesus departed from his original disciples so he could be present everywhere in the world with all his people from all the ages. Jesus, by the Spirit, is present and empowers his people for our kingdom expanding task. Jesus’ death and resurrection means forgiveness and union with Jesus, ascension and Pentecost is about empowerment and kingdom proclamation.
See McKnight, S. (2019). Acts (The Story of God Bible Commentary Book 5) p. 36-45