I will never be mistaken for a musician. I’m not proud to say that I don’t know the difference between a crescendo and a crescent roll (both sound appetizing to me), but I have heard from informed sources that there is a required rule for giving a good performance. The most important notes in any musical piece are the first and the last. An audience may forgive a dissonant note that comes in the middle, but they’ll not likely forget similar ones that come at the beginning or end of a piece.
The last (Greek) word of the book of Acts is translated unhindered, though some translations render it with multiple words because of its complexity. Others move the word from its final position for more readable sentence structure. In both cases, I think something may be lost in translation. Luke seems to intentionally make a point with this last word of his two-volume testimony to the life and continuing ministry of Christ. His last note was the provocative thought of the gospel unhindered. The Spirit of God continually improvising with a tune that will not be silenced. After the stories of Jesus’ ministry were told, after recollections of his death and resurrection, after Jesus’ ascension and the Spirit’s promised outpouring, after all the resistance, disappointment, and surprises along the way, Luke concludes: “He (Paul) lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and unhindered.” (Acts 28.30-31)
Through prisons and angry crowds, the book of Acts traces the birth and growth of the early church. The book begins with a few hundred believers in Christ and a collective will to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to all the ends of the earth. Opposition to this witness is described at every turn. Persecution, beatings, death, and imprisonment all threatened the voice of the early church and ultimately the spread of the gospel itself. But in spite of all this, Luke distills the history of the early church and the spread of the gospel by boldly describing the progression of God’s kingdom as going forth unhindered. Luke wants us to remember the Good News goes forth despite us and goes forth invincibly.
For anyone who will hear his testimony, Luke wants to conclude his eyewitness account with the dimension of the gospel that is most striking—namely that these evidences are far from the end of the story. Luke wants hearers to completely understand that eyewitnesses to the power of Jesus will go well beyond his own eyes, his stories, and his lifetime (beyond our eyes, our stories, and our lifetime too!). Though variant theologies and distorted claims will abound, though the world will delight in yet another conspiracy theory that promises the end of Christianity, Christ will go forth unhindered. For the Christian, this means we need not live discouraged or defeated by every novel plot to undermine Him.
Luke also begins on a grand note, “In as much as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us.” (Luke 1.1) He sets out to sound the beginnings of the early church and the magnum opus of God from the very start to the end of time. He wants to be clear that we are invited to be a part (musicians?) of a Symphony that never concludes. Despite all appearances, despite seemingly dim turns in the melody, the story of Jesus was and will ultimately continue to be the music of the spheres. The music that resounds unhindered. No person or power can thwart what God purposes, for it is moved by a Spirit who presses it ever onward, ringing invitingly into the unexpected places of the world. The redemptive song of Christ and the Spirit who enables creation to add its praise will continue to move forth, unhindered.
~ Eric Mullinax
Congregational Care Pastor