At the end of the book of Matthew we have the marching orders of the church given by none other than her Captain, the Risen Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18-20). In these marching orders Jesus has instructed His followers to make disciples of every nation by bringing individuals together in a group that unashamedly identifies with His life, death, and resurrection (baptism); and by teaching this new community everything He has commanded them. What a truly “Great” Commission. It is both “Great” in the sense that it is a huge task, and “Great” in the sense that it is an incredible task. What makes the “huge-greatness” coalesce into the “incredible-greatness”, however, are the promises that surround this commission.
He, the Victorious Captain, is in control of all things (v.18) and intimately present with His people as they pursue this undertaking.(v.20)This is exactly what we have seen the followers of Jesus doing in the book of Acts all the way up to the last chapter (28). God’s people have begun making disciples of those in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, and even the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The ministry of Paul serves as an exemplary expression of the disciple making process to the ends of the earth. The book, however, ends almost in an anti-climatic way. It ends with Paul incarcerated in Rome preaching the gospel to all he can, period. We never find out what happens to Paul or the rest of his companions. We never know what kind of reception the gospel gets before Caesar. We never know how (in this book at least) the churches founded by Paul fair in the next chapter of their existence. It is almost as if Luke ended abruptly; almost as if something else should come next.
I think Luke concludes his two-volume tome like this on purpose. I think he wants us to feel the incompleteness of the work. I think this is because he wants to see us as involved in the very story he records. The spreading of the gospel does not end in a Roman cell with Paul. It does not end with any of his companions or churches he founded. The spreading of the gospel continues until….. until now! We are a part of the story. This truth is the impetus behind one current, prominent evangelical ministry called “Acts 29”. This ministry gets Luke’s point. Though Acts ends at chapter 28, the real story goes on with every follower of Jesus until He returns. The only question to ask is, “Are you a part of the story?”