Of course, Luke has other concerns as well, and I probably missed the obvious by focusing on what Acts is not. Be that as it may, I was delighted that the course coalesced (finally and to some extent) around a hugely practical theme that, I think, holds the answer to one of the major questions in Acts scholarship. The theme is suffering; the question is the significance of the death of Jesus in Acts. I have talked around the question before (e.g., here and here): The speeches in Acts mention the necessity of Jesus' death but concentrate on the saving significance of his resurrection. Did Luke think Jesus' death was just some tragic mistake that God put right?
A couple years ago (!) I suggested that disciples participate in the saving significance of Jesus' exodus (= his death) by following him to their own death. I saw more clearly last semester that the same pattern plays out in Acts. Thus, Stephen calls for forgiveness on his executioners as Jesus did (Acts 7:60; Luke 23:34 [?]), Peter is arrested by Herod with plans for his execution on Passover (Acts 12), and Paul, like Jesus, goes on a long journey to Jerusalem, before his trial and eventual execution (in Rome). The significance of these "Peter, Stephen, Paul parallels" is not so much to model the main characters in Acts as prophets like Jesus, the prophet like Moses (so David Moessner), but to model the pattern of discipleship for Luke's readers.
- In Acts 14:22 Paul declares "we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God."
- In Acts 20:35, Paul presents his own life as a model for the Ephesian elders.
- Those who read on to the triumphal end of Acts know well enough from the predictions along the way how Paul's own life will end. Inasmuch as Paul's life is exemplary, this too is a summons. Theophilus is not allowed to sit comfortably on the sidelines.
I conclude, then, that the missing references to the significance of Jesus' death in Acts are found in the portrayal of Jesus' followers, who suffer like he did. If Luke thinks God's promises to Israel are fulfilled in the church, then the cruciform pattern of church life must also be connected in some way to the already-present-but-not-fully-here kingdom of God.