Why the retelling of the Moses story in Acts 7:17-44 is important for grasping the structure of Luke-Acts as a whole.

The retelling of the Moses story in Acts 7:17-44 is important for grasping the structure of Luke-Acts as a whole in that “Luke has selected and structured the Moses story so that it matches exactly the story of Jesus and his witnesses? (Writings, 224). Johnson goes on to point out that “Moses’ story falls into three stages. At the time when the promises to Abraham were about to be fulfilled (Acts 7:17), Moses is sent by God to ‘visit’ the people (ie., to ‘save’ them). They are ‘ignorant’ of his identity and role, so they reject him a first time and he must flee into exile (7:23-29). While in exile, Moses is empowered by God and sent back to the people a second time. He leads them out of Egypt and through the desert with ‘signs and wonders.’ But they reject him and his words a second time, preferring an idol made with their own hands. As a result, those who reject him this time are themselves rejected (7:39-43)…This is striking enough, but the connection between Jesus and Moses is made absolutely clear. At the heart of the Moses story we find the same sort of kerygmatic statement made elsewhere about Jesus (Acts 7:35-37):

This Moses, whom they refused, saying, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ God sent as both ruler and deliverer by the hand of the angel that appeared to him in the bush. He lead them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up? (Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament, 224).

A little later in the same chapter, Johnson adds, “The pattern of the Moses story provides the fundamental structure for Luke’s two volume work. In the Gospel, we read the story of God’s first sending of the prophet Jesus to ‘visit’ his people for their ‘salvation’ (Luke 1:68; 7:16; 19:44); of their initial rejection of this salvation, out of ignorance; and of Jesus’ being ‘raised up’ from death. In Acts we find his establishment in power signified by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the sending of his witnesses filled with that Spirit, and the second offer to Israel of salvation ‘in his name’ (Acts 4:12; 5:31). This time, the cost of refusal is separation from God’s people. The pattern also shows us the precise reason the Jerusalem narrative is so dominant and critical: it is in Jerusalem that the first rejection, the empowerment, the second offer, and either acceptance or rejection by the people all occur? (Writings, 225).

Johnson adds, “if Acts gives us Luke’s interpretation of his Gospel narrative, then we can expect to find in his Gospel, with stricter constraints, the same understanding of Jesus as a prophet like Moses? and then provides an example that points us back to the Old Testament prediction of Moses that God would raise a prophet like him. Johnson, cites, Luke 7:11-15, the story of Jesus raising a widow’s son from the dead, and the conclusion of the story in verse 16, “Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ And, ‘God has visited his people!’? (Writings, 225). Johnson also alludes to the Transfiguration, and to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and their encounters with Christ and the language used in each case is reminiscent of the language of Moses’ prediction of a coming prophet.

About Jason Retherford

The random musings of a youth minister.
This entry was posted in Helpful Places. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s