The last couple of chapters of Acts feel very much like Luke’s personal account of his journey to Rome with Paul. The details are vivid, and there’s less reflection than we’ve seen earlier.
We see Paul’s calm acceptance of a journey he knew would lead him to danger and probably to death – confident that this was part of the purpose to which Christ had called him on the Damascus Road.
We see his care for the others who journey with him, including the sailors and passengers of his endangered ship – and the hint that those who are caught up in his journey will not be put at risk while he is with them.
Then we leave Paul under house arrest in Rome, free to receive visitors and to preach; having at least in part fulfilled his aim of proclaiming good news at the heart of the Empire.
The fact that we leave him there is, to me, a good argument for dating the writing of Acts, therefore Luke (and so Mark, and probably Matthew!) before Nero’s persecution in 64-68 AD. It’s hard to imagine that Luke would not have written of Paul’s death, the fulfilment of prophecy and the completion of his mission, had he written afterwards. It’s not proof, of course – but it backs up the general impression I get from the gospels that the first three, and this ‘volume 2’ of Luke, take us back to within living memory of Jesus.
So, having finished the narrative parts of the New Testament, I get ready to dive into Paul’s own words, fresh from reading Luke’s presentation of Paul’s story and gospel. I’ll say a bit more tomorrow about some of my starting points for interpreting Paul. Until then, we leave him under house arrest in Rome – preaching, as always, the good news of God who has been faithful to his promises and to his people, faithful enough to fulfil those promises for all people through Jesus.