But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Way back in the first chapter, the theme of this book is found in the words of Jesus. So far, we have seen that this is exactly what took place, for Acts 1-7 contains the story of the church in Jerusalem, chapters 8-12 tells the story of the Gospel’s spread into the surrounding areas of Judea and Samaria, all the while giving us indications of how God’s plan was unfolding. We have looked at each of the steps involved in this process as we have journeyed on our way to this point and thus I must point out to you now that just as the Gospel was not only intended for the city of Jerusalem, it was also not intended just for its environs; it was not only for the Jews but it was also intended for the Gentiles, representative of all peoples everywhere on the globe.
With chapter 13, there is a major shift in the book of Acts, for the rest of the story is the story of the Gospel moving out of the Jewish homeland and into the far corners of the earth. Yes it is found in Acts 13 through 28, but let’s be clear that it is a story that continues to this day, and you and I are living a part in that continuing tale.
The story begins as Saul and Barnabas are sent out from Antioch, along with our young friend John Mark. In this chapter we find a pattern that they will usually follow as they move from place to place in that they will almost always begin their preaching to the Jewish people in the synagogue, and then take the message to the general population, mirroring the theme Jesus set forth in 1:8.
We should also take notice that this, the first of three “missionary journeys” undertaken by Paul, wasn’t quite like what we might think of on a “missionary” trip today. There was no fixed agenda, no timeline or schedule that we would recognize. Rather they set out and stopped in the towns and cities they came across, stopping to share their message. They had no idea which ones would be more or less receptive. They had no hotel reservations, no maps or gps devices, and for the most part, they were at the mercy of the hospitality of strangers for shelter and sustenance, which is to say they were completely dependent on God. There were places they remained only a short time, and as the story unfolds, there are other places in which they might remain for a very long time. One thing is sure: When they left Antioch, no one knew whether or not they would ever return.