When God Shows Up, He Also Sends Out
A link between Luke’s Gospel and Acts reveals the rich literary interconnectedness of God’s Word
The Bible is rich with literary beauty, and part of the joy of studying the Scriptures is glimpsing connections that you’d never noticed before.
I recently noticed some linkages in Luke’s writings that may be playful allusions connecting episodes in his Gospel and in Acts. In Acts, Luke seems to nod gently backward in the direction of an episode in his Gospel through a narrative that makes use of the Greek words φυλακή (“guard”) and φυλάσσω (“I guard”), which can denote watching a flock, guarding a prisoner, and a variety of other meanings.
Shepherds Guard at Night, and the Angel Comes in Glory
In Luke 2, shepherds were guarding their flock in the night (“φυλάσσοντες φυλακὰς τῆς νυκτὸς,” Luke 2:8). The angel of the Lord came in glory (“ἄγγελος κυρίου ἐπέστη … καὶ δόξα κυρίου περιέλαμψεν,” 2:9) and sent them to find the newborn child. They encounter the child (“παιδίου,” 2:17) and announce his presence to the town.
The Shepherd Is Guarded at Night, and the Angel Comes with Light
In Acts 12, Simon Peter was being guarded at night (“τῇ νυκτὶ … φύλακές … φυλακήν,” Acts 12:6). The angel of the Lord came with light and released him to tell the church (“ἄγγελος κυρίου ἐπέστη καὶ φῶς ἔλαμψεν,” 12:7, notice the similarity in phrasing when compared with Luke 2:9). When he arrives at the place where the church is staying, Peter encounters a servant-child (“παιδίσκη,” 12:13) who announces his presence to the church.
By the time Luke wrote his Gospel and Acts, Christians may already have associated Simon Peter with shepherding (see John 21:15–17; 1 Peter 5:1–4), though that is far from certain. If so, early readers might also have caught an ironic connection between Peter the shepherd who was being guarded at night and the shepherds who were guarding their sheep at night.
Whenever God’s Messenger Shows Up, He Also Sends Out
In both instances, the angel of the Lord shows up in the night in the least likely of locations to deliver his people.
And whenever God’s messenger shows up, he also sends out.